January 9 , 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 55  

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Double cohort to give the economy a boost?

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

Ontario’s economy will see a GDP boost of about 1.2 per cent over 10 years as double cohort students flood the province’s workforce, according to a report released Tuesday by a TD Bank economist.

“I fully expect this employment gain to be a permanent one,” said the report’s author, Eric Lascelles, adding about 62,000 full-time jobs will be created as a result of the elimination of Grade 13. “[But] we won’t see a big boost in employment.”

Though unemployment may marginally increase, Lascelles said employment gains will more than offset this slight jump, assuming the labour can be absorbed without detrimental effects elsewhere.

Given that double cohort students will seeks jobs at various stages — such as immediately after Grade 12 or after university — jobs will be spread out over a longer period of time. “It will be a smooth transition,” he said.

Most businesses that employ full-time students will benefit from the larger employment pool, but Lascelles said those that rely on part-time students may suffer slightly from a smaller high school population — which is traditionally a large source of part-time employees.

But with all the increased competition, Lascelles said students who pursue post-secondary education will be in a better position to secure employment. “University students have a leg up,” he said. “In general, a university degree is becoming more and more valuable.”

Skilled workers will also be in demand as large chunks of the baby boom generation retires, Lascelles said, adding the double cohort will not be able to make up for the lost employment alone. “It will not fully offset [the baby boom retirement] by any means,” he said.

Lascelles called on the Ontario government to consider how they can best benefit from the double cohort and also challenged universities to maintain high curriculum standards in order to continue producing proficient workers.

Even with the myriad of jobs potentially available over the next decade, some are not convinced the benefits are as easy to come by.

“The personal touch is what will get you the job,” said Erin House, a career counsellor with the Student Development Centre.

Although House acknowledges that the double cohort will have a definite impact on the province’s employment levels, she said the state of the market will make it tough for students to find jobs of different varieties.

“Based on what I see in the report, it is good news for students,” said Dave Ford, VP-education for the University Students’ Council, adding students with a university degree stand to gain the most.

“The quality jobs out there demand higher education,” he said. “We’re entering a knowledge-based economy where you need to have obtained an education that goes beyond what you learned in secondary school.”

But Ford said the report fell short in addressing the kinds of jobs that will actually be available.

Though Lascelles said it is hard to predict the variety of jobs, he acknowledged that wages may suffer slightly as a result of the increased competition. “[We] might see a tiny bit of softness in wages.”



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