Opinion

Muskens: Education/work findings from 22-year-long study

In the early 1970s my brother entered engineering at the University of Alberta. For four years he alternated full-time study from September to April and full-time employment from May to August. I thought everybody who went to school did this.

But times have changed and that isn’t really what happens anymore.

A recent study by the B.C. government showed, of the 540 high school students who were tracked over 22 years, many who studied full-time often worked part-time and regularly jumped from full-time to part-time work or the other way around.

The Paths on Life’s Way project surveyed 540 Grade 12 students in 1988. From then on this group was required to report monthly on whether they were either working or attending school.  Further data was collected through a series of surveys in 1990, 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2010.

Highlights from the data illustrate a number of interesting points. Of those who ended up at college or university the following fall, very few studied full-time from September to April and worked full-time from May to August. Most ended up working part-time, studying full-time with occasional months of full-time employment.

Of the 540 respondents, women were more likely to work part-time and study full-time. They also tended to have longer periods of part-time employment regardless of whether they were a student or not. Men on the other hand had more periods of full-time employment. Women tended to move into and out of the work force more often than men. Women were also more likely to complete a post-secondary credential, a common thread within the last 10 years.

Of those who didn’t go straight into post-secondary education from high school, many went back at some point—only three per cent of the 540 surveyed never went back to school.

Those who entered college or university full-time directly from high school, were the most likely to complete a credential regardless of whether they worked part-time and studied full- or part-time.

Another statistic was that although those who completed a bachelor’s degree had only 11.4 years of full-time employment during the 22 years since leaving high school, they also had the lowest rate of unemployment.

Parental education also played a major role. For those students who had one or more parent who had a bachelor’s degree or higher, were most likely to have spent more time in full-time education compared to those who had parents with little or no post-secondary education.

Students who lived in remote areas and were required to leave home for school tended to pursue full-time study and less part-time work. Urban students tended to mix full-time studies with part-time employment.

If you think of all the people who graduated from high school at the same time you did, many often juggle work and school at some point in their lives. Going to school isn’t just for 20-year-olds anymore.

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