Manitoba enjoying relative prosperity in 2011 but study shows troubling indicators related to education

WINNIPEG, Nov. 4, 2011 /CNW/ - Manitoba appears to be enjoying relative economic prosperity with GDP rising by 2.5 per cent and the job creation rate reaching 1.9 per cent in 2010, according to the MB Check-Up 2011, the tenth annual economic analysis of the province as a place to live, work, and invest by the Chartered Accountants of Manitoba.

"Our province's diverse economy bore the brunt of the global financial crisis in 2009, weathering the storm and emerging fairly unscathed. Steady manufacturing activity and a surge in the resource sector in 2010 provided the necessary economic stimulus to jump start our provincial economy," said Gary Hannaford, CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba.

Manitobans also have the advantage of low financial vulnerability due to low levels of debt, and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Despite this positive outlook, there are troubling indicators related to education. Among the western provinces, Manitoba has the highest high school dropout rate and the lowest level of educational attainment for the 25 to 54 year old workforce.

"An educated workforce is critical to Manitoba's future economic well-being. Yet, compared to other Canadian provinces, Manitoban students are more likely to drop out of high school and not to pursue post-secondary education," Hannaford said. "Overcoming these problems is a complex task that will require a multi-faceted approach and a long-term commitment."

The MB Check-Up shows that between 2005 and 2010, Manitoba had the highest percentage of youth who did not graduate from high school compared to the other western provinces, Ontario, and Canada. In 2010, this percentage rose by 0.9 percentage points to 11.6 per cent.

"High school completion is the critical first step toward a secure future. A high school diploma not only provides entry to post-secondary education, it also sends a strong signal to prospective employers," Hannaford said.

The transition to post-secondary education is also critical to future employment prospects. The study shows that in 2010, 59.5 per cent of the labour force in Manitoba aged 25 to 54 had completed some level of post-secondary education - the second-lowest percentage in western Canada and considerably lagging behind the national average (67.3 per cent).

"In Manitoba, three key factors that appear to explain the low level of enrollment in post-secondary programs are geographic isolation, cultural factors, and financial constraints," Hannaford said.

The MB Check-Up goes on to explain that a significant proportion of Manitoba's population lives in rural areas and small towns, far from the post secondary institutions concentrated in large cities. Also, Aboriginal students continue to face challenges within the school system; this appears to be particularly so in Manitoba, which has one of Canada's largest numbers of aboriginal youth 15 years and older without a high school education. And that the cost of post-secondary education is a major barrier for students from low-income families, many of who live in rural and aboriginal communities.

"Manitoba faces definite challenges with respect to increasing educational attainment within the labour force. The provincial government has identified and put in place a number of programs but all Manitobans, including business, educators, and the general public have a role to play in finding solutions. There are no easy answers. We hope that MB Check-Up will be used as a tool to stimulate discussion and encourage leadership, helping everyone to focus on the key points where change can have the greatest impact to improve Manitoba's competitiveness," Hannaford said.

MB Check-Up is published annually by the Chartered Accountants of Manitoba and provides an independent factual comparison of the four Western provinces, together with Ontario and the Canadian average using 11 key indicators to create a profile of each as a place to live, a place to work and a place to invest.

With nearly 2,900 members and 400 CA students, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba carries out its primary mission to protect the public by ensuring that its members have the highest level of competence and integrity as a result of demanding standards for admission to the profession, its continuous learning policy and its inspection and discipline processes. Thanks to the quality and rigor of their education and training, CAs bring superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight and leadership to every organization.

SOURCE Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba

For further information:

Contact: 
Tanya Beck, Manager of Communications
p: 204 924.4416   e: tbeck@icam.mb.ca

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