VOLKER THOMSEN

Education & Training

Education & Training

Chapter Ten

Developing a Federal/Provincial Policy and Standard for a More Integrated Universal Education and Training System

If we imagine that a national partnership between universities and colleges, small and large companies, provincial and federal governments develops to its true potential, we will be heading towards a real renaissance of opportunities. Another equally or more important part of this puzzle is a seamless integration of all levels of education. It starts with the primary and secondary system of education that is preparing students according to their talents, desires and goals. Presently the majority of our students have the wrong level of education. Our society, including parents, teachers and high school counsellors, direct them all to university regardless of whether or not they are academically inclined.
We all know the devastating result. No more than 20 to 25 percent of the entire secondary school population will ever finish university. A similar number of students will graduate from college. What happens to the remaining 50 percent who end up without any credentials or formal post-secondary education? This is the saddest side of our well-meaning society. Twenty-five percent of the total number are high school “dropouts.” The remaining 25 percent will in most cases have very little opportunity to ever go far beyond the high school diploma. If they get any additional credentials, they will usually only be recognized if they are university degrees or college diplomas. But even college diplomas or apprenticeship certificates are largely considered inferior to anything from university. Therefore only around 25 percent of our population end up with some kind of truly accepted credentials, 25 percent with the somewhat less respected college credentials, and 50 percent without anything that is recognized.
Again, when we compare this system with most systems in place in Europe or specifically in Scandinavia or Germany, we quickly detect a major difference. In Europe we end up with around 30 to 40 percent high school graduates, 40 to 50 percent middle school graduates and approximately 10 to 20 percent public and special school graduates. Because of the more diversified post-secondary process, a high percentage of apprentices and additional pathways within a totally integrated system, the outcome is reversed: more than 60 percent of the population end up with recognized credentials from universities, colleges and trades schools, in some regions as high as 80 percent.
What do we learn from this? We can see clearly that the high level of university graduates only influence the final outcome marginally. Productivity and effectiveness goes up through a broad based education and training. In reality, there are only so many jobs where an academic education is needed; there are many more jobs where the education of basic skills and training is a better foundation. We can therefore conclude that we must improve our ability to create more diversified pathways starting early on, around grade seven or eight, to ensure the best possible training and education for more than just 50 percent of our students. One thing that will strongly support this claim is the fact that a substantial percentage of college students come from university. Some are, of course, dropouts, but many do have degrees or even master’s degrees. In order for them to find employment, they end up at college. These people are going through the agony of several studies, and they end up losing valuable time, in most cases years, of their most productive period.
I realize that it will take a great deal of courage, honesty and commitment to redirect our efforts. But with the kind of financial support that most of our provincial governments are giving grade school education, it will only take a refocusing and re-allocation of activities and funds. It will not take more funding than the present system. If and when we create pathways for all students, the possibilities will dramatically increase and a lot of duplication will be prevented.
The commitment by the newly elected Dalton McGuinty government to keep students in school until the age of eighteen can give a real boost to the diversification and multi-pathway concept. However, without an innovative plan for helping less-motivated students, this very positive commitment could easily backfire and burden the entire system. It will only be beneficial if the students can be motivated to engage in meaningful learning and training. The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program is one excellent example of what can be done. This program (OYAP) has in the last few years given a real boost to the preparation of apprenticeships. The dramatic increase in apprenticeships in a city like Kingston can give hope to the general development. One of the many impressive projects has been the building of more than thirty-eight good quality houses by the high school students, supervised only by their own pre-apprenticeship trade teachers.
Under a system of multi-pathways, students who are now just sitting their way through high school and bringing down average classroom performance would not hinder students who are academically strong. These academic students will be able to do much better and be more effective. Therefore their ability to succeed at university or college will increase dramatically. The other group of students, who are “sitting their way” through high school, will equally benefit from being able to do things they are more inclined to do. They will also find their direction sooner and experience how gratifying skills training can be and how wonderful it is to be somebody who does something meaningful instead of hanging around.

Apprenticeship Training the Traditional Way and Apprenticeship Training Embedded in a Co-op Diploma

Earlier in the book I mentioned how we succeeded in getting $88 million real new funding for apprenticeships from the Mike Harris government. This innovative approach to apprenticeships, presented by SLC and championed by Hon. Bob Runciman and Hon. Dianne Cunningham, received within a few months broad-based support by the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities. It led to my own personal appointment to the steering committee of reforming apprenticeships, together with Richard Johnston, president of Centennial College, and under the chairmanship of ADM Bill Forward. Luckily we succeeded early on in getting strong support from the Deputy Minister Kevin Costante, followed by the support of the COP Council of Presidents of ACAATO, Association of Colleges of Applied Arts Ontario.
The following documentation shows you the sequence of the development and the events. Below that is an innovative outcome, a description of how apprenticeships can be delivered in a modern and more acceptable form for Canadian society.
It is clear that the need to increase basic skills training and apprenticeships must continue to embrace the traditional way with a direct learning and training partnership between the employer, the employee (apprentice), the ministry and the college, to the largest possible extent. As long as we can find employers and apprentices for this model (and this can be enhanced through tax credits), it is still one of the best ways of delivering apprenticeships.
In addition to the traditional method, apprentices can be trained in a co-op diploma model. This model must be built slowly and carefully, avoiding any unnecessary mistakes and any kind of confrontation with the traditional system, including all excellent trade union and college programs.

Media Release


Eastern Ontario Jumps at Harris’ Offer to “Seize Tomorrow’s Opportunities”

Just last week Ontario Premier Mike Harris unveiled his party’s new slogan, “Seizing Tomorrow’s Opportunities.” Eastern Ontario has responded quickly to this vision in the form of a proposal that would see a number of education, training and labour
organizations work in concert with municipalities to create Trades Skills Training Centres (TSTC).

Government and industry are forecasting significant shortages of skilled tradespeople. Failure to proactively address these shortages will interfere dramatically with the ability of the business community to succeed and create new wealth and prosperity throughout the province.

St. Lawrence College would take the lead in the development of a variety of skilled-trades programs. The new programs, backed by local school boards, industry groups and city councils, would provide students with a split of theoretical studies and hands-on
experience and would serve to address the current and projected skill shortages in Ontario.

“Industries are crying for skilled people, and we would like to be in a position to deliver them,” says college president Volker Thomsen. “Our goal is to create a culture where people recognize that being a skilled tradesperson carries with it as much prestige as any other profession. Parents, teachers and students often have misconceptions about these occupations, maintaining an image of trades as they were thirty or forty years ago. Trades persons today are bright, well-educated, well-trained people. We need to promote these careers, which can be very lucrative and rewarding.”

Eastern Ontario has pulled together to develop a proposal that goes hand-in-hand with the premier’s vision. The next step is to secure provincial support for the St. Lawrence training model and make the creation of Trades Skills Training Centres in Brockville, Cornwall and Kingston a reality.

St. Lawrence College

Trades Skills Training Centres
Proposal

The Challenges

“The supply of skilled labour is so tight in the Canadian construction industry that developers say they may have to cancel or postpone key projects.” This is according to a December 5 Canadian Press release.

Availability of technicians and other skilled workers is so far below the current demand in Eastern Ontario, a region where unemployment levels are an ongoing concern, that in a recent article on the subject in the Cornwall Seaway News, Denis Thibault’s headline read, “Help. The Sky is Falling…The Sky is Falling…”

Many tradespeople are at or near retirement age and will no longer be available to do the work required or to act as mentors in the training of new apprentices. The Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities has reported that there are recognized shortages, particularly in occupations such as electrician, millwright, instrumentation technician and automotive technician.

In the Trades Training Survey prepared for Eastern Ontario Training Board in November, 2000, employers of small-, medium- and large-sized enterprises were queried about training/ apprenticeship needs. They identified needs in several trades areas: Mechanic, Millwright, Drafting, Electronic Test Technician, Industrial Electronic Instrumental, Mig Welding, Welder/ Fitter/ Fabricator, Steam Fitter and Plumber.
In addition to the current and projected shortages, the skilled trades face another challenge: image. Parents, educators and students are too often focused on a very narrow range of “respectable” career options. They maintain an image of careers as they were thirty or forty years ago. Trades persons today are bright, well-educated, well-trained people, who can have very lucrative and rewarding careers. This message needs to be communicated more effectively.

The Opportunity

St. Lawrence College will seize the opportunity to address these challenges through creation of Trades Skills Training Centres (TSTC) in Brockville, Cornwall and Kingston. The college will take the lead on the initiative, which is being supported by Eastern Ontario school boards, city councils and labour organizations. The project will see these groups work together in a true regional partnership. The Centre’s activities will involve a number of phases.

Phase 1 will focus on the initial selection of students in secondary schools. Students who have been selected by guidance counsellors, regardless of current skill levels, as having an interest in the trades, will be encouraged to explore what the Centres have to offer. Part of this phase will be a communications plan to bolster the images of trades and to inspire students to pursue a career in this area.

Phase 2 will incorporate Trades Demonstration Days at the Centre. These events will be held on a regular basis, and will feature tradespersons from a wide variety of areas demonstrating their skills and using operating equipment. Trades Demonstration Days will include guest speakers and presentations and will also serve to enhance the image of trades.

Phase 3 will involve exposure to the theoretical training in the trades areas that take place at St. Lawrence College.

Phase 4 will represent site orientation sessions, in which the students will have an opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience in the field and round out their knowledge and skills base.

St Lawrence plans to develop additional stand-alone programs, which would include customized modules tailored to meet the needs of specific trades occupations.

This proposal is unique in that it would address two components of the projected skill shortage. It would provide students with an opportunity to learn and the incentive to pursue careers in the trades. In addition, the nature of the partnership being formed in support of this project would lend itself to some new concepts such as the possibility of opening our doors to fee-paying, non industry sponsors applicants, and even a model that might see the centres play a significant role in the delivery of trades skills for secondary schools.

The Catalyst

In light of the premier’s recent announcement regarding his vision for the future and his commitment to keeping Ontario competitive, we feel that the timing for this particular project is perfect.

Our Eastern Ontario partners, led by St. Lawrence College, are indeed prepared to seize “tomorrow’s opportunities” through the development of this unique proposal, and we remain committed to continued improvement in the quality of life and economic prosperity of the region.

The Partners

As noted previously, the proposed Centres for Skills Trades would represent a partnership among municipalities, local school boards, labour organizations and St. Lawrence College.
St. Lawrence College has campuses in Brockville, Cornwall and Kingston and currently serves over 5,000 full-time students and over 20,000 part-time students. Programs include offerings in the schools of Engineering Technology and Trades, Business Health Science, and Human Studies.

St. Lawrence College graduates are very successful in getting jobs, with nine out of ten working within six months of graduation. The college has also been very successful in the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Key Performance Indicators. Students, graduates and employers of graduates all report high levels of satisfaction.

St. Lawrence College is already a moving force promoting trades in Eastern Ontario. The College has existing trades training facilities and has had specific involvement in training programs for Carpenters, Electricians, Esthetics, Hairstylists, General Machinists, Industrial Mechanics (Millwright), Motor Vehicle Techniques, and Plumbers.

In addition, the college recently appointed its first trades consultant. Russ Phin has had almost forty years experience in the Kingston area in Apprenticeship Training under the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Mr. Phin has an impressive and extensive background in this area and will play a key role in the development of the Trades Skills Training Centres.

In Summary

In order for Eastern Ontario to “seize tomorrow’s opportunity” of addressing challenges currently facing us in the trades area, we need the Government of Ontario to come on board as a partner, in recognition that investing in this vision of the future will make a real ongoing difference to the quality of human resources and economic development of the region.

We invite your participation in the discussion and implementation measures required to make the creation of the Trades Skills Training Centre (TSTC) a reality.

Summary: How to Move Forward on the Basic Skills and Trade Skills Front

To ensure success for the Innovation and Learning agenda, Canada, as a whole, must focus on basic skills and trades skills and ensure that our young people are encouraged and offered the opportunity to build an attractive career, packaged and presented in an appealing way.

The hundreds of thousands of trades people who immigrated to Canada primarily in the first sixty years of the past century are already retired or retiring. They helped to a large extent to build the wonderful and successful modern industrial country we live in.

We want to continue to build on this and on the foundation created by all of our ancestors. With our own human resources, it is possible to create a modern Canadian version of apprenticeships superior to any past or European model. We cannot count on sufficient future immigrants with these types of skills and would be well advised to promote an adapted model that fits into this day and age and addresses our future needs.

It is encouraging that most of the provincial governments, including Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals in Ontario, are embracing this concept and that Paul Martin’s vision for Canada’s future includes a strong investment in basic skills training and learning in general.

It is also very encouraging that apprenticeships in Ontario in the 2004-5 budget are getting an additional boost that will allow for an increase from 19,000 to 27,000 apprentices and a strong introduction of the new apprenticeship co-op diploma and with credits for employers.
All of this should help to formulate a national vision on training and education. Only through strong collaboration will we be able to prepare our nation appropriately for future success and prosperity.

In order for Eastern Ontario to “seize tomorrow’s opportunity” of addressing challenges currently facing us in the trades area, we need the Government of Ontario to come on board as a partner, in recognition that investing in this vision of the future will make a real ongoing difference to the quality of human resources and economic development of the region.

We invite your participation in the debate and implementation of measures required to make the creation of the Trades Sills Training Centre (TSTC) a reality.

The Concept:

In order to create winning choices for Ontario’s learners and seize tomorrow’s opportunities today, Ontario needs an open-ended, flexible training system capable of addressing current and futures needs for skilled trades people.

The creation of Trades Skills Centres in Brockville, Cornwall and Kingston will provide an opportunity to develop a range of programming that allows the learner to enter the workforce and then re-enter training as need and life circumstances require. The diagram that follows illustrates how the system works.

The Trades Skills Centres provide a unique opportunity to:

• Establish a collaborative process between school boards, the college, local government, trades, industry and labour organizations to work on the development of the Centres.
• Create a seamless curriculum for trades training to meet the needs of learners from high school through to and including post Certificate of Qualification Skills updating.
• Develop and deliver customized programs for industry.
• Provide multiple points of entry and exit.
• Implement articulated model credential recognition.
• Create a pool of available skilled workers.
Trades Skills Training Centres can provide trades-focused, multi-level opportunities ranging from introducing middle school students to the trades as a potential career choice to providing post Certificate of Qualification skills to Ontario’s workers.

A Model for Learning:

Adults have unique learning needs. In Trades Skills Centres, student achievement is structured around answering the question “What will the learner be able to do?” (learning outcome). Theory and practice are integrated in all aspects of the program.

Programming at the Centres will include entry level training, apprenticeship training and technician level training. Although each level is independent and can lead directly to the work force, each level will be articulated to the fullest extent possible in order to allow learners a seamless transition if they choose to acquire further training.

Entry-Level Programs

Entry Level training includes pre-employment and pre-apprenticeship programs and provides an opportunity to link with area high schools for Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Programs (OYAP). It also provides an opportunity to link to the Ontario government’s Literacy and Basic Skills program, particularly the OBS IV component. Entry-level programs provide students with basic theoretical and practical knowledge in various trades sectors. They allow students to acquire the entry-level skills that employers expect from new workers. Trades Skills Centres will provide pre-employment and pre-apprenticeship programs targeted at construction, electrical, tourism, industrial and mechanical trades.


Apprenticeship

Apprentices are required to attend from four to ten weeks technical training courses in each period of apprenticeship. Before, during and after the in-school training, apprentices work on-the-job to complete the practical requirements of their apprenticeship. Once an apprentice has completed the in-school requirements and the necessary on-the-job training hours, s/he is eligible to write the certificate of qualification examination. Apprenticeship programs include Carpenter, Construction and Maintenance Electrician, Industrial Electrician, Hairstylist, General Machinist, Industrial Mechanic (Millwright), and Plumber.

Technical Programs

Technician programs are two-year diploma programs that enable graduates to work in a variety of different environments. St Lawrence College is committed to developing a Small Business Management Trades program for those who have completed the in-school portion of an apprenticeship program. One year of academic recognition will be granted for the in-school apprenticeship training, while the remaining year will focus on the skills necessary for tradespersons to successfully own and operate a trades-based business. The table below shows the proposed programming in the Trades Skills Centres.

The development of Trades Skills Centres in Brockville, Cornwall, and Kingston will do much to help learners in Eastern Ontario “seize tomorrow’s opportunities.” St. Lawrence College staff is eager to partner with others to create Trades Skills Centres to meet the needs of the region and the province.