The value of an education

Dear Working Wise:

My son is going to finish high school, thanks to a lot of prodding, but he says that he doesn’t want to go to college or university. How can I convince him that it’s the right thing to do for his future?

Signed Frustrated Father

Dear Frustrated:

You are right, Albertans with a post-secondary education tend to earn more and are more likely to be employed than those without a diploma or degree.

In 2010, 69 per cent of high-school graduates were employed in Alberta compared to 76 per cent of those with a post-secondary certificate or diploma and 79 per cent with a Bachelor’s Degree.

The average Alberta high-school graduate earned $42,000 in 2010 compared to the average post-secondary certificate or diploma graduate’s annual salary of $54,000.

The $12,000 difference, multiplied over a 40-year career, amounts to nearly half a million dollars. Those with a Bachelor’s degree earned an average of $59,000 per year or nearly $700,000 over a career.

And, Alberta is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dreary world economy with an anticipated shortage of 114,000 skilled workers within the decade.

Alberta’s strong labour market is due to our growing economy and aging workforce, but the key word many people miss in the above statement is “skilled”.

Alberta’s Occupational Demand and Supply Outlook 2011 – 2021 forecasts a 16 per cent shortfall of facility operators and maintenance managers within the next 10 years, for example, but many of these positions require you to have a trade or other certification.

You can read the outlook for yourself and see which occupations will be in demand over the next seven years at

More and more jobs are requiring post-secondary education and ongoing training to stay up to date with the latest technology and practices. In fact, more than 60 per cent of new jobs in Alberta require post-secondary training.

Young Albertans have an opportunity to make the most of our province’s prosperity by ensuring that they have the skills that employers need today and well into the future.

However, not everyone is ready to attend a post-secondary program straight out of high school.

Young people can learn a lot about the world of work by spending a year in the workforce. It can also give them time to gather some career ideas, start an apprenticeship, start their own business, or develop an appreciation for the value of an education.

Try encouraging your son to explore his career options on the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) web site ( It’s full of helpful career planning tools, including:

  • CAREERinsite career planning tool
  • Occupational profiles on more than 500 careers
  • Video profiles of more than 200 careers
  • Wage and salary information on more than 400 careers

He can also call the Career Information Hotline, toll-free at 1-800-661-3753, and speak to a career consultant.

Your son may discover the perfect career or program like the skilled trades, where you spend 80 per cent of your time learning, and getting paid, while on the job.

Good luck!

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.