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Alberta Business Leaders Should Demand Better from School System

Open letter calls on business leaders to use educational choice to help students become employable


June 12, 2023

Alberta’s business leaders need to step up and start demanding better results from the provincial education system. Michael Van Pelt, President and CEO of non-partisan think tank Cardus, made that call in an open letter to Alberta business leaders today.

“Business leaders need to be much more informed about the well-being of K–12 schooling in the province and advocate more strongly for educational choice, so that all school sectors produce the graduates with the basic skills and attributes of character that all businesses rely on—and that thriving economies require,” Van Pelt writes in the in open letter.

Van Pelt’s letter notes:

  • Almost half of Alberta businesses are struggling to find workers who have required “people” skills, such areas as communication and leadership, according to a Business Council of Alberta survey.
  • Many businesses are having difficulty finding employees with basic numeracy and interpersonal skills, as well as character attributes such as integrity and a strong work ethic.
  • Just 66 percent of Alberta employers in 2016 said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” that high school graduates are entering the workforce with the right skills and knowledge.

Van Pelt adds that basic skills and personal qualities develop early in life and that schooling plays a role.

“Young Albertans are being formed cognitively, socially, and ethically during these years—in ways that will apply to any future job,” writes Van Pelt. “When young people are formed well in these key areas, they become the capable adults who can effectively contribute to Alberta’s economy and society. They become the type of people whom business leaders are eager to hire, promote, and even hand over their businesses to someday.”

Growth in educational choice is the most effective way to create the outcomes Alberta business leaders need in K–12 education. Educational choice means that government regulates and funds education but is not the sole provider of it.

“Choice creates healthy competition among schools and sectors, leading to better outcomes overall—and at a lower cost,” writes Van Pelt. “Choice enables different schools to offer different program emphases, matched to particular student aptitudes, interests, and needs. Having different types of schools also means students can attend the school that is best suited for them to thrive.”

Van Pelt’s letter notes that only about 10 percent of young Albertans currently attend schools that aren’t part of the government system. This low percentage does not create the momentum needed for the benefits of educational choice to be realized. It will likely take 20–25 percent enrolment outside the government system before Alberta can see improvement across all schools— government and non-government. That critical mass of students would, in effect, be true choice and real accountability. Multiple school options produce more innovation, creativity, and accountability within each system.

“Alberta business leaders must recognize their role in shaping the people they want to employ, promote, and entrust their businesses to in the future before it is too late,” writes Van Pelt.

The open letter to Alberta businesses is freely available on the Cardus website.

Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications

Cardus – Imagination toward a thriving society

Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society’s institutions can work together for the common good.