Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

A Comparison of the Labour Market Outcomes of Postsecondary Graduates of Various Levels and Fields over a Four-Cohort Period

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

A Comparison of the Labour Market Outcomes of Postsecondary Graduates of Various Levels and Fields over a Four-Cohort Period

Article excerpt

Abstract: The evolving "knowledge-based" economy is widely believed to affect the labour market outcomes of highly educated workers. However, there are conflicting arguments regarding the needs of the new economy, and there is little evidence available in the research literature to determine whether the labour market outcomes of various postsecondary graduates have changed among graduates of recent cohorts. Drawing on the 1982, 1986, 1990, and 1995 National Graduates Surveys, this paper builds on previous research by comparing the earnings and employment outcomes of graduates of various levels of postsecondary schooling (i.e. trades, college, and university) and fields of study over a 13-year period. The analyses suggest that the labour market experiences of postsecondary graduates of the various programs have remained relatively stable over the period investigated.

Introduction

More than a decade ago, it was argued that if "Canada is to remain competitive and benefit from the current microelectronics and information technology revolution, it must provide a closer integration of skill development, on one hand, and skill utilization, on the other" (Lowe and Krahn, 1989: 187). This assertion may be even more important now, as we continue to move through the early stages of the "knowledge-based" economy. Characterized by globalization and the production of knowledge, particularly in areas related to information technology, the evolving knowledge-based economy is believed to require skills that previously did not exist. The changing skill requirements of employers have likely had a profound effect on the transition from school-to-work for graduates with postsecondary credentials (Economic Council of Canada. 1987). However, there is little evidence available to assess whether the relative employment outcomes of graduates with different types of postsecondary credentials have changed over the last few decades, particularly when controlling for a variety of sociodemographic characteristics that might play an important role in the relationship.

Drawing on a series of large cross-sectional Canadian datasets, the purpose of this paper is to build on previous research by comparing the employment outcomes of graduates of four cohorts who were surveyed two years after graduation. By pooling recent waves of the National Graduates Surveys (NGS), this study is able to assess changes in the earnings and employment status of graduates of various levels of postsecondary schooling and fields of study, while, at the same time, controlling for other possible sociodemographic factors.

Review of the Literature

The North American economy has undergone some remarkable changes during the second half of the twentieth-century. It has been marked by two primary epochs, characterized as the transition from the industrial (Fordist) era to the post-industrial era (Esping-Andersen, 1993). Fordism is considered as the form of capitalism constructed after 1945 in all of the advanced capitalist countries (Jenson, 1989: 70). It entailed a form of manufacturing involving standardized mass production oriented toward greater consumption, where organizational structures are considered to be rigid and hierarchical in order to distinguish between management and workers (see Piore and Sabel, 1984). However, beginning in the 1970's, investigators argued that the economy had transformed as a result of advancements in technology, whereby manufacturing jobs largely disappeared, creating a new economic form of structural organization (see Bell, 1973). This new post-industrial economy has been characterized by a type of productive activity round in knowledge sectors, which include research and development, as well as computer and technology areas (See Bell, 1973). (1 2) It is also marked by the emergence and expansion of a new professional class of experts, researchers, scientists and technicians. This new professional class of white-collar workers largely replaced the preexisting labour-management arrangement. …

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