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Arts students do well financially, so why do we need to bridge the gap?

Last week we launched the Guelph Arts Apprenticeship Program. You can read about it here and here.

We’ll be helping local Guelph employers cover the wages of a newly graduated arts student who they commit to hiring for one year. Likewise, we’ll be helping arts students prepare for the job market by teaching them about interviewing, designing resumes, and finding a good match for their skills. Funding for the pilot project and the idea behind it comes from Ottawa philanthropist Alan Rottenberg. The program is based on a successful model spearheaded by Rottenberg at Queen’s University and the City of Kingston two years ago. Next up, Guelph….

Exciting times.

This week, this good news story came across my newsfeed. (In addition, several people emailed it to me. Thanks all!) “Students from liberal-arts colleges don’t merely recoup their tuition dollars in the long run. They eventually earn more than those who attended trade or business schools, a new report shows. ” From When It Comes to Future Earnings, Liberal-Arts Grads Might Get the Last Laugh. (Of course it’s more complicated than the headline suggests. Arts students take awhile to catch up on the salary front and the highest earnings come from students attending elite US liberal arts colleges and they tend to come from high income backgrounds.)

Still it does mean that the worry about future earnings is over-played.

I firmly believe that the Canadian economy and the local Guelph economy, need the skills our students possess. We as a society need the liberal arts. In the long term, despite the worries of their parents, it’s good to know that arts students also do quite well financially with good long term career earnings and career success. Thirteen years after graduation the gap between arts graduates and math and science graduates in terms of income closes.

You might wonder, given this good news about employment and earnings for our arts grads, why we need the apprenticeship program?

Our students have the skills that employers need but I think there is work to be done helping arts students transition from university to the workplace. There’s the very happy story about students who are two or more years out from graduation but six months after graduation research also shows that arts students are more likely than graduates from other degree programs to be unsure about their future and to be struggling to find their way in the work world. It isn’t always a soft landing in the workplace after graduation.

I heard a great line at the GAAP launch: “Arts students are hard to hire but easy to promote.” I like that. And I’m hoping with the GAAP program we can make hiring a little less hard, helping our students and local Guelph employers. Wish us luck!

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