Skills of humanities, social science grads in demand: PPF

Humanities and social science programs develop skills that are increasingly valued by employers, a new study jointly conducted by the Future Skills Centre, the Public Policy Forum and the Diversity Institute has found.

 At the same time, increased co-operation among universities, governments and business can enhance how graduates use these skills to grow their careers and raise their companies’ productivity.

 “Leveraging the Skills of Social Sciences and Humanities Graduates” is the last in a series of eight research papers examining how Canadian employees, business and governments are preparing for the jobs of the future.

The first study in the series, released earlier this month, argued that projections related to the impact of automation and other economic changes on employment are uncertain. But economists do agree that the employees who will be in high demand are those with the foundational skills that allow them to adapt and engage in continuous learning.

The latest study on the employment outlook for social sciences and humanities graduates finds that these grads are well-equipped to adapt to the future, but also recommends strengthening the pathways between postsecondary education and careers for grads in these fields to make the most of their capabilities.

Here are four key takeaways:

  • Employers value social science and humanities graduates: “Major corporations such as banks continue to recruit from social sciences and humanities graduates and some believe the premium on their skills will actually increase as a result of disruptive technologies,” the authors write. Programs in these fields impart innovation, adaptability, social and emotional intelligence, intercultural communication and ethical reasoning.
  • Employers, universities and governments need to agree on the skills learned in non-STEM fields: Employment and Social Development Canada has identified essential skills that are needed across fields, including reading, writing, document use, continuous learning and working with others. This list aligns with the skills most often emphasized in social sciences and humanities programs. However, there is a lack of consensus on how to develop these skills, how to measure them, and how to replicate the most successful models.
  • Universities are responsive to labour-market needs: Across Canada, universities are providing thousands of opportunities for students to participate in work-integrated learning initiatives. This can include entrepreneurship incubators, co-op programs, applied research and training in industry and community, community service learning, and study abroad programs that combine work and study. “In addition to curricula specifically geared toward employment, universities are embedding pedagogical innovation in programs to provide opportunities for work-integrated learning (WIL). … The aim is to equip graduates with skills and know-how valued by employers,” the authors write.
  • Diversity matters: Increased focus on the need for STEM education in the new economy and the expansion of programs in math, engineering and technology could lead to some groups being underrepresented in leading sectors. Women, for example, continue to be unequally represented in STEM fields. In addition, university students with “disabilities are far more likely to study social sciences and humanities, as are Indigenous students.”