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From the Editor: The New Student Body

We must meet students’ maturity head on, and deliver


January 28, 2009
By Cam Wood


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With the early numbers already showing a 10 per cent increase in the number of applications at Ontario colleges for January programs, we can definitely sense that something dramatic is going on.

With the early numbers already showing a 10 per cent increase in the number of applications at Ontario colleges for January programs, we can definitely sense that something dramatic is going on.

As the population base has not made any significant jumps in a matter of months, it’s not hard to see that central Canada is undergoing a serious employment shift – or perhaps we should say an unemployment shift. However, while we dwell on the issue that a significant number of these applications are from people seeking retraining and expanded skills development, to the vending operators serving campuses across the country, this trend is a bright light in dark times.

The colleges, on the academic front, defend their value to the modern workforce. According to a recent news release, more than 90 per cent of college graduates find work within six months and 93 per cent of employers are satisfied or very satisfied with the graduates they have hired in the past six months.

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Even in the current economy, college graduates are in demand as employers look for qualified people to fill vacant positions, according to Colleges Ontario. This demand will intensify in the years ahead as the baby boomers retire. In Ontario, the Conference Board of Canada estimates the province will face a shortage of more than 360,000 skilled employees by 2025.

To us, the increased traffic on campus can mean the opportunity to solidify our value as service providers. And this also means, as operators, we will need to be even more diligent in meeting the demands of the consumer.

While in central Canada, the manufacturing base is shrinking and taking many vending locations down with it, as we can see, there remains work to be done. Our industry has been equally devastated, but not decimated. There is a need for our services and products, especially among those who find themselves back on campus, rushing between classes and refuelling when the opportunity arises.

A vast array of these new students are mature adults, headed back to the classroom after being displaced by layoffs, closures and downsizing in the traditional core employment sector of manufacturing. The needs of these individuals are different from the typical 17-year-old freshman away from home for the very first time.

To meet the needs of this new student body, vending operators will have to do a little pre-emptive demographic research. Even the nature of the programs being filled by these individuals may require a broader understanding as it will reflect, in part, their economic disposition.

It’s likely that the traditional snack foods and beverages will not appeal to this new student body. They have reached an age where they are more astute about their diets and sophisticated in their palates. We must meet that maturity head on, and deliver, if we are to survive.
   


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