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Fight against the labor shortage | Scholarships with limited effects



The 1.7 billion scholarship program launched with great fanfare by the Legault government in 2021 to tackle the labor shortage seems to have a limited effect in the key sectors of health and education, where universities are seeing a decline in student numbers, despite a $2,500 per semester bonus paid to full-time students.

“For the current year, we have not observed an effect of scholarships on registrations. It must be said that several eligible programs reach their capacity year after year,” says Isabelle Huard, media relations advisor at the Université de Sherbrooke.

At this university, the number of enrollments barely changed between fall 2020 and fall 2022. And for the only program that has seen a marked increase in students, the bachelor’s degree in social work, this the fact that we increased the program’s reception capacity last year, which went from 85 places to 120 places”, notes Mme Loon. But other establishments have experienced declines.

At the Université de Montréal, the number of students enrolled full-time in the programs targeted by the Government of Quebec has declined: from 4,739 students in 2020, there are 4,450 in 2022.

The most marked declines: in education (1850 today, against 2000 two years earlier) and in nursing (from 1078 to 829 today).

However, all these students, when they successfully complete their fall semester, will be entitled to a $2,500 scholarship.

However, UdeM is seeing an increase in admissions in information technology.

Increase in Laval

At Laval University, it is also in engineering and information technology that an increase is recorded. The number of undergraduate students in computer science has increased from 300 to 459 between 2021 and 2022, and enrollment in computer engineering, software engineering, mechanical engineering and engineering physics programs is also on the rise.

But even if Laval University sees an increase in its students having access to Perspective Québec scholarships (+ 902), including in teaching, it still observes a small drop in its nursing staff.

At the Université du Québec en Outaouais, there is a slight decrease in cohorts between 2020 and 2022 in education and health. At the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the number of students enrolled full-time in programs eligible for scholarships has increased from 1,021 in 2020 to 830 in 2022. , in nursing sciences (DEC-BAC) and in social work have a limited capacity, which explains in particular the drop for the baccalaureate in nursing sciences from fall 2020 to fall 2022″, explains Stéphanie Duchesne, director the institution’s communications and recruitment department.

“Changing the face of the job market”

The Legault government had announced this generous scholarship program with great fanfare in the fall of 2021. “The Perspective Québec scholarship program has the potential to change the face of the job market in Quebec and contribute to the development of our society” , affirmed the Minister of Employment at the time, Jean Boulet.

With a budget of 1.7 billion over 4 years, or 425 million per year, it is part of the Legault government’s Workforce Operation. “Carried jointly by several ministries, [il] is intended as a response to the lack of manpower in certain areas considered priorities and strategic for the future of Quebec”.

The program allows baccalaureate students to receive $2,500 per session and students in certain college techniques to receive $1,500 per session. Only a certain number of programs, in health, education and information technology, in particular, are targeted by the state.

What impact?

Pier-André Bouchard St-Amant is an assistant professor at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP) and an expert in the economics of public institutions. The director of the Applied Public Economics Research Group will study the effectiveness of the scholarship program over the next few years.

He believes that generally, “when you subsidize a study program, it has an impact. Before giving his verdict, he must distinguish between the normal trend and the effect of scholarships on the decision of students.

The drop in enrollment in nursing programs might have been greater without the scholarships, he says.

However, he wonders about the government’s decision to subsidize programs that are already sold out: “You give money to people who wouldn’t have changed their decision, subsidy or not. Giving scholarships to people already registered in a program where there is already a registration limit is less useful,” he points out.

Late Promotion

As for the CEGEPs, we believe that it is too early to check whether the scholarships are attracting crowds. Bernard Tremblay, CEO of the Fédération des cégeps, points out that the promotion for this scholarship program was made “very late”, after the deadline of 1er March 2022 for admission applications.

He believes that a scholarship program is a “key element” of government action to combat the labor shortage, but that other solutions will have to be found. He fears, for example, that certain programs without scholarships are shunned, and that there is a simple phenomenon of displacement.

Mr. Tremblay would have been in favor of a broader reflection. “If we have problems recruiting students in information technology, can we look at what is happening on the ground? We should look at the ability of our students to have the prerequisites to enter these courses, for example by encouraging secondary school students in mathematics, ”he underlines.

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