Are We Doing a Good Job at Guiding Our Young Adults?

Are We Doing a Good Job at Guiding Our Young Adults?

Choosing a career is not an easy task and can be very stressful. I also cannot say if it was any easier in my time 40 years ago than it is today but the options appear endless. I was preparing a lecture for college students about schooling options such as vocational, technical, college and university, job opportunities and job market. I realized in my preparation and reading that many teenagers have their own ideas in choosing a direction in their education. Some students already know in the early stage of their education what they are interested in, but for others, it is more difficult. There are no real good tools to help students other than to ask questions, talk to your parents, friends and friends of friends, sometimes counsellors and perhaps search the internet about career information, lectures and interviews.

Several large studies are available in helping students choosing a university,( National Survey of Student Engagement at University of North Dakota (NSSE), November 16, 2011; and the Canadian University Survey Consortium (CUSC) 2012). These studies provide valuable information about topics such as: location closer to home or not, size of the university may not matter, measuring engagement and best educational practices, reviewing academic challenges, student interaction, learning process, educational experience, university environment support and student satisfaction. There is also the “MACLEANS CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES GUIDE BOOK” published every year that one can buy in any magazines stores.

International schools are an interesting option. It is a great experience, one learns about a new culture and perhaps a language. Be aware of cost as tuition fees might be more than in Canada. Be discerning about curriculum and experience as the curriculum may be slightly different than ours and it is worth inquiring with Canadian University/Accrediting Body about the diploma you are looking to get. Remember that Canadian Universities do not have any jurisdiction in most of out-of-country colleges, universities and other private schools.

Few people are interested in a military career, but if you have no source of funding, no support or help, you may want to consult the Canadian Armed Forces. They provide support, finance and a multitude of career opportunities. There are strings attached in the sense that after your training, you will need to pay the Armed Forces back by working for them for a number of years based on the type and length of your schooling. It is still a great option versus not fulfilling your dream.

There is a misconception among the society and parents that vocational and technical schools are for students that do not have the grades and the academic aptitude. They may not recognize that their own children may not have the academic aptitude but firmly believed that a college or university degree and or diploma will help them find a better job and have a better future. There are pros and cons to such an attitude.

Sometimes, we tend to put all our eggs in the same basket. We encourage our students to attend college and university rather than preparing them for work related to their aptitude and desires, or the simple realities of life. Overqualified students are bumping down into occupations that used to be populated by people without degree such as bartenders, waiters and all the others so needed.

A 4-year college or university degree is not necessarily for everyone. Auto mechanics, electronics, carpentry, electrician, plumber, and many other trades are fields where the student’s prospects for strong earnings are often better than many college graduate students.

Vocational versus Technical as well as College versus University are all different approaches to education, yet there is a sizeable gray zone in between them. Over the past decade, vocational education has been rebranded as technical education to avoid the stigma that has long dogged vocational schools as dumping ground for students that could not cut it in college. Vocational technical schools prepare students for a career path and along the way, students get to engage with adults who actually have tied with the industry that they are pursuing after. It is a form of apprenticeship, a learning opportunity.

Vocational training focuses on practical applications of skills/trade and leads more easily to a market job.

Technical training also referred to as hard skills, is a 2-year college degree that provides mostly employment-preparation skills with more of an academic component. It provides technical skills to perform a specific or particular job. It does not lead as easily to a job at the end of the 2 years. One may need more schooling. In Canada, Colleges focus on career training and some trades. It provides diploma, certificate and bachelor degree, whereby the gray zone with technical schools. They can also have trades and apprenticeship training, can focus on agriculture, health sciences, art and others.

Universities offer undergraduate degrees which usually take 3-4 years to complete. You can get a bachelor in different subjects such as sciences, chemistry, biology, etc. Universities will also offer professional programs such as medicine, law, dentistry, engineering.

But there is a need for “middle-skilled” workers. Currently, there is an existing skills gap as the skills of the work force does not match the skills needed by the industry. Certainly, the pace of changes in technology is responsible for the many changes in the work force. The 21st-century technological changes have increased by 1000 fold over the 19-20th centuries. Just starting in the last few years, the retiring Baby Boomers are moving out of the job market, leaving a vacuum for expertise: over 35 million jobs in the USA until 2025 (for instance, 33% of nurses are over 50 years of age). To compound the flood of retiring Baby Boomers, there is a severe World Wide skill shortage: the US is importing jobs back, China is keeping its workforce, Japan faces a critical shortage because of aging population (65% over 65 years old in the next few years). Therefore, the jobs opportunity will not be missing but the types of job will evolve with the developing technology and retiring population. Within these changes, our young generation which has different characteristics such as lifestyle demands, commitment and entitlement will have to adapt and find a role.

For instance, when Ford Model T came out, there were 400,000 carriages and horses in New York City. There were a large group of people required to support this part of the economy. Cars came out and replaced a lot of jobs, but created many more. Some workers are replaced by robots, mechanized chains of assembly, health care industry, in the pharmaceutical industry, in construction and agriculture. It is evolution and perhaps revolution. But still, we need to build, to make software, to maintain all aspect of this new technology, and to invent new ones. It is already creating job and will create more. It will take many people from different levels of education.

In summary, I would propose that us, the parents, the educators, the teachers, may need to get educated and understand the tremendous changes and development in our society, technically, socially, demographically, politically, so we can be better prepared to help direct, counsel, advise our teenagers and young adults.


1. Macleans 2013 Canadian Universities Guidebook., 2013: 3-258. Print.
2. Macleans 2014 Canadian Universities Guidebook., 2014: 4-130. Print.
3. (click on university rankings)
4. National Survey of Student engagement at University of North Dakota (NSSe), Sue erickson, Carmen Williams, a. November 16, 2011
5. National Survey of Student engagement.” (2012): n. pag. Web.
6. Canadian University Survey Consortium (CUSC).” Dalhousie University. N. p., 2012. Web.
7. B. K. Hofer, A. S. Moore., The connected parent: staying close to your kids in college while letting them grow up., Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster Inc., New York, August 2010
8. “Mobile Health 2010.” Pew Research Center Internet Science Tech RSS. N. p., 18 oct. 2010. Web
9. “How to Succeed in College (While Really trying): A Professor’s Guide to Mastering What’s expected.” Jon B. Gould (2010): n. pag. Web.
10. K. S. Newman, H. Winston., Re-Skilling America: Learning to Labor in the Twenty-First Century., Metropolitan Books Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2016