The Tyee is running a "Big Ideas" series, and one of them is mine: Idea #4: First Work, Then University. Excerpt:
Suppose we created a "Canadian Service Corps." It would offer some kind of paid work for any high-school grad who applied, preferably in the grad's own community. Whatever the job, it would include some training in life skills like living on a budget, eating properly and keeping fit. CSC recruits would work in community centres, in municipal and provincial governments, or with cooperating private firms.
Pay would be minimal -- maybe $10 an hour, for a gross income of $20,000 a year. Few jobs, however useful, would be thrilling. But for every hour worked, the recruit would also earn $10 toward some kind of post-secondary education. That money would stay in a secure savings account until the recruit was ready to enrol.
The CSC recruit would sign a contract guaranteeing at least six months' full-time service. Resigning before the end of the contract would mean forfeiting one's education savings fund. Two years in the CSC would mean $40,000 to be applied to costs of tuition, books, lodging, and so on. (StatsCan says the average Canadian post-secondary tuition in 2011-2012 is $5,366.)
For anyone wanting to go into trades training, the CSC might offer a $5,000 bonus; we're going to need a lot of young plumbers, electricians, and heavy-equipment mechanics.