Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics: Research Papers
Graduating in Canada: Profile, Labour Market Outcomes and Student Debt of the Class of 2009-2010 - Revised
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Co-operative education is a recognized way for students of many disciplines to graduate with relevant work experience and avoid the ‘no-experience-no-job’ cycle. There are many perceived benefits associated with co-operative education, including enhanced career decision-making, better workforce integration, assisting with academic learning, and helping students find their first job. Moreover, participation in co-op programs is generally associated with more favourable labour market outcomes. This section focuses on the profile of co-operative education graduates, their labour market outcomes and relationship to earnings.
Over one-fifth of college graduates and over one-tenth of bachelor graduates pursued a co-op program
Despite efforts at increasing co-op programs at Canadian universities,Note 8 the proportion of graduates who took co-op as part of their bachelor degree studies was unchanged compared with 2005 (both at 12%). Over one-fifth (22%) of all college graduates from the Class of 2009-2010 completed a co-op program, which represented a decline from the Class of 2005 where just over one-quarter (26%) of college graduates had completed a co-op program (Appendix table A.18).
The major field of study groupings with the highest proportions of students who graduated with college co-op diplomas in 2009-2010 were ‘physical and life sciences and technologies’ (33%), ‘architecture, engineering and related technologies’ (28%) and ‘social and behavioural sciences and law’ (27%). Among the minor groupings, ‘legal professions and studies’ (45%),Note 9 ‘science technologies/technicians’(45%) and ‘family and consumer sciences/human sciences’ (30%) had by far the largest proportions of co-op students (Appendix table A.18).
Fewer bachelors’ graduates completed a co-op program compared with college graduates (12% compared with 22%). The field of study major groupings with the largest proportions of graduates from a co-op program were ‘architecture, engineering and related technologies’ (35%), ‘mathematics, computer and information sciences’ (28%) and ‘business, management and public administration’ (15%). Among the minor groupings, ‘engineering’ (37%) and ‘natural resources and conservation’ (18%) were the most common among co-op graduates (Appendix table A.18).
Fewer co-op grads returned to school within three years of graduation compared with non-co-op graduates
At the college level, 37% of non-co-op graduates pursued further education compared with 30% of co-op graduates. Similarly, at the bachelor level, almost half (49%) of non-co-op graduates returned to school compared with 42% of co-op graduates.
For those who did enter the workforce, completing a co-op program had benefits to its graduates in the labour market as can be seen in Table 3.1. At the college level, a slightly higher proportion of co-op graduates who had not taken further education in the three years since graduation were employed (92%) compared with 90% of non-co-op college graduates. Moreover, the proportion of graduates that were employed full-time was higher (86%) among those who had completed a co-op program compared with non-co-op college graduates (79%). The proportion of college non-co-op graduates who were employed part-time or out of the labour force was higher compared with college co-op graduates.
Among bachelor graduates, the benefits of co-op graduation were similarly observed. The difference between co-op and non-co-op graduates was the largest for bachelor graduates in full-time employment, where 90% of co-op graduates were employed full-time compared with 83% of those who had not completed a co-op program during their bachelor degree studies. Non-co-op graduates were more likely to be employed part-time compared with co-op graduates and were also more likely to be unemployed.
Graduates from co-op programs report better job-education match
The National Graduates Survey also collected information from graduates on how closely related they feel their job was to their qualification completed in 2009-2010. College co-op graduates were slightly more likely (84%) to report that they found their job to be ‘closely’ or ‘somewhat’ related to their completed educationNote 10 compared with non-co-op graduates (82%).
The proportion of bachelor graduates who reported that they found their job to be ‘closely’ or ‘somewhat’ related to their completed education was considerably higher among those who completed a co-op program (87%) compared with those who had not (80%, Chart 3.1).
Bachelor graduates with co-operative work experience had higher earnings than other bachelor graduates
At the college level, the benefit in labour market outcomes for college co-op graduates did not necessarily translate into higher gross annual earnings for most co-op graduates. The median income for college co-op graduates was somewhat lower ($40,600) than for non-co-op graduates ($41,600). Similarly, the earnings of those falling into the 25th percentile were lower among college co-op graduates ($31,200 compared with $33,700). However, the earnings reported of those in the highest income quartile were slightly higher among co-op graduates compared with non-co-op graduates ($56,000 compared with $55,000). Co-op graduates from fields such as ‘business, management and public administration’, and ‘social and behavioural sciences, and law’ (which represent over a third (40%) of all co-op grads at the college level) had lower median earnings than the average college graduate. This distribution by field of study may be impacting the earnings of co-op versus non-co-op graduates at the college level.Note 11 (Chart 3.2)
The earnings profile among bachelor co-op graduates was different than among those at the college level, where bachelor graduates from a co-op program showed higher earnings in every quartile. This difference was highest among those at the 25th percentile where co-op graduates earned $3,200 more annually than non-co-op graduates ($43,200 compared with $40,000).
Graduates in the three major fields of study that represented over half of all of co-op graduates at the bachelor level (’health’, ‘business’ and ‘architecture and engineering’) earned well above the median earnings overall for bachelor graduates.
There were benefits for co-op graduates in the labour market. For those who did not pursue further education, both college and bachelor graduates of a co-op program had higher employment rates with the difference between co-op and non-co-op graduates being more pronounced for bachelor graduates. Co-op graduates at both levels also experienced lower unemployment rates and better self reported occupation-to-field-of-study matches. And at the bachelor level, graduates with co-operative work experience had higher earnings than other graduates.