18 April 2019
Patrick Borbey, president
Public Service Commission
Government of Canada
22 Eddy Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M7
Dear President Borbey,
On behalf of the Canadian Historical Association, the professional body representing over eight hundred historians employed in universities, government, and private practice in Canada, I am writing to request a change to the Public Service Commission’s advertisements for employment. The PSC’s standard educational requirements for federal civil service positions which require strong analytical, research and communication skills reads as follows: “Graduation with a degree from a recognized post-secondary institution with acceptable specialization in economics, sociology or statistics.”
I append to this letter a sampling of current positions posted on the PSC’s “Job Search” page for analysts for your Public Service Commission, Statistics Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, RCMP, Employment and Social Development Canada - Service Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada - Strategic Policy Branch / Sustainability Directorate all of which ask for the same educational requirement: a degree in “economics, sociology or statistics.”
I can demonstrate to you that the skills of a graduate with a degree in History will be equivalent, and in many cases more valuable than the specified disciplines.
Graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in History have:
Strong written and oral communication skills: It is still the practice in Departments of History to require students to write extensive short and long writing assignments, and these are graded and workshopped to enhance the students writing ability. It is also common that students have to make oral presentations of their research in classes and to participate and lead discussions. Graduates typically can express complex topics in easily comprehensible written and oral presentations.
Excellent research skills. History students are required at all institutions to do a variety of research assignments ranging from mining online data sets to historical archives. Expert in the use of online data, many are also expert in finding data that is not online, and that exists in different formats (maps, photos, oral interviews, video, film) and in unusual repositories (company archives, municipal engineering records, hospital records, etc….). History students are required to read extensively and develop close attention to detail.
Analytical Skills and Organization of Complex Material: This is where History graduates excel. The work of an historian is to weigh complex, often contradictory, and usually incomplete data from a variety of sources, to establish a chronology of events, assess bias, and draw conclusions based on an assessment of multiple variables.
Multi-scale analyses. Historians are used to assessing the historical patterns that have led to current socio-economic conditions, a knowledge of time-scaling that is necessary to evaluate current problems and policy with a view to future solutions. Historians also often move from the micro scale research to draw macro level conclusions.
Inter personal skills: Historians in common with other disciplines in the Humanities typically develop the soft skills of reading between the lines in communication, expressing themselves respectfully along with the ability to listen, evaluate and reflect back.
Have a look at this web page where communication consultants, operations analysts, international relations advisor, designers, research officers, executive directors, all talk about the value of their History degree https://historydegreediplomehistoire.blog/. Or this page, where the CEO of Canada’s largest Credit Union, the current Minister of Justice, and a police information manager, all share that a History degree is what they have in common. https://www.uvic.ca/humanities/history/future-students/undergraduate/careers-in-history/index.php
Others have observed the same thing with respect to the Humanities/Liberal Arts of which History is a central discipline. A few years ago Marissa Mayer, vice-president of consumer products at Google said "We are going through a period of unbelievable growth and will be hiring about 6,000 people this year - and probably 4,000-5,000 from the humanities or liberal arts." Steve Sadove, CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue said “Successful managers communicate well, build relationships and create an environment where employees can do their best work. In other words, they practice the skills most closely associated with a liberal arts education, where emphasis is placed on participation, community and functioning as part of a team.” More than a third of the Fortune 500 CEOs have a liberal arts degree including CEO of American Express Ken Chenaul and CEO of Proctor and Gamble A.G. Lafley who have History degrees. Almost half of the current federal cabinet have Humanities degrees.
Given this evidence, I respectfully request that you add History as a qualifying degree in your standard advertisement for analysts and related position. We would be happy to meet with you to further discuss the resources that candidate with training in the discipline of History might bring to the federal civil service. I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr. Adele Perry, president
Canadian Historical Association
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