Combating the labor scarcity | Grants of restricted impact

The $1.7 billion scholarship program, launched with much fanfare by the Legault government in 2021 to address labor shortages, appears to have had limited impact in key health and education sectors, where universities, despite $2,500 per Semesters see a drop in enrollment Premium for full-time students.

Karl Lecavalier

Karl Lecavalier
The press

“For the current year, we have not observed any impact of scholarships on enrollments. It has to be said that year after year several eligible programs are reaching capacity,” says Isabelle Huard, Media Relations Advisor at Université de Sherbrooke.

At this university, the enrollment numbers hardly changed between autumn 2020 and autumn 2022. And for the only course with a significant increase in students, the bachelor’s course in social work, we increased the course’s intake capacity last year, which rose from 85 places to 120 places,” notes Mme loons. But other farms have experienced declines.

At the Université de Montréal, the number of full-time students enrolled in programs targeted by the Quebec government has declined, from 4,739 students in 2020 to 4,450 in 2022.

The largest decreases: in education (1850 today versus 2000 two years earlier) and nursing (from 1078 to 829 today).

However, all of these students are eligible for a $2,500 scholarship upon successful completion of their fall semester.

However, UdeM is seeing an increase in admissions in information technology.

Increase of Laval

There is also an increase in engineering and information technology at Laval University. The number of undergraduate students in computer science has increased from 300 to 459 between 2021 and 2022, and enrollments in computer engineering, software engineering, mechanical engineering and engineering physics are also increasing.

But even as Laval University sees an increase in its students accessing Perspective Québec Scholarships (+902), including in teaching, it still sees a small decrease in its nursing staff.

At the Université du Québec en Outaouais, there is a slight decrease in cohorts in education and health between 2020 and 2022. At Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the number of full-time students enrolled in eligible programs increased from 1,021 in 2020 to 830 in 2022. , in Nursing (DEC-BAC) and in Social Work are limited capacity, which explains in particular the drop in the Bachelor in Nursing from autumn 2020 to autumn 2022,” explains Stéphanie Duchesne, Head of Communications and Recruitment at the institution.

“Changing the Face of the Labor Market”

The Legault government announced this generous grant program with great fanfare in the fall of 2021. “The Perspective Québec Scholarship Program has the potential to change the face of Quebec’s labor market and contribute to the development of our society,” affirmed the Minister of Employment at the time, Jean Boulet.

With a budget of 1.7 billion over 4 years or 425 million per year, it is part of the Legault government’s workforce operation. “Carried jointly by several ministries, [il] is intended as a response to labor shortages in certain areas that are considered priority and strategic for Quebec’s future”.

The program allows for $2,500 per session for high school seniors and $1,500 per session for students in certain college techniques. Only a certain number of programmes, particularly in the areas of health, education and information technology, are targeted by the state.

Which consequences?

Pier-André Bouchard St-Amant is an assistant professor at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP) and an expert in the economics of public institutions. The head of the Research Group Applied Public Economics will examine the effectiveness of the scholarship program over the next few years.

He believes that, in general, “when you subsidize a course, it has an impact. Before making his judgment, he needs to distinguish between the normal trend and the effect of grants on student decision-making.

The decline in nursing program enrollments might have been greater without the grants, he says.

However, he wonders about the government’s decision to subsidize programs that are already sold out: “You give money to people who wouldn’t have changed their decision, subsidy or not. It makes less sense to award scholarships to people who are already enrolled in a program that already has an enrollment limit,” he stresses.

Delayed promotion

As for the CEGEPs, we believe it is too early to see if the grants will attract crowds. Bernard Tremblay, CEO of the Fédération des cégeps, warns that the application for this scholarship program was received “very late” after the deadline of 1 Mayah March 2022 for approval applications.

He believes a grant program is a “key element” of government action to tackle labor shortages, but other solutions need to be found. For example, he fears that certain programs without grants will be avoided and that there is a simple crowding-out phenomenon.

Mr Tremblay would have favored a broader reflection. “If we’re having trouble recruiting students in information technology, can we look at what’s happening on the ground? We should pay attention to the ability of our students to create the conditions to participate in these courses, for example by encouraging secondary school students in mathematics, ”he points out.

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