The reality our graduates are facing

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Added: Wed, 11/20/2013 - 10:30pm
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During November’s high school graduation ceremonies,   students sit in front of family and friends to celebrate the accomplishments they have made in obtaining their diploma, and they listen to inspirational speeches about the endless possibilities their futures have in store for them. From the get-go, students are fed the notion that an education is the antidote to unemployment and the secret to a successful future and happy life. That may not be entirely real.
Many students will go on to pursue post-secondary studies. They too will have their graduations, but will find their reality is thousands of dollars of debt, and low-paying starter jobs, often outside their field of study, just to make ends meet and pay for their accumulated debt – a situation an education was expected to prevent rather than cause. Shouldn’t they have been given a more realistic picture of the future?
It is startling to find young adults who had practical goals of being lawyers, teachers, medical care workers, etc., having to settle into low-skilled jobs. CBC reports that nearly half of the young people in Canada are now employed in retail, food service or clerical work, which doesn’t offer a lot of opportunity to save for retirement or put a down payment on a home after student loans.
Part of the problem is competition for skilled jobs. Students must compete with older, more experienced employees who are looking for work themselves because of today’s declining labour market, the rising cost of living, and static pensions. Is it the fault of universities for not preparing students with the experience they need to compete in the job market?
Canada is one of the most educated countries in the world. In 1990, about 50% of the Canadian under-30 population had completed some form of post-secondary education. By 2011, that number had ballooned to 75.5%. Are universities accepting too many students for our stumbling job market? Countless colleges and universities boast having the highest rate of post-education employment. However, universities cannot create jobs out of thin air.
Some graduates, on all levels, have the support to go into business for themselves, and others do stumble upon their dream jobs. However, millions don’t. Who is to blame? It could be the education industry itself  – colleges need students for funding. Is it the youths who make inappropriate study choices, where jobs are unavailable? Parents who push kids into career paths? Is it our government that can’t seem to stimulate a thriving economy? They probably all play a role, but it is clear that without an education, job prospects are even bleaker. Although many successful        people are entirely self-made;     it’s harder.
We need to remove our rose- coloured glasses and realize an education may not be an immediate, fool-proof solution to a successful life. Inspirational speeches only last the evening; today’s hard realities last much longer.  
Allyson Beauregard, Editor