Sask Polytech making a difference for its grads

By Dr. Larry Rosia, president and CEO

Did you know that Canada has a larger share of the population with a college or university credential than any other country in the G7?

According to the findings from the 2021 Census, the working-age population saw an increase of nearly one-fifth (+19.1 per cent) in the number of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher credential from 2016 to 2021. The increases were even higher with degree-holders in the fields of healthcare (+24.1 per cent) and computer and information science (+46.3 per cent).

As the president and CEO of Saskatchewan’s primary institution for post-secondary applied education and research and its only polytechnic, I am proud of the role Saskatchewan Polytechnic plays in the education of learners at all levels throughout the province.

This past academic year, more than 4,600 students graduated from Sask Polytech. At the same time, the number of distinct students who attend our institution for a program or course reached its highest level in over 13 years.

What is just as impressive is that Sask Polytech graduates are landing jobs. These are good jobs, with an average annual salary of $53,280.

Ninety-six per cent of Sask Polytech’s graduates found employment in the period beginning July 1, 2021 and ending June 30, 2022. This is the highest it has been in 20 years, increasing from 94 per cent the previous year.

Also impressive is our Indigenous graduate employment rate, which rose to 94 per cent this year from 86 per cent. This is significant because it speaks to our connection to Indigenous communities and our commitment to Reconciliation.

Not surprisingly, 92 per cent of employers say they would hire a Sask Polytech graduate again.

All of this shows the value and importance of a polytechnic education. Polytechnics tailor programs with the help of industry to meet labour market demands. Approximately 700 industry experts serve on Sask Polytech Program Advisory Committees (PAC), advising program heads on trends and other factors affecting their sectors. Because we are aligned with the Saskatchewan Growth Plan and want graduates to get jobs, the input of PAC members is critical.

Another big advantage of a Sask Polytech education is an emphasis on experiential learning. Engaging students in work co-ops and other on-the-job training allows them to enter the job market with the skills and confidence to contribute on Day One. In a labour market as tight as the current one, employers want such graduates.

Interestingly, if you drill down into the new Census findings, you’ll learn that a noticeable percentage of those with bachelor’s degrees (19.1 per cent) are returning to collegeStatistics Canada’s broad definition of post-secondary institutions which include polytechnics—to pick up new skills.

Among the most common fields of study were registered nursing specializations and allied health diagnostic, intervention and treatment professions (for example, paramedic and respiratory care therapist).

Given the demand for healthcare workers, this makes sense. The graduate employment rates in Sask Polytech’s School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing are 99 per cent and 98 per cent, respectively.

That more Canadians with degrees are going back to school also indicates the reality of the times. Jobs and the nature of work are being transformed. Reskilling / upskilling is a wonderful way to further one’s career, particularly with a credential in a high-demand area such as healthcare.

The fact is that some students who attend university right out of high school may not yet know their career calling. This is sometimes the case at Sask Polytech. Here, the average age of a student is 26½.

According to the 2021 Provincial Graduate Outcome Survey, about 18 per cent of Sask Polytech graduates indicated that they had completed a degree before attending the institution. And while we are more than happy and willing to welcome them into our programs, it does raise a question.

Perhaps they should have started at Sask Polytech in the first place?