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Daily Bulletin

University of Waterloo | Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, June 25, 1998

  • StatsCan examines high-tech jobs
  • TOEFL has been toppled
  • Some personal safety issues
  • Voice mail down, and other notes
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How hot is it? Put it this way: Alan Plumtree of mechanical engineering isn't the only one on campus doing "high temperature fatigue studies"! (At 8:15 this morning, it was 25.5 Celsius, with a 33.7 Humidex, according to UW's weather station.)

Who's really loving this weather is the Americans who are here for the annual convention of the Association for Living Historical Farms and Agricultural Museums. "They're finding the campus quite beautiful," adds Dave Reynolds, manager of the UW conference centre, and he says they're keeping busy, this morning with a visit to the Stockyards Market. Last night's event was a banquet at the Transylvania Club, for which most of the participants donned bulky 19th-century costumes. "They looked cool," says Reynolds, but I think he means it as a term of admiration, not literally.

The ALHFAM conference ends today, and arriving at the conference centre tomorrow are some 100 under-17 hockey players. The heat won't bother them much; they'll be spending their days at the Icefield.

StatsCan examines high-tech jobs

As UW and other Ontario universities scramble to accommodate more students in computer science and electrical and computer engineering, a Statistics Canada study questions the much-touted high-tech skills shortage in the workplace. Highlights were made public early this month, and the full study will appear in Perspectives on Labour and Income, to be published by StatsCan today.

While an analysis of data from the Labour Force Survey shows significant growth in the sector -- a 92 per cent increase in jobs between 1992 and 1997 -- and an unemployment rate of only three per cent for programmers, figures don't support claims of a massive shortfall of workers. "The market is healthy, but it doesn't show signs of distress," StatsCan analyst and author of the report Dave Gower said in a Globe and Mail story. Such signs might include big wage gains for programmers or pressures to work longer hours.

In fact, Gower said, a study of pay rates for programmers and systems analysts doesn't suggest "the kind of wage bidding that would accompany a heated labour market". And the average number of hours per week put in by programmers has dropped from 39.5 hours in 1992 to 38.8 hours in 1997. In fact, most of the growth in employment has been among workers old enough to have previous work experience, the report says. Their numbers increased 131 per cent, compared with a 66 per cent increase for the 25 to 34 age group. "Most new jobs for those 45 and over are thought to come from transfers from other jobs within firms," the report continues.

Most high-tech jobs are in Ontario and Québec, with Ontario adding 58,000 jobs in the sector between 1992 and 1997. Ottawa-Hull currently claims the highest concentration of software workers at more than five per cent of all employed persons in the region. In Kitchener-Waterloo the proportion of the local work force in high-tech jobs is two per cent.

TOEFL has been toppled

Up to now, passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language was the only way prospective UW students whose first language is not English could prove their English skills were adequate to handle university work. But now there are alternatives.

Although TOEFL, in conjunction with the Test of Written English (TWE) and Test of Spoken English (TSE), will still be accepted, applicants will have the option of passing a new computer-based TOEFL 2000, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB). The changes were approved by UW's senate this month at the recommendation of the undergraduate council.

The requirements apply to "applicants whose first language is not English, and who have lived in Canada less than five years as of the first day of the month of the term in which studies are to begin". Minimum acceptable test scores: TOEFL (600), TWE (5.0), TSE (50), IELTS (7.5), and MELAB (90, with 80 minimum per section including a minimum score of 3 in the speaking test component). A minimum score for the TOEFL 2000 has not yet been set.

"These requirements are distinct from and in addition to the requirement to present OAC English, or equivalent, where it is stated as an admission requirement," the rules note.

An exception may be made for applicants to the math faculty who don't meet the requirements but have "exceptional skills in Mathematics". Since the math faculty administers an English Language for Academic Studies program, which provides remedial assistance in the English language for such students, it will consider admission for each applicant on an individual basis.

A change in the English language requirements was also approved by senate for faculty of science students. The minimum acceptable mark on the UW English Language Proficiency Exam has been raised from 50 per cent to 60. That brings science in line with the requirements for math and engineering. Or, science students have the option of successfully completing a university-level English course where graded writing is a component of the mark -- such as English 109, 129R or 210C -- with a grade of 60 (C-minus) or better. Science and optometry transfer students from outside UW can also get credit for English courses taken at other universities and colleges. Other options include obtaining a mark of 80 per cent or higher in OAC English, and meeting the standards of UW's writing clinic.

Some personal safety issues

Minutes have arrived from the June 10 meeting of UW's personal safety advisory committee. Some of the highlights:

Committee members got a demonstration of the new video surveillance cameras in the Student Life Centre. ("Turnkey Desk staff were trained on the use of the equipment June 9.") UW's police chief, Al MacKenzie, advised that a similar camera for another area where it's been suggested, the loading dock at Math and Computer, "will cost about $8,000. Discussion followed about another possible installation of cameras along the road beside Village I due to the number of students who are involved in accidents (or near misses) while walking along that path as well as the high amount of vandalism."

Denise Angove of health services asked for a special $10,000 grant to pay for updating "Single and Sexy", now in its tenth year as an attention-grabbing play presented to new students each September. "We tackle the tough issues," Angove explains: "alcohol, assault, homophobia, racism and violence." The play needs "significant rewriting and modification of the existing script and production", and the committee will consider providing the funds -- from UW's annual personal safety grant from the provincial government -- to hire students to do the overhaul.

The committee also talked about installation of a "help line" phone in parking lot B, and about the continuing wish for a traffic light at the corner of Columbia Street and Westmount Road.

The student information project

Tuesday's Bulletin talked about Year 2000 preparations for computer systems at UW, and in particular it said the Student Information Systems Project could be seen as part of those preparations. "This is inaccurate," writes Jay Black, associate provost (information systems and technology).

"The SISP project to implement PeopleSoft Student Administration System is not intended to go into production use under a Year 2000 deadline," Black says. "For those purposes, we constituted the Year 2000 project team to repair our legacy student applications so they would run into the next century without problems. That way we can take more time to implement SAS as appropriately as possible."

So it'll be the 21st century before a full new system for registration, marks, addresses and all the other aspects of "student information" can be in place at UW.

Voice mail down, and other notes

The voice-mail system will be out of operation for "up to four hours" tonight, says Christine Gillis Bilton in the telephone services section of IST. The shutdown will start somewhere after 9 p.m. "Because the auto attendant number is part of the voice mail service, it will be out of service for the duration," she notes. "Direct in-dial numbers will not be affected unless they go to voice mail. Sorry for any inconvenience."

The InfraNet Project today presents Jagdeep Bachher, chief executive of Avenir Internet Solutions, talking about "Electronic Commerce -- A Strategy for Your Business?" His presentation starts at 2:30 in Davis Centre room 1302.

In July, IST is offering five computing courses to UW faculty, staff and students: Learning More About Unix, Introduction to HTML, Installing and Using Adobe Acrobat Reader, Collecting and Analyzing Survey Data Through the Web, and What's a Netscape Plug-in? A brochure is not being mailed out to advertise these courses, Bob Hicks of IST advises, but information is available on the Web along with a registration form.

I perpetrated a little error in yesterday's Bulletin (and exactly one reader noticed it). I referred to Jean Monty, who will chair the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, as head of "BEC Inc. (the parent of Bell Canada)" -- that should, of course, be BCE, not BEC.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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