The Problem of the Skills Gap Agenda in Canadian Post-Secondary Education

  • Melody Viczko Western University
  • Jenna R. Lorusso Western University
  • Shannon McKechnie Western University


The mismatch between graduates’ skills and the needs of the labour market is a continuing discourse in Canada and on a global scale. Yet, arguments on how to restructure PSE are not united. Given these competing discourses, we ask the following research questions: What should we make of the various representations of the skills gap, and how are contemporary PSE students positioned in this discursive space? We use Bacchi’s problem representation approach to policy analysis to examine four policy actors’ statements influencing Canadian PSE to examine the discourses surrounding the perceived skills gap in Canadian PSE. We argue that, while these policies call for disparate PSE reforms, they are all underpinned by the same neoliberal rationality. The different calls for reform reflect a harmonized and complementary set of discourses that reify PSE students as a single subject—a one-dimensional, homogenous, economic subject, devoid of difference. We suggest discourses that position PSE students as political actors in determining their education and roles in a democratic society are needed. 

Author Biographies

Melody Viczko, Western University

Melody Viczko is Assistant Professor in Critical Policy, Equity and Leadership Studies at Western University. Her research is focused on multi-scalar analyses of policy in higher education, considering how policy assembles different actors and interests.

Jenna R. Lorusso, Western University

Jenna R. Lorusso is PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Education at Western University. Her current research and teaching interests centre on issues of policy, equity, and leadership in higher education, with a particular interest in the organization and work of physical education and kinesiology scholars.  

Shannon McKechnie, Western University

Shannon McKechnie is PhD student in the Faculty of Education at Western University. Her research interests include the role of student affairs and services practitioners in post-secondary education, skills development and career-readiness policy, and broader issues of student success in Canadian post-secondary education.