President and CEO, Colleges Ontario

Job opportunities in Ontario

It’s particularly important to ensure they know about the fulfilling and well-paying careers available in the skilled trades.

At that the same time that there are so many unemployed (or underemployed) youth, many employers in the trades are struggling to find qualified people. There are excellent jobs waiting for those with the proper training.

Ontario needs to do a better job promoting the opportunities in the trades and in other technical careers. We need a profound shift in attitudes toward higher education, careers, and what constitutes success.

Apprenticeship training

The province must help more people enter apprenticeship training. They also should encourage more people to pursue the career-focused programs at Ontario’s 24 public colleges.

Reforming the apprenticeship system is a good place to start.

Currently, the provincial government is responsible for administering the system. More people might find their way into apprenticeship training if the colleges played a greater role in administering registration for classroom training through the colleges’ provincial application service. The colleges are responsible for about 90 percent of the in-class training.

"Creating a stronger workforce also means encouraging more people to pursue the career-focused programs."

Developing new programs

Ontario can also help more people get access to skills training by expanding the pre-apprenticeship  programs available at colleges. As well, the province can help apprentices who may wish to pursue further studies. They can do this by allowing colleges to award a provincial credential to students who complete their in-class training.

Creating a stronger workforce also means encouraging more people to pursue the career-focused programs. An important step to help achieve this would be expanding the range of degree programs at colleges.

While there are colleges that offer four-year degrees, most college programs award diplomas and certificates. In fact, the colleges must award diplomas to graduates of the three-year programs.  

That puts Ontario at odds with the situation in most of the OECD, where graduates of similar programs earn degrees rather than diplomas. Furthermore, it’s important to recognize that many three-year programs at Ontario’s colleges are already aligned with provincial and international standards for degree programs. 

Colleges should be allowed to start offering career-specific three-year degrees and to expand the range of four-year degree programs at colleges. This would ensure students’ achievements are properly recognized and that graduates have greater opportunities to effectively compete for challenging careers in Ontario and beyond.

Expanding our training

The workplace has shifted dramatically and it’s important for post-secondary education to evolve to meet the demands of the new economy. A greater emphasis on apprenticeship training and college education will help more people find meaningful careers.

Linda Franklin