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Executive director, Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.

With the increasing demand for work-life balance, a great company culture and a flexible working schedule, many young Canadians are moving toward starting their own business.

Based on a recent study from Intuit Canada, the software company behind TurboTax and Quick Books, Michael Shulman of Yahoo Finance Canada determined that nearly half of Canada's work force will be self-employed by 2020.

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It is important that education in Canada adapts to meet these changing trends. Specialty post-secondary education programs provide the skills, tools and certifications required to fulfill these changing demands and for students to begin a successful career.

In addition to providing the skills for these new careers, there are many benefits of enrolling in specialty education programs with small class sizes and flexible learning schedules. The primary benefit is that students can obtain the tools, credibility and support they need to start their new career within a relatively short period of time.

For example, in 1994, the late Danielle Perrault, founder of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN), identified the need for a specialty holistic nutrition program taught in the classroom. Today, approximately 8,800 students have graduated from CSNN's specialty Natural Nutrition diploma program, resulting in numerous entrepreneurs merging the worlds of self-employment and alternative medicine.

Tools: Those looking for a new career now – not later – may want to consider a specialty education program that provides them with the necessary tools and certification. A specialty education diploma program may not provide the traditional status of a degree; however, it does provide the knowledge and tools needed to start practicing tangible skills that will be used in the work force. This is very different from a four-year degree program that may additionally require graduation from a master's program or an internship program before a career is able to begin.

Credibility: Finding the specialty education program that provides the necessary education, tools and certification to be credible is crucial in launching a new successful career. Certifications are only credible if students' knowledge and skills have been adequately tested and screened with board exams. For example, in the holistic nutrition industry, the public looks to see that an author of a book or article is certified and has a designation from a reputable specialty education program before trusting what is written about nutrition and health. And holistic nutrition practitioners must be certified to obtain insurance in their private holistic nutrition practices. This could be true of any entrepreneurial industry where consumers are trusting individuals, relying on internet searches and word-of-mouth referrals for services.

Networking: As is true in any new career, those new to an industry benefit if they have continued support after graduating and access to those with industry experience. When researching specialty education programs, search for schools that offer these levels of support because, even with excellent skills training, some graduates may lack confidence in navigating a new industry.

The mandate of provincially regulated private career colleges is to provide the skills and tools graduates need to acquire jobs and self-employment opportunities. As a result, many specialty education programs have job boards for their graduates and work collaboratively with their alumni associations and industry associations that help graduates navigate the industry and find ways of attracting new clientele. The goal is to collectively help graduates be successful in their budding careers.

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Canadians have a lot of choice when it comes to educational programs and careers, especially if entrepreneurship is desired. As new industries and careers emerge, and as the employment trend increasingly moves toward self-employment, specialty programs may be the right step to gain the tools, credibility and network needed to reach career goals.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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