Growing knowledge at college

University graduates are heading back to the (college) classroom to gain the practical skills necessary for entering the workplace

With a growing number of university graduates entering the job markets, many are turning to college to give themselves an edge on the competition.

Between 2007 and 2011, applications for post-graduate college programs — for which a university degree is a prerequisite — increased by 21 per cent, according to Maclean’s On Campus.

“I don’t think it’s that a career benefits from college — it’s that a career benefits from any skills, education, training and experience that you have, and college is one route to getting that,” said Career Services Director Cathy Keates.

In Ontario alone, students can choose from 640 graduate certificate programs at over 20 colleges. These programs average one academic year (or two semesters) in length.

These programs cover fields including arts and entertainment, hospitality and tourism, business, health and social services and information technology.

“There are jobs where you have to have that specific diploma to get into that field,” Keates said, adding that early childhood education is an example of this.

Keates noted that colleges and universities differ in course delivery and skill requirements, and that university graduate programs are typically more research-based.

However, the number of college programs which do require students to possess an undergraduate university degree are growing.

These post-graduate programs are based at schools such as Humber and Centennial Colleges. Keates said human resources, public relations, communications, marketing and business — each of which can be studied in Ontario colleges at the post-graduate level — are commonly asked about by students.

In 2011, The Globe and Mail reported that at Toronto’s Humber College, 31 per cent of incoming students held a postsecondary degree.

Those with college diplomas may fare even better than university graduates when it comes to employment — a 2012 study found that college grads were expected to take more of the available jobs than university graduates in Canada during the post-2008 recession period.

This is a route that Kayla Vick, ArtSci ’13, is considering.

Vick, a gender studies and sociology medial, plans to backpack through South America next year, prior to pursuing work in human resources.

She’s considering a post-graduate human resources program at George Brown College in Toronto — an option she said never came to mind when she first arrived at Queen’s.

“It’s funny to think I came here for a four-year degree, and what I think is going to get me into the job market or a lucrative career is going to college,” Vick said.

Jenna Brandon, ArtSci ’12, also decided to pursue college after completing her degree.

She’s currently taking the Behavioral Science Technology (Fast-Track) Advanced Diploma Program at Toronto’s George Brown College.

She said it was at the start of her fourth and final year that she began considering attending college post-graduation.

“I wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted to apply to grad school or what I would want to focus on,” she told the Journal via email.

“I didn’t want to apply to grad school without a solid idea of what I wanted to do, so I started looking into other options.”

She said she enjoyed the seven-week placement she completed, as it allowed her to link theory with practice and gave her an idea of what to expect in an entry-level position in the field.

“I’ve found that the program is geared towards specific jobs, so the possible options after graduation are clearer than the options that are available with an undergraduate degree in psychology,” she said.

“The student placements are a really valuable part of the program as well. I’ve been able to make contacts in the field I want to go into while gaining experience, and I think this has really helped my job prospects.”

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