Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Colleges, CEGEPs and Vocational Schools

NAICS 6112, 6114-6117

Community colleges and CEGEPs comprise establishments primarily engaged in providing academic or technical courses and granting associate degrees, certificates or diplomas that are below the university level. The requirement for admission to an associate or equivalent degree program is at least a high school diploma or equivalent general academic training. Vocational schools comprise establishments such as business, computer and management training schools, technical and trade schools, and other schools primarily engaged in providing instruction in fine arts, sports, languages and a variety of other topics (first-aid training, driving lessons, adult literacy programs). These establishments may be privately owned and operated, either for profit or not, or they may be publicly owned and operated. Community colleges and CEGEPs account for the largest share of output (68% in 2016) while vocational schools account for the largest share of employment (60% in 2016; with “other schools” alone accounting for 50%). This situation can be explained by the fact that vocational schools are characterized by a high proportion of part-time workers (56%) and self-employed (43%). Overall, the industry employed 246,800 workers in 2016, with women accounting for 60% of the workforce. Employment is distributed proportionately to population: 40% in Ontario, 22% in Quebec, 16% in British Columbia, 11% in Alberta, and 10% in the remaining provinces. Given the wide variety of educational services offered by the industry, key occupations (4-digit NOC) include a mix of:

  • College and other vocational instructors (4021)
  • Other instructors (4216)
  • Program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness (5254)
  • Musicians and singers (5133)
  • Education policy researchers, consultants and program officers (4166)
  • Dancers (5134)
  • Coaches (5252)
  • Post-secondary teaching and research assistants (4012)
  • Administrators in post-secondary education and vocational training (0421)
  • Educational counsellors (4033)

Economic activity in community colleges and CEGEPs is mainly driven by demographic trends in population aged 17 to 21 (the prime age for attending college or seeking trechnical training) and is particularly sensitive to government spending in education. In comparison, many of the educational services provided by vocational schools cover mutliple age groups (including children, youth and adults) and are partly supported by consumer spending on extra-curricular activities associated with arts, sports and hobbies in general (such as music, dance, ski or tennis lessons). Growth in the industry’s output and employment was relatively strong over the past ten years, partly driven by positive growth in population aged 17-21. During that period, a significant number of millennials graduated from high school and began to attend colleges and CEGEPs. Output and employment expanded almost continuously, even during the recession of 2008-2009, reflecting the fact that during bad economic times, youth usually stay in school longer while displaced workers return to school in response to poorer job opportunities. This development was reinforced by the gradual disappearance of high paying jobs in the manufacturing sector that only required a high school diploma. On average, real GDP in colleges, CEGEPs and vocational schools increased at an annual rate of 1.5% over the period 2007-2016, compared to 2.1% for employment. The significant gap between output and employment growth resulted in negative productivity growth, although the concept and mesurement of productivity in educational services may differ from the other sectors of the economy where goods and services are traded and more easily valued in monetary terms. Declining productivity in the industry could be linked to changes in the types of programs offered within schools or simply the difficulty associated with measuring real ouput.

Over the period 2017-2026, output and employment growth in colleges, CEGEPs and vocational schools is projected to slow markedly relative to the previous ten years, largely reflecting the decline anticipated in population aged 17 to 21 during the period 2017-2021 and the fact that most millennials will have completed their college education by that time. While population in the 17-21 age cohort is projected to pick up somewhat beyond 2022, growth is expected to remain weak. However, the growing demand for higher educated and skilled workers resulting from the continued shift toward a knowledge-based economy is expected to keep pushing up enrolment rates in colleges and technical schools in Canada. This is also true for older workers who may see the need to upgrade their skills in order to adjust to technological progress. Indeed, automation is increasing rapidly in many sectors of the economy, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Some jobs are being eliminated while many others are changing and require new skills and technical training. That said, despite higher enrollments rates anticipated in post-secondary education, the pace of growth in the number of students attending colleges and technical schools is expected to slow markedly due to demographic factors. The resulting pace of growth in colleges, CEGEPs and vocational schools is projected to average 0.4% annually in both real GDP and employment over the period 2017-2026, a notable slowdown from the previous decade. The growing popularity of online courses and e-learning applications are expected to restrain demand for new teachers and help productivity to stop declining.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Colleges, CEGEPs and Vocational Schools

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Colleges, CEGEPs and Vocational Schools. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Colleges, CEGEPs and Vocational Schools, 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 1.6 2.1
2017-2026 0.4 0.4

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).


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