||The combined impact of the knowledge economy and the aging of the population make enrolment in and completion of post-secondary education (PSE) more important than ever. Without greater participation in PSE, Manitoba risks seeing its productivity and prosperity diminished. This situation is compounded by the rapidly increasing number of graduates who will retire from the workforce. It is essential, therefore, that young Manitobans have access to PSE and the support needed to ensure successful completion of their programs.
Increasing the number of post-secondary graduates will prove challenging for two main reasons: One is that within 20 years, the pool of typical post-secondary age Manitobans will be substantially shallower than it is today. To keep the inflow of new workers equipped for the knowledge economy at least to present-day levels, will require a greater proportion of youth accessing and completing post-secondary studies. This has significant implications for increasing participation rates among groups such as high school leavers, graduates who choose not to pursue PSE, males, and international students.
The second reason is that while significant gains can be made to participation in PSE among certain population groups, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds such as youth from lower-income families and Aboriginal Manitobans, these are the types of youth who continue to remain considerably under-represented in higher education.
When PSE is not widely accessible, it serves to accentuate rather then alleviate inequity. As PSE becomes even more important to individual economic advancement, the social consequences of the lower participation of those from under-represented groups increase accordingly. The risk associated with the exclusion of such groups from the benefits of PSE has significant consequences both for their own well-being and for the province’s future prosperity.