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 (65% in 2018), while vocational schools account for the largest share of employment (59% in 2018; with “other schools” alone accounting for 51%). This situation can be explained by the fact that vocational schools are characterized by a high proportion of part-time workers (51%) and self-employed (50%). Overall, the industry employed 280,700 workers in 2018, with women accounting for 62% of the workforce. Employment is distributed proportionately to population: 41% in Ontario, 22% in Quebec, 17% in British Columbia, 9% 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 largely driven by demographic trends in the 17-21 age cohort (the prime age for attending college or seeking technical training) and is particularly sensitive to government spending in education. In comparison, many of the educational services provided by vocational schools cover multiple 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). Output expanded almost continuously over the past decade, 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 to upgrade their skills in response to poorer job opportunities. This development was reinforced by the gradual disappearance of high paying jobs, such as those in the manufacturing sector, that only require a high school diploma. Growth in output was also driven by the increasing number of millennials aged 17 to 21 that graduated from high school and began to attend colleges and CEGEPs from 2009 to 2012, as well as by the sharp rise in the number of individuals in multiple age groups who enrolled in vocational schools, particularly in recent years. The resulting pace of growth in real GDP averaged 1.4% annually over the period 2009-2018. In comparison, employment rose at an annual rate of 3.4%, mostly driven by an increase of 57,000 workers in vocational schools, more precisely in establishments providing instruction in fine arts, athletics, sports and languages, as well as tutoring and exam preparation services (such establishments have a high concentration of part-time workers, which tends to boost their employment numbers relative to other establishments). The large gap between output and employment growth resulted in a sharp decline in productivity, partly reflecting the high degree of labour intensity in vocational schools, especially in establishments characterized by a strong concentration of part-time workers (in COPS, labour productivity is measured by real GDP divided by the total number of workers, rather than the total number of hours worked). It could also reflect changes in the types of programs offered within schools and the fact that colleges and CEGEPs have been somewhat slow to embrace digital technologies in the delivery of education services.

Over the period 2019-2028, output and employment growth in colleges, CEGEPs and vocational schools is projected to slow markedly relative to the previous ten years, largely reflecting the adverse impact of demographic factors on college attendance. Population aged 17 to 21 has been on a declining trend since 2012 and although it is expected to pick up gradually during the projection period, it will take several years before it fully recovers. However, the growing demand for higher educated and skilled workers, resulting from the changing nature of work and the continued shift toward a digital 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, not only in the goods-producing sector but also in the services sector. Some jobs are being eliminated, while many others are changing and require new skills and technical training to better integrate and complement technology. That said, despite higher enrollments rates anticipated in post-secondary education, demographic factors are expected to restrain the number of students attending colleges and technical schools, at least during the first half of the projection period. The annual rates of growth in colleges, CEGEPs and vocational schools are projected to average 0.5% in real GDP and 0.4% in employment over the period 2019-2028, a notable slowdown from the previous decade, particularly in terms of employment. The gradual tightening of the labour market, resulting from demographic pressures on labour supply, is expected to restrain job creation, while the growing popularity of online courses and e-learning applications are expected to help productivity increase marginally.

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

Figure showing the annual average growth rates of real GDP and employment over the periods 2009-2018 and 2019-2028 for the industry of colleges, cegeps and vocational schools. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Colleges, CEGEPs and Vocational Schools (%, annual average)
  Real GDP Employment
2009-2018 1.4 3.4
2019-2028 0.5 0.4

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.


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