@ Issue Paper No 2-2 A Fine Balance

Supporting Skills and Competency Development​​​​​


The second in a three part series, this paper examines issues related to the development of skills, competencies, and knowledge and the labour market issues faced by skilled graduates. It draws on the experiences of the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States. Like many jurisdictions around the world, they are all grappling with how best to support the knowledge base of their populations through higher education as well as how best to support their labour markets.

In the UK, there is a focused effort on ensuring that graduates have the skills and competencies that employers are looking for.  They do this through surveys of employers and working with them to better understand both the “hard” and “soft” skills needed by today’s workforce.

Throughout the EU, there is now an emphasis being placed on creative competencies, in particular, the development of ICT, mathematics, and technology, communication, entrepreneurialism, and social skills. While not a focus of particular disciplines, these competencies can be infused into the courses and programs in all curriculum areas. 

The report concludes with the notion that in Ontario, the US, the UK and other nations in the EU, the emphasis is on the quality and quantity of activities that can be developed in higher education programs aimed at improving student skills and competencies in order to ensure a capable and prosperous labour force.

​Mary Catharine Lennon is a Policy Analyst at HEQCO and a PhD Candidate in Theory and Policy Studies in Higher Education at OISE/UT.  She holds degrees from Simon Fraser University and Queens’ University.  Her background in the field of higher education includes positions with the Association of Commonwealth Universities; the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada; and with numerous university council and student group associations.