Continuous education means more opportunities

0
36

PONTIAC PERSPECTIVE by Peter Gauthier


PONTIAC PERSPECTIVE by Peter Gauthier

Education is a major indicator of success in life. There is a direct correlation between education level and job security. But success is more than job security; it includes a full life of meaningful participation in the community. Compared with other nations, Canadians are well educated; only South Korea has a higher percentage of its work force with some post-secondary education. Canadian employers can be certain of hiring well-educated employees, but there are a few weak spots in this picture.
The first is “what about those who do not have at least high-school education?” We live in an age of technology. Computers are in use everywhere; government regulations affect every activity in the workplace. This means employers demand, and can hire, employees with higher educational certification. Education has become an essential credential for even the most labour-intensive job, and because Canada has such high education levels, there is no shortage of workers with these credentials. The result: without at least a high school diploma, employment opportunities are for minimal, mostly temporary, low-paying jobs.
Beyond employment, there should be a search for meaning and active participation in the complexities of modern life. Canadians need to able to understand and put into proper perspective issues on policy, environment, law, accountability and relationships. All of these and much more require critical thinking developed from education and understanding.
Another weak spot in Canada’s education picture is on-the-job training; Canada does very poorly when compared with other countries. Canadian employers have the attitude that paying for employee education or training only qualifies these employees for employment elsewhere. However, employees are expected to keep up-to-date in their field. The Canadian worker will often find that educational upgrading is necessary for advancement with new technologies demanding new skills, but the responsibility for upgrading remains with the individual. 
The issues can be stated simply: more education is better and continuous education by the individual is essential.
These aspects are of particular importance for the Pontiac. Depending on which statistics and definitions one uses, some 40-50% of Pontiac workers have not completed high school. This compares with the national average of 10%. The economic and social effects are obvious. For the Pontiac, the per capita ratio of people on social assistance is high, income levels are lower, and job opportunities are fewer.
Fortunately, for those who want to upgrade their education, many resources are available. To complete high school, the Québec government offers correspondence and on-line education. School boards offer adult education programs. The Western Québec Literacy Council offers educational assistance for English speaking adults. For French speakers there is Le Regroupement des groupes populaires en alphabétisation du Québec. Beyond high school, many colleges, Cégeps, and universities offer on-line courses that can be taken at the convenience of the student.
The main barrier to educational upgrading in the Pontiac seems to be apathy or lack of concern, not cognitive ability. If Pontiac residents are to participate in modern Canadian society, a change in attitude and appreciation of continuous education must become part of our daily lives.