More Graduates are Heading to College to Enhance their Skills after Earning a Bachelor’s Degree

More and more Canadians with a Bachelor’s degree are attending college to enhance their skills with hands-on training and real-world experience, according to data in the 2021 Canadian census.

The latest census showed that nearly one in five college students in Canada, or 19.4 per cent, had previously completed a Bachelor’s degree or higher. In Ontario, that number sits at 25.8 per cent.

The numbers aren’t exactly the same for international students, but are similar. According to Census data, about one in three immigrants studying at Canadian colleges had a prior Bachelor’s degree or higher. Roughly 27 per cent hold a foreign degree and about nine per cent have a degree completed in Canada.

The Insights on Canadian Society: Completion of a college certificate or diploma after a bachelor’s degree study found that, in most cases, the college programs taken by those with a prior Canadian Bachelor’s degree did not replace their degree. Instead, it provided more specialized, labour-market-directed applications of skills related to the degree’s field of study.  

The study mentioned that the Bachelor’s degree and college fields of study were often related to each other.

It went on to note that, of those holding a Bachelor’s degree in health who completed a subsequent college program, about 40 per cent had a Bachelor’s degree in registered nursing followed by a college program in a nursing specialization such as critical care or neonatal.

“This is a very clear case of the college program enhancing skills established during the Bachelor’s degree,” read the study.

The study also found the Bachelor’s degree and college credential were typically complementary.

Overall, 34.6 per cent of Canadians aged 25-64 hold a college certificate or diploma compared to 32.9 per cent of those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Liz Thompson is a graduate of Humber College’s Public Relations Ontario Graduate Certificate program. She had attended university and earned her Honours Bachelor of Arts and did what many young people do – travel after graduation. She returned and worked various jobs but wanted to continue her education in a way that would prepare her for her future career.

One day, Thompson’s sister told her that she would be great at public relations and, later, a friend of Thompson’s who had just completed the Humber program told her all about it and how it was right up her alley.

In 2019, she enrolled.  

“I know there are lots of people who get very far with a Bachelor of Arts’ degree but I knew that I needed more for what I was leaning towards as a career,” said Thompson. “I also knew I needed hands-on training and university doesn’t really give you that.”

She was also keenly interested in the opportunity for a co-op placement. Thompson wanted the real-world experience that came with it through Humber’s program plus it was a chance to get her foot in the door, so to speak, at a company she might want to work at.

Thompson landed an internship at Santis Health. She’s now employed full-time with the company as a consultant.

“Without Humber I wouldn’t be in the career that I am and I wouldn’t be doing the work that I’m doing right now,” said Thompson.

Derek Stockley, associate vice-president, Academic at Humber, said many universities are now exploring the benefits of the polytechnic model and that includes more robust work-integrated learning and co-op experiences.

“It’s the hands-on applied learning that differentiates us as colleges and it allows learners to be ready to go from the classroom to the industry they’re in,” said Stockley. “We have industry experts at the front of the room teaching, not from examples in the textbook, but from examples that they’ve experienced in their own careers. We have world-class labs where students get to play and practice before they go out into the real world.”

He added Humber’s work-integrated learning opportunities allow students to take their learning directly to industry and apply it before they graduate.

Humber’s employment rate at six months after graduation for the College’s certificate, degree, diploma and graduate certificate programs is 81.6 per cent according to the KPI Employer and Graduate Satisfaction Survey.  

Stockley was pleased, but not surprised, by the numbers that show more than four out of five Humber graduates are working within six months of graduating, saying Humber’s strengths as a leader in polytechnic education are reflected in those statistics.

About the Author

Chris Clay, Humber College