Education and economic development

I have stated before that I am a bit skeptical of the trickle down (up?) theory of education – pour more and more money into the post-secondary education system and some of that will eventually spill over into broader economic development through a more educated workforce.

Of course I am not opposed to education per se (who would be?) but I just can’t find a whole lot in the data to support this trickle down view.  For decades New Brunswick graduated far more people from its universities than did British Columbia (adjusted for population size) and yet BC has the most educated workforce in Canada.  Why?  Because people would get educated here (subsidized by the government to the tune of something in the order of $40k for an undergraduate degree) and then move to BC for work.   I think in recent years BC has been ramping up their post-secondary seats so I don’t know where that comparison is today.

I never was comfortable with the idea of New Brunswick being an incubator for Ontario, Alberta and BC’s workforce.  We pay all the start up costs – through the exact moment they are ready to enter the workforce – and then they move to Ontario to earn their living.   How much does the taxpayer fund to educate someone from K-Undergraduate degree only to end up benefiting Alberta?

Of course the circle of life in Canada being what it is, they move to Alberta and then ship back a small percentage of their income through transfers to pay for us to incubate another generation of Alberta workers.

Anyway, when I speak of education and economic development I am talking about R&D, spinning out startups and attracting foreign students, etc.

After reading about the new student/research linkages between Canada and Brazil I must reiterate my call for the province to attract more international students.  While the numbers are up in recent years we are still well below average in terms of the number of international students that come here – paying the full cost of education.

I’d like to see a clear plan to attract hundreds more – if not several thousand more – to New Brunswick each year.  Not only do they drop money into New Brunswick they become a perfect pool to recruit new immigrant residents from if there is a demand for them here.  After four winters in New Brunswick, these students should have a clear idea if they could handle living here on a permanent basis.

But it also opens up New Brunswick and New Brunswickers to new cultures and ideas.    Missing the immigrant wave in Canada, I think, has been  a bit loss for the province.

People have been saying for years that we have too many universities (too much infrastructure overall too) but there is zero political will to reduce the number of them.   Maybe there will be more interest in filling them up.

By the way, I include the NBCCs in this too.  I have known several immigrants that used the NBCC (including two Brazilians) and are now permanent residents in the province.

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3 Responses to Education and economic development

  1. Jim Russell says:

    A good economic development strategy, besides the attraction you recommend, is to send more New Brunswick talent to Brazil. Better Rio than Toronto.

  2. scott says:

    It’s more like “trickle out” than “trickle down.” On a more serious note, I was speaking to an Ottawa mandarin at lunch today and he was going on and on about the heated debate that is about to bust up regarding Canada’s aging population (no surprise the bureaucracy is a little behind on this one. They should have read this blog 😉 Anyway, I snapped back at him and said, is it really great public policy to encourage people to have more kids (and spend billions educating these kids in public schools) if there are still huge regional disparities that exist? Ones where the bill for education is costly but the payback through revenue, via taxes, is close to zero. It’s a cycle that doesn’t make sense IMO.

  3. tcs says:

    There are a great number of foreign students in our universities. I’d conservatively guess that better than 70% of Econ and Finance classes at UNBSJ are foreign. Not one “New Brunswick; this is the place to be” banner found anywhere though. Why out glory projects when there are much simpler ones that have yet to be perused.

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