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Universities | The shortage of labor on the school benches



While companies are struggling to find and retain employees, universities are trying to embrace the aspirations of the next generation while maintaining their graduation rate. Overview of the situation.

Contrary to what is happening in primary and secondary schools, the shortage of teachers does not seem to affect universities. “We have the advantage of being a research university, it’s an asset in recruiting professors, so we don’t have any difficulty recruiting at the moment,” says Sophie D’Amours, rector of the Laval University, in Quebec.

The same goes for the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)… but with a small caveat: “The labor shortage context does not seem to have a significant impact on the recruitment of professors. However, we observe that the challenges are greater, in certain areas, with regard to the recruitment of lecturers. Since the vast majority of these teachers come from a practical background, we have to make more postings than before,” reveals Jenny Desrochers, spokesperson for this university teaching establishment.

While universities seem to be exempt from recruitment difficulties, the labor shortage nevertheless brings its share of challenges.

Flexibility sought

The profile of university students has changed a lot in recent years. In addition to a marked drop in the number of full-time students, there is a growing appetite for short programs and a notable demand for distance education or in hybrid mode.

Students, like corporate employees, are looking for greater flexibility.

Sophie D’Amours, Rector of Laval University

According to data compiled by the educational institution, between 2018 and 2020 there was an increase of approximately 30% in the clientele in short programs. “We went from 10,000 to 13,000 students”, specifies Mme Of Loves. In addition, the proportion of students studying part-time has increased by 10% since 2015. “It’s very important. In our university, more than one student in three studies part-time,” underlines the rector. Rather than registering for five courses per semester, these students sometimes choose to take four, which has a direct impact on the duration of their studies and their full-time arrival on the job market.

UQAM, which prides itself on “being recognized since its creation for welcoming students who pursue part-time studies”, nevertheless recorded a 4.6% drop in registrations for the baccalaureate and certificate this fall, according to the preliminary data compiled by the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI). Data that suggests that the labor shortage is pushing some people to give priority to work rather than studies.

Review the ways of doing

How to keep students on school benches when companies offer salary, flexibility and other benefits? For Sophie D’Amours, the solution lies in the meeting between the business community and the school community. “I think we all need to be made aware – the private sector, the public sector and politicians – of the importance of completing our studies and of the fact that in today’s environment we have to be innovative and creative in finding ways to enrich the paths of students, not to put them in front of a decision to choose between work and studies because we are all going to lose. We have to find new ways to enrich our studies through partnerships that will contribute both to the studies and to the partner. »

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