Gap widens between Windsor-Essex and Ontario populations without post-secondary education

While new census data shows the percentage of the Windsor-Essex population with a post-secondary education has slightly increased over 10 years, the differential between the region’s percentage and its provincial counterpart has grown.

The data released Wednesday shows the percentage of people in Windsor-Essex between 25 and 64 years of age who have some post-secondary education rose from 58.2 per cent in 2011 to 60.1 per cent in 2021.

In comparison to the province, 64.7 per cent of Ontario’s population had a post-secondary education in 2011, with Windsor-Essex sitting 6.5 percentage points lower. Provincial numbers rise to 67.8 per cent in 2021, widening the gap between Ontario and Windsor-Essex to 7.7 per cent.

“This represents a significant risk for our community,” said Alicea Fleming, vice president of community impact for United Way Windsor-Essex.

“We have concerns that we’re not keeping pace with the number of young people competing in post-secondary education. When we think about the future of work in our community, the sectors that are going to start to boom and the jobs we have coming to our area, it’s really important that we have young people and workers who have the skills to take those positions. ”

Much of it has to do with household income, Fleming added, and its link to post-secondary access.

“High school graduation and post secondary education participation rates are linked to household income. The data supports this and we know this to be true,” she said.

While the United Way has previously said 1 in 7 children in Windsor-Essex live in poverty, Fleming said the number increased to 1 in 3 specifically in west Windsor, downtown Windsor and Leamington where more people live in low-income housing.

According to data, researcher Frazier Fathers, there are historical reasons as to why Windsor-Essex has traditionally lagged behind the province for those seeking post-secondary education.

“For a long time, you could walk out of high school, get a good paying job at one of the Big 3. Some of them are still there. They’re at the back end of that 64-year-old age group. So they’re still captured in that data,” said Fathers.

With many of those individuals retiring, Fathers said upper levels of government needed to further incentivize getting young people into skilled trade programs.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of “working-age apprentice certificate holders” stagnated or fell in construction trades, mechanics and repair technologies between 2016 and 2021.

“But I also think there are these big system challenges that are bigger than what can be tackled locally … There’s a lot of things that can be taken away from this data,” said Fathers.

“We have a lower educational attainment rate for a portion of our population. We have higher low-income rates. We have growing inequality in our community from an income perspective. There’s a thread there.”

The United Way adding access to post-secondary education is made more difficult by the fact that Ontario’s average tuition rates are about $1,500 higher than the national average.