Opinion: Post-secondary investment helps keep young people in Alberta

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As is often said, demographics are fate — and they shape a bright future for Alberta.

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According to Statistics Canada, Alberta has the youngest population in Canada. Enrollment data from Alberta Education shows that the number of high school graduates will increase by more than 20% over the next five years. Among the many advantages that Alberta enjoys, nothing is more important than its young and growing population.

But only if we can keep them here.

The number of young Albertans choosing to leave the province to pursue post-secondary education elsewhere in Canada is of great concern, with a net outflow of nearly 6,000 students each year. This number is much higher than in any other province. Once gone, how many of these talented students will return to Alberta upon graduation?

Since taking on the role of President of the University of Alberta, my advocacy efforts with the province have focused on enrollment growth. To ensure talented young Albertans make this province their first choice for education, the University of Alberta has set an ambitious goal to increase our enrollment by more than 25% over the next five years. .

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Investing in the education of a growing young population yields enormous economic benefits: a growing and highly skilled workforce, growing demand for goods and services, and a growing tax base.

Over the next decade, two-thirds of Canadian jobs will require post-secondary education. In Alberta, projections to 2028 show that there will be a labor shortage of 1,700 to 3,750 university graduates each year.

To make the most of this opportunity, the Government of Alberta has made a significant new investment in Budget 2022 – $171 million over the next three years to increase post-secondary enrollment in high-demand programs. This week, the government announced specific details on investments for enrollment growth in post-secondary institutions across the province.

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Alberta’s largest post-secondary institution, U of A received $48 million for enrollment growth, earmarked for our globally recognized business, engineering, science and nursing programs . This means that thousands more students will have access to the university’s high-demand programs, and Alberta businesses, industries, community organizations and public institutions will have the highly skilled employees they need.

This new funding will help us reach the University of Alberta’s goal of enrolling more than 50,000 students by 2025, up from 42,000 today.

Upon graduation, these highly skilled individuals will enter the economy, increasing Alberta’s annual GDP by up to $800 million and building stronger communities. The vast majority of U of A graduates – nearly 85% – stay in the province and find employment in all sectors, with one in five Albertans working for companies and organizations founded by U of A alumni. HAS.

Demographics are one of Alberta’s greatest advantages. By continuing to invest in our youth, we can ensure that Alberta provides thousands of talented young Albertans with the opportunity to stay in Alberta, creating a thriving economy and society for the benefit of all Albertans.

Bill Flanagan is President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Alberta.

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