Picture of Queen's Park
COU Statement: Response to Ontario Spring 2022 Budget
April 28, 2022

“Ontario’s universities support the commitments outlined in today’s provincial budget that will foster a healthy population and help drive economic development in communities throughout the province.

Increased funding for research, including the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund, as well as investments towards expanding the health-care workforce, including new spaces for doctors and supporting clinical education for nurses, are important first steps towards ensuring Ontario’s health-care system has the highly skilled workforce it needs, while creating a world-class life sciences sector that continues to drive innovative solutions.

Student mental health is one of the most pressing issues on postsecondary campuses today – a challenge that has only been compounded by COVID-19. Increased supports for community mental health services and resources will help students have access to the supports they need. Ontario’s universities will continue to work across sectors for the mental health and well-being of our students.

As the province looks to build a stronger Ontario, Ontario’s universities have a vital role to play. We remain committed to conducting ground-breaking research that fosters social and economic prosperity and supporting the development of a highly skilled workforce that responds to changing job market needs.

Ontario is already seeing an increasing demand for highly skilled talent due to a rapidly shifting labour market – demand that is only expected to grow. A recent report by Stokes Economics, Ontario Future Labour Force Needs, found that, between now and 2030, Ontario will need a total of 928,700 job openings that require a university degree, including nearly 148,000 in health care and more than 233,000 in STEM.

A growing number of students stand ready to help fill these gaps. Applications data from January 2022 indicates that Ontario secondary school applications have increased by more than 11 per cent over the last two years, including nearly 19 per cent in biological and biomedical sciences, more than 13 per cent in engineering and more than 41 per cent in computer and informational science. In addition, all applications to Ontario university nursing education programs have increased by 35 per cent since March 2020.

Ontario’s universities have responded to changing market needs and will continue to do so. Over the last 10 years, universities have increased STEM enrolment by 52 per cent and enrolment in health programs by 31 per cent.

Universities want to continue to meet this growing demand and labour market need. But in order to continue to do so, universities must be financially sustainable. Vibrant universities in communities throughout the province will be critical to developing a highly skilled and adaptable workforce that is ready to meet the needs of a rapidly changing labour market, fuel economic growth, drive innovation and rebuild Ontario’s health-care system.

It is why Ontario’s universities are continuing to call for increased financial supports and revenue flexibility, including increases in funded spaces in high-demand programs, such as STEM and health care, by more than 53,500 over the next five years.

By working together, we can continue to ensure Ontario has the highly skilled workforce it needs, as well as the ground-breaking research to fuel social and economic growth in order to build a stronger Ontario and a brighter future for all who live here.”

– Steve Orsini, President and CEO, Council of Ontario Universities

Key Facts and Data

  • Nearly 148,000 — Number of job openings Ontario is projecting within the health-care sector from now until 2030 that will require a university education.
  • 233,000+ — Number of job openings Ontario is projecting within STEM from now until 2030 that will require a university education.
  • 11% — Increase in applications from Ontario secondary schools over the last two years, including nearly 19% in biological and biomedical sciences, more than 13% in engineering and more than 41% in computer and informational science.
  • 35% — Increase in applications for all nursing education programs at Ontario’s universities since March 2020.
  • 7% — Employment rate of undergraduates two years after graduation with 90.4% of graduates finding full-time work that is either closely or somewhat related to the skills they developed at university.