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MRP Research Proposal

MRP Research Proposal

Author: Joyce Bott

The responsiveness of Brock's Humanities programs to employer and labour market needs

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1.0 Introductory Video

The Big Picture: The Future of the Labour Market with Ken Steele (August 2015)

1.1 Introduction - Background Information and Problem Statement

The Ontario Differentiation Policy Framework for Post-Secondary Education (announced in November 2013) was established in response to the following major challenges facing Ontario: 

  1. The declining demographic of 18-20 year olds (shrinking pool of available students)
  2. The huge provincial debt (roughly $295 Billion debt; $11 Billion of Ontario's budget is devoted to paying interest on this debt; while $7.8B is devoted to PSE sector)

The overall purpose of the Differentiation Framework is to improve Ontario's PSE system and allocate funds more efficiently by helping institutions build on their individual strengths and reduce redundancies in academic programming (to limit institutions from offering the same programs and competing for the same pond of shrinking fish). Provincial priorities highlighted in the framework include:

  1. Social and Economic Development (jobs and productivity)
  2. High-quality Educational Experience (experiential learning)
  3. PSE Financial Sustainability and Accountability (affordable education)
  4. Access for all Qualified Learners (access for minority students)
  5. Work Class Research and Innovation (sharing knowledge with world)
  6. Collaboration and Pathways for Students (to provide enhanced learning opportunities for students)

In order to ensure PSE institutions follow through with the Differentiation Framework, Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMA's) were established with the 45 publicly funded colleges and universities in Ontario.

Each SMA agreement highlight's the institution's key area of differentiation, differentiation goals, required metrics that show progress towards these goals (ex. Brock's Key area of differentiation is on work-based learning, service learning and small group learning)

Any request made by an institution to MTCU (i.e. new program approvals), will be decided on based on the goals identified in the institution's SMA agreement.

It's also important to realize that MTCU's new PSE funding model (to be announced in 2017) will no longer be enrollment driven, but rather, it will be tied to the performance metrics identified in each institution's SMA. So public funding for PSE institutions could possibly be held back if institutions are not able to show progress towards their differentiation framework goals.

Problem Statement: University programs are typically not designed with particular jobs/careers in mind. Universities programs are usually designed to encourage collaboration and critical thinking. However, Ontario's new Differentiation Framework makes economic development a priority for all post-secondary institutions. This research aims to takes a closer look at Brock's academic faculties to gauge their responsiveness to current labour market and employer needs.

2.0 Literature Review

Key searches:

  • Academic programming AND labour market demand
  • Academic programming AND employer needs
  • Post secondary education and labour market demand
  • Post secondary education and employer needs
  • Skills Gap
  • Skills Mismatch
  • Skills Shortage
  • Over-education

Findings in the literature so far:

  • Can't be a skills shortage if there are so many skilled graduates that are still looking for work or forced to accept jobs that do not utilize their full skill potential.  
  • Skills gap problem is actually a skills mismatch. There are many skilled graduates available, but what the employer actually desires, based on empirical finding, are soft skills and work experience, not academic skills.  

Research Gap: There is very little research published in peer-reviewed Higher Ed journals on what PSE institutions are doing to address the skills mismatch. Most of the research seem to be from economics and labour relations journals as well as employer and government sources.

The publicly posted Strategic Mandate Agreements of 45 PSE institutions with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), will reveal that public institutions are making efforts to serve the 21st century learner by providing experiential education in the form of co-op placements, internships, project-based learning, service learning, field experiences, co-curricular campus activities, etc.  All these things will help the student graduate with the experience and soft skills that employers are looking for.  

2.1: Tableau Dashboard Demonstration: Alumni Employment

2.2: Fluidsurveys Demonstration: Experiential Learning Survey

2.3 Career Coach Activity


3.0 Proposed Research Question and Methodology

Research Question: How responsive are the academic faculties at Brock University to Labour Market and Employer Needs?

  • Take EMSI Canada-wide labour market data
  • Filter data to show job occupations that require a bachelor level degree or higher
  • Filter data to show job occupations that are growing over the next 6 years
  • Cross reference job occupations with related programs offered at Brock
  • Pick top 3 emerging careers for each program offered at Brock
  • For each emerging career, look at job postings on LinkedIn and Indeed to see what skills and experience are required
  • Compare this with the program's course calendar and program deliverables and learning objectives.
  • Identify programs with the biggest gaps between skills/experience required by employers and program outcomes

Appendix A: Ontario's Differentiation Framework


Appendix B: Brock University's Strategic Mandate Agreement


Appendix C: Skill Gaps, Skill Shortages, and Skill Mismatches (Cappelli, 2015)


Appendix D: Class Handout