2016/12/05 Leave a comment
Not only is enrollment up in public administration fields of study, but now experts say there’s a new enthusiasm among students.
“Let me be blunt. It was miserable under the Harper government,” says Robert Shepherd, a Carleton University professor and president of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration. “Nobody wanted to be there. Our numbers dropped off for [programs] connected to the federal government. It was hard to attract students.”
Now Ottawa seems to be investing in its public service employees, and Trudeau’s big budget means greater job opportunities. So while some might attribute the reason for students’ renewed enthusiasm to a “sunny ways” Prime Minister, the spike in interest for public policy and administration programs isn’t always altruistic.
Shepherd credits the sputtering economy as a common thread he hears from students looking for public service work. “[Students] see government as being a relatively stable way to anchor themselves,” he says. “Back in the 1980s, that’s what I was thinking too. The economy sucked and I saw government as having a stable career.”
While the current crop of students are not thinking about a 35-year career with a pension at the end, the Baby Boomers who did see retirement beckoning. “We’ll be in a market where we’ll need a lot of people in a hurry,” says Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council of Canada. “We’re not hiring clerical people, because that stuff is pretty much automated. We’re looking for people with social media and acute management skills.”
That’s not to say everyone is jumping at available jobs. Shepherd remembers a job posting for the CRTC recently hitting his desk, which he sent out to various universities asking them to send back names of interested students. The response? Crickets.
“Where demand is outstripping supply is in the area of regulatory public policy. I’m thinking places like the CRTC, Food Inspection, Health Canada,” Shepherd says. “If you said to students there are good jobs in a regulatory agency, they look at you as though, “Why would I want to do that?’ ”