Current Projects

Qualifications: The Link Between Educational and Occupational Pathways and Labour Market Outcomes

This SSHRC-funded research investigates the nature of pathways within post-secondary education and between post-secondary education and the labour market. In keeping with the policy goals of many other countries, Canadian governments have sought to build pathways that connect lower and higher level qualifications within fields of education between the college and university sectors to support labour market progression and social mobility.

While previous Canadian research has explored the relations between qualifications and labour markets, little if any research has examined the connection between educational pathways and occupational pathways. This research compares and contrasts fields of education to explore if educational pathways are connected to occupational pathways in Canada’s provinces, and nationally. Implications for the purpose and design of qualifications, educational pathways, policy and relationships between educational institutions and social partners (employers, unions, professional and occupational bodies including regulatory authorities, and government) are explored.

The following broad questions guide the investigation:

  1. To what extent are qualifications in Canada linked by field of education within and between the college and university sectors?
  2. What is the relation between educational pathways and occupational pathways?
  3. In what ways are qualifications used as signals and screens in the labour market?
  4. Are there differences in qualification types, educational pathways and labour market outcomes between Canadian provinces?
  5. What are the implications for qualifications, policy and relationships between educational institutions and social partners?

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Presentations Related to the Project

Arnold, C., Beaulieu, J., Taylor-Cline, J. C., & Wheelahan, L. (2016). Qualifications in Canada: Links between educational and occupational pathways provincially and nationally. Paper presented at the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education’s Annual Conference, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

This presentation investigated the nature of pathways within post-secondary education and between post-secondary education and the labour market. Overall, the data reveal that educational pathways within fields of education in Canada are modest, and are ultimately differentiated by the type of relationship they have to the labour market. This first phase of this research project developed case studies for each of Canada’s provinces regarding the history and structure of educational pathways, qualifications and labour markets in order to facilitate national comparisons. This was achieved via a detailed document and website analysis of provincial policies, organizations’ missions and mandates, and chronological developments in educational and occupational pathways. The second phase used the 2013 National Graduate Survey (NGS) to investigate links between qualifications and occupations. Our findings demonstrate that at the national level the links between qualifications are weak but vary by broad field of education. The links between qualification, occupation, and licencing are much tighter in regulated occupations, and very weak in unregulated occupations.

Arnold, C., Beaulieu, J., Taylor-Cline, J. C., & Wheelahan, L. (2016). Provincial policy frameworks and patterns: A comparison of Canada’s transition systems. Presented at the Student Pathways in Higher Education Annual Conference, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This presentation explored emerging findings from a SSHRC-funded research project investigating provincial credit transfer policy frameworks and patterns for the purposes of comparing transition systems across Canada. Case studies were composed for each of Canada’s provinces via detailed document and website analyses reviewing policies, organizational missions and mandates, and chronological developments in educational pathways. The provinces were mapped across twelve historical, structural and cultural dimensions. Historical dimensions analyzed include: historical events and timelines; historical influences and politics towards the development of articulation; historical figures, stakeholders and roles; and historical documents (reports, accords, reviews and education acts). Building on this foundation, current structural and cultural dimensions analyzed include: provincial articulation models/types of arrangements; national and international approaches to articulation; articulation materials and tools (transfer guides, portals and planners); credentials and governing policies; and data collection and reporting mechanisms (types of data, requesting government/agency, and methods of collection). These analyses were used to compare variations in transition systems across provinces and assess national patterns.

Provincial Pathways Profiles

Pathways in British Columbia

Postsecondary education in British Columbia is viewed as highly coordinated, integrated, and designed to balance institutional autonomy with collaboration among institutions (Schuetze & Day, 2001). B.C.’s extensive college system was designed with regional access in mind. While colleges initially evolved independently to meet community needs and interests, the system was progressively consolidated over several decades under increasing government oversight (Dennison & Gallagher, 1986; Gaber, 2003). BCCAT, the British Columbia Council for Articulation and Transfer, plays a leadership role in higher education system integration in Canada.
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Pathways in Alberta

Alberta has an established history of programs and initiatives to optimize transferability of credits between institutions and education sectors (CMEC, 2003). The Alberta Council for Admissions and Transfer (ACAT) was established in 1974, so along with British Columbia, has the benefit of a sustained infrastructure for the study and organization of educational pathways.
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Pathways in Saskatchewan 

Coordination of higher education in Saskatchewan is less centralized than in some other provinces. However, there are many agreements and arrangements in place that support student access and mobility between individual postsecondary institutions (CICIC, 2013). As such, students tend to be evaluated for transfer credit on a course-by-course basis. There are numerous coordinated transfer and articulation arrangements, particularly in the subject areas of nursing, business, integrated resource management, chemical technology, computer science, and administration (CICIC, 2013).
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Pathways in Manitoba

The degree of coordination of post-secondary education in Manitoba has fluctuated over the course of its history. An initial system of a single university governing a constellation of denominational colleges (Gregson, 1996) has evolved into a system of autonomous institutions, linked through an array of coordinating endeavors. The province’s present post-secondary system supports both English and French language learners. Manitoba’s large and expanding Indigenous populations are an impetus for innovation as traditionally structured institutions partner with Indigenous communities and educators to develop programs and institutional structures that provide “culturally sensitive” and place based education in the province’s North. (University College of the North, 2005).
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Pathways in Ontario

Ontario facilitates lifelong learning opportunities and pathways among students and graduates of publicly funded colleges and universities, and is one of four Canadian provinces who have adopted the university-college model (Skolnik, 2011). The Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer [ONCAT] was established in 2011 to enhance academic pathways and reduce barriers for students looking to transfer among Ontario’s 44 publicly funded colleges and universities. It was preceded by several years of coordinating work through a series of initiatives and Acts that have significantly enhanced student mobility over the past three decades.
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Pathways in Quebec

Pathways in Quebec are facilitated by the structures and policies of Quebec’s educational system. Core to this system are the CÉGEPs (Collèges d’Enseignement Général et Professionel-General and Vocational Colleges, which provide students a link between high school and university or the workplace. Pathways for student transfer in Quebec include credit transfer, course exemption and substitution, and equivalency for employment experience (CICIC, 2013; CMEC, 2012). Formal agreements between academic stream and vocational stream CÉGEPs and universities offer official pathways for students, and prior learning assessment recognition processes aid students in their individual pathways
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Pathways in Atlantic Canada

The Atlantic Canada provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (PEI), and Newfoundland and Labrador generally work together to support student mobility. While each province’s post-secondary system has distinct features, there are several mechanisms in place to facilitate movement and promising practices throughout the region.
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Pathways in Canada’s Northern Territories

Pathways in Canada’s northern territories are rich with possibilities for development. As the territories assess their needs and develop educational policies and programs, they are experiencing growth and widening opportunities to reach the people of their lands. Other provinces of Canada, such as British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, are seeking to work with the northern territories to develop programs that meet the unique needs of the people there.
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