Reports and data

crowd in train station

Recommendations for change

Given the competitive nature of the professional job market and increasing expectations of employers, several organizations with an interest in graduate studies have released reports recommending changes to better support graduate student professional skills development:

  • A 2013 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council report (PDF) recommends “changing the PhD programs themselves, reforming doctoral training so that it leads to a multiplicity of career paths instead of only one.” It also suggests “that new PhD programs should be reoriented toward active participation in the world, should promote collaborative and interdisciplinary research, and should develop new kinds of teaching, research, and research deliverables.”
  • A Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario report highlights the fact that “some PhD students feel unable to talk openly with their supervisors about their thoughts or plans to pursue a more applied form of employment after graduation, and the lack of support from many faculty to pursue this path is an issue that requires more attention.”
  • A 2008 Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (CAGS) report (PDF) argues that “[b]y taking a more structured approach in the area of professional skills, universities can enhance their ability to help their graduate students achieve a higher level of competitive expertise.” The four skills that CAGS highlights as priorities for universities to focus on were the skills of communication, management, teaching and knowledge transfer, and ethics.
  • A recent article highlights the need to “shatter the silos” between academics and career service professionals. The author points out that “[a]cademics across disciplines know there is an employment ‘problem,’ but the topic is discussed behind closed doors and all too often, the very people who are left to implement institutional plans–the career service professionals–are not invited to the table.” In the same article, the author points out that the mygradskills.ca online program “has the potential to be helpful to graduate students, but only if universities build on top of the basic resources offered.”

Calls for action by key players in post secondary

Though it may seem as though it is a new area of focus, concern over graduate students' professional skills is not new. For many years now, some key national and provincial bodies have been advocating for better professional development for graduate students. For a few examples, check out the following:

  • Tri-Agency statement of principles on key professional skills for researchers (2007)
  • CAGS' Professional skills development for graduate students (2008)
  • Ontario Council for Graduate Studies (OCGS). Taskforce on professional skills report (2011)