Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Issue 4 - Evidence - April 28, 2010


OTTAWA, Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, met this day at 4:16 p.m. to study the accessibility of post-secondary education in Canada.

Senator Art Eggleton (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Honourable senators, I call this meeting to order. Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. We are continuing with our study on access to post-secondary education in Canada. Today, we will focus on apprenticeship, other post-secondary technical education and adult education.

We have four witnesses who will help us through this discussion. We also have Senator Raine from British Columbia who has joined the committee today.

Let me introduce the witnesses, who I will ask to present in this order unless they wish otherwise. We have Allison Rougeau, Executive Director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, which is a national body of stakeholders with an interest in apprenticeship training. Its principal activities are to implement pan-Canadian apprenticeship strategies through research, discussion and collaboration, and to promote apprenticeship as an effective model for training and education, contributing to the development of a skilled, high quality, productive, inclusive and mobile labour force.

Among the forum's key issues are perceived barriers to training, the business case for apprenticeship and the importance of promoting apprenticeship training as a valued and respected choice for post-secondary education. Ms. Rougeau has been its executive director since 2006 and spent some 20 years working in the apprenticeship field.

Andrew Cochrane is Past President of the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education, which is a professional association made up of deans, directors, senior administrative personnel and practitioners whose professional careers are in university continuing education programs. Its mission is to enlarge the scope and quality of educational opportunities for adults at the university level. Andrew Cochrane is the dean of the College of Continuing Education at Dalhousie University.

Anne Burns is Executive Director of the National Association of Career Colleges, which was established in 1896 and serves private career colleges and their students. It is an umbrella organization for affiliated provincial career college associations.

We also have Shaun Thorson, the Executive Director of Skills Canada, which is a national, not-for-profit organization that actively promotes careers in skilled trades and technologies to Canadian youth. Since its inception in 1989, it has evolved into a pan-Canadian organization offering skills, trade and technology competitions at the regional, territorial, national and international levels. It also offers other awareness programs for thousands of young Canadians.

Welcome to the committee. I would ask that you try to keep your presentations to seven minutes or less if you can. Then we will enter into dialogue with the rest of the committee.

I will start with Ms. Rougeau.

Allison Rougeau, Executive Director, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum: On behalf of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, CAF, board of directors, thank you very much for having us here. It is especially wonderful for our organization, which continuously promotes apprenticeship training as a form of post-secondary education, to be included in the panel. We are very pleased to be here.

We receive our funding as an organization from the federal government's Sector Council Program, but we also have other sources of funding provided by the Canadian apprenticeship community.

As was noted in the introduction, we have a multi-stakeholder board of directors primarily including business, labour and the apprenticeship board chairs from provincial-territorial boards. The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship, CCDA, also sits at the table in an ex officio manner.

We had 360,000 registered apprentices in Canada, based on the latest statistics from 2007. That is up more than 9.3 per cent from 2006. We are moving in a positive direction, but we have also an under-representation of women, which is no surprise, as well as Aboriginal youth. Sixty-four per cent of women, although under-represented, are participating in trades that are predominantly in the service sector, which are usually lower-paying sectors.

It is important to note that the individuals in apprenticeship trades are one of the oldest — in age — workforces in Canada, so impending retirements are of considerable issue.

Apprenticeship training is predominantly a workplace-based training program and therefore requires a willing employer to provide the opportunity. A portion of that training does take place in a training centre, usually a community college, but the predominant experience is in the workplace. It is important to continue to support and enhance mechanisms that will encourage more employers to find ways to provide apprenticeship opportunities because less than 20 per cent of employers in Canada that could train do so.

There is a significant opportunity here. Employers who participate in apprenticeship training find it is a value that provides a competitive advantage for employers and increases their productivity by 29 per cent.

Various reports suggest that in an economic downturn, apprentices are often the first to be laid off. Many of them leave the industry as a lost generation of apprentices despite the significant investment already made in their training. Previous experiences have shown that it generally takes seven to 10 years to get back to pre-recession registrations.

Therefore, in this recovery, it will be more challenging given, as previously stated, the demographics: Workers in skilled trades are of an older age group and are also facing impending retirement.

Considerable efforts have been made by our organization and others to promote trades training to youth. However, challenges exist in finding viable opportunities for them to train with employers, and this can often set people up for disappointment.

It takes about seven months for a potential apprentice to find an employer willing to provide the training. Despite this, research done by our organization to address the perceived barrier of cost of training has demonstrated that for every dollar invested in training by an employer, there is a $1.47 return on investment, on average, at the end of the four years. Therefore, we know that there is a business case for training.

This is particularly important as a result of an economic downturn because this could have consequences on our youth. Disadvantaged youth and Aboriginal youth are particularly at risk; this is a growing demographic. They may lack education — basic reading and other essential skills. Combine this with the fact that we know that failure to keep a first work experience has significant negative consequences, a scarring effect, and if a disadvantaged youth has that bad experience in their first job, their socio-economic challenges spiral downward.

Often the general policy thought in these circumstances is to ensure the individual gets back into school and acquires the skills to enter the workforce later. Research suggests this particular group learns better and is more successful when learning in an environment linked directly to the workplace. This has considerable policy implications for apprenticeship training because such training provides an excellent opportunity to acquire skills and work experience.

There are also important implications for enhancing mechanisms that support school-to-work transition programs. We need to ensure that we link youth from school to work, and apprenticeships will play an important role. Of particular importance are workplace training experiences that lead to a valuable and recognized certification — in Canada's case, a Certificate Of Qualification and a Red Seal endorsement.

A huge degree of caution needs to be exercised, however, because supports for such programs and to employers and individuals in terms of linking learning and workplace education are paramount and cannot be done in isolation. We cannot put someone in the workplace without basic and essential skills. Employers will expect those. Gone are the days of ``if you cannot succeed in school, go work with your hands.'' The terminology ``low skill'' is no longer acceptable.

This is important to note especially given the pace of technological advances, the importance of understanding document use, the high cost of equipment in the workplace and, perhaps the most important, the health and safety risks associated with weak skills, language and comprehension. As an illustrative example, the reading level required of a construction electrician is a level 5, which is the same as that of an engineer.

Whatever the policy result, it must consider coordination amongst the education system, labour market and employers. It is important to consider supports to employers and youth in the context of work and learning and not in isolation of each other.

This is particularly important for Aboriginal people who suggest that an apprenticeship model of training appears to resonate well with the Aboriginal community in the context of a journeyed person mentoring an apprentice. Workplace-based learning is supported by the Aboriginal community. Often, research suggests that one of the barriers to post-secondary education is financial, and that is a disincentive for the Aboriginal learner. Apprenticeships offer an opportunity to work and learn and apply the skills being learned.

Considerable barriers to apprenticeship exist, as Mr. Thorson will continue to speak about. Young people are not motivated to enter careers in the trades due to negative perceptions and attitudes. Parents are least likely to influence a young person to enter trades due to the perception that they are low-skilled, dirty occupations. However, the reality is that careers in trades provide respect, opportunity and good pay.

Lack of resources is also a concern, especially in rural and remote locations. This is a disincentive for individuals who need an economic base to be entering the workplace. In a rural or remote area, having access to an employer and sponsor is challenging, particularly in Aboriginal communities.

Additionally, a significant barrier is the lack of essential skills. It is considered a barrier; you need those to succeed in apprenticeship training, and employers are saying this all the time. Aboriginal youth, who traditionally have lower basic skills, face this as a significant barrier. Our organization is very pleased to be undertaking some work to address that.

As my biography says, I have worked in the apprenticeship field for roughly 20-odd years, and never have I seen such a contribution by the federal, provincial and territorial governments than in the last few when it comes to apprenticeship training incentives and grants. The board of directors feels strongly that one of the issues facing the apprenticeship community is the concern over completing programs. Any opportunities to support and continue apprenticeship incentives that are linked to completing the program would be considered valuable.

The Chair: Thank you very much. I am sure you have more to tell us, and we will hear that during the questions that will follow.

Andrew Cochrane, Past President, Canadian Association for University Continuing Education: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Likewise, I am very pleased to be able to represent my association in front of this committee and help in a small way to make a contribution to your deliberations on this very important subject.

Adult education is defined by Statistics Canada as all educational processes engaged in by adults that supplement or replace initial education. It is a very broad map.

Programs and services targeted to adult or lifelong learners are also provided across the spectrum that includes universities; colleges; school boards; not-for-profit organizations; professional associations; governments at all levels; and, of course, the private sector.

University continuing education represents a subset of adult education and over 50 universities in Canada provide modest to extremely significant levels of programming directed at this audience.

There are a number of ways to define and describe the breadth of programs offered to the adult learner in the university segment. Access programs, for example, include basic literacy, numeracy, and upgrading prerequisites necessary to qualify for admission to credit programs. English as a Second Language, ESL, is prevalent across Canada for increasing numbers of audiences and may or may not lead to further study in the credit stream.

Most people are familiar with degree credit, which is part-time undergraduate or occasionally graduate studies available through distance online education, face to face, or some compressed or alternate scheduled program. Also on the list are certificate and diploma credits. They vary in definition from institution to institution, but they are typically collections of courses focused in a subject area such as management or personnel; or directed to a constituent group such as fire department administration, municipal administrators, and so on. They are offered in modes and at times and in formats that may or may not be accepted as degree credit.

There is non-credit continuing education, which includes certificate packages, seminars, workshops, just-in-time learning and a bevy of other learning experiences.

Also we have mandatory professional development, which is usually provided by the professional faculties at the institutions — or by professional associations in some jurisdictions — to ensure practitioners are current, for example, dentistry, medicine and law. There are licensure issues around those in many jurisdictions as well.

In addition to those are the whole package of personal interest programs that may range from engagement in academic programs by participation through an audit process to pursuit of pure personal interest, which may include photography, wine tours and conversational Spanish, for example.

The funding landscape is the root of the issue here. Given the variety of programs described earlier, it is not surprising that the funding landscape for university-level adult education programs is a patchwork quilt of diverse approaches. In the past two decades, we have seen wild — negative — fluctuations in funding for adult education at the provincial government level, particularly in Ontario but also elsewhere. With the continued transfer of federal programs and money from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, HRSDC — formerly Human Resources and Social Development Canada — and Service Canada, to provincial departments, new money should be creating and has created some new opportunities. Nova Scotia was one of the latter ones in this transfer. The department responsible for labour force development is just in the midst of identifying priorities for this program money, and new program money is not easily available at this. Interestingly, where provincial or federal program money is available, the parameters for funding typically define the programs available. For example, if a student loan requires a minimum of 12 weeks of full-time attendance, institutions provide programs that have 12 weeks of full-time attendance, not coincidently.

In different jurisdictions, there are slightly different targets for much of the available government funding. I have been in this business for 30 years; these targets have changed little. This fact might well form the basis of a separate investigation by this or another committee.

Government funds can be available for program sponsorship where specific audiences are targeted for intervention based on government identified priorities from time to time. The result is that some universities have created customized programs that are developed to address needs specific to a particular audience. Some universities follow a similar approach to government in providing financial support to address the specific needs of specific audiences. I use one close to my own programming as an example, namely, the Transition Year Program at Dalhousie University. Nearly all of these programs have at least one underlying assumption, that is, identified financial need.

The most frequently used model for financial assistance for adult learners is the sponsorship of individuals as they pursue professional development opportunities as they identify them in a university setting. If individuals qualify in one of the targeted groups for government funding, they may qualify for scholarships, bursaries or sponsorships where a seat is effectively purchased in a program for them. Others may qualify for student loans, depending on a number of factors that vary from province to province. That is becoming more and more diverse.

For those individuals who do not qualify for specific government- or university-sponsored programs, the vast majority in our world are either employer-sponsored or self-financed. Depending on the nature of the program, the employer may or may not support their employee's learning by providing paid time off to pursue their studies or payment or reimbursement for program fees. Usually, these types of support result in a taxable benefit for the employees — but that is not always the case — who also get the tax receipt, and that should always be the case. However, that is an interesting issue by itself.

Individuals who are self-financed may qualify for the Lifelong Learning Plan, LLP, which presumes that they have a Registered Retirement Savings Plan against which to draw, which is not always the case. This dramatically reduces the potential.

Any notion that federal and provincial supports for university somehow flow through university accounts to support continuing education and adult learning in Canada is less true now than ever. Continuing education, or CE, units are becoming small businesses unto themselves within the university environment with little or no university funding. One result of this fiscal reality is that CE units are becoming less socially driven, which is where most of us got our start; and becoming more market oriented.

I entitled the next short category as ``(re) Stating the Obvious'' — and ``obvious'' is a relative term, of course. The government has set objectives to increase the number of people in post-secondary education. Clearly, there is an opportunity to achieve the goal with adult learners. It is well known and highly regarded that university education leads to career success for individuals and creates economic success for society. University education provides opportunity to develop competencies that are highly valued by employers. Traditionally, funding has been focused on full-time undergraduate education for the 18 to 23 year olds and those in targeted groups, which are typically what we would define as pre-service types of interventions. Most adult learners are in-service in the workplace and pursue university education on a part-time basis while they are working and contributing to the economy.

I typically define our participants at Dalhousie as ``mids.'' They are mid-career, mid-life, mid-mortgage, mid-family and mid-everything in-service. Much of the existing funding requires drastic circumstances such as the person being unemployed in order to qualify. This forces a reactive rather than a proactive approach to learning.

Skills shortages are looming as the boomers are heading out the door. We all know this; it is a steamroller headed in our direction. Canada needs to foster a culture of lifelong learning if we are to remain competitive in the long term.

I have not provided any particular recommendations or requests, but we offer some considerations and suggestions. Incentives should be developed to encourage more support of adult learning at the university level and at all levels. Subsidies should be available for employers to encourage them to provide the time and opportunity for employees. Additional bursary or grant programs for employees to pursue education should be available, as should interest-free loans not requiring an RRSP to draw against it; and, as a plug for support of infrastructure, university CE units could create a stable platform from which to address national issues.

Anne Burns, Executive Director, National Association of Career Colleges: Thank you for allowing the National Association of Career Colleges, NACC, to make a presentation to this committee. Your committee's work is crucial for Canada. Our country's ability to grow and continue to compete on the international stage will parallel our capacity to help Canadians have access to quality education and training.

They will need this to be able to meet the challenges of an increasingly global economy. Private career colleges have provided quality education to Canadians since the beginning of Confederation. In fact, the first recorded private career college was set up in 1830. Today, our more than 400 members train annually over 100,000 students for a wide range of careers in fields such as health care, trades, multimedia, engineering technology, computer sciences, child care, animation and more. We are at the forefront of Canada's efforts to help people get meaningful jobs through education after high school or retraining.

Some of our students, not unlike those who attend community colleges and universities, come from high school to take specific programs that allow them to find meaningful employment. A good proportion of our students are also people who are looking to enter a second career. Their reasons can vary. They may have decided to train for a new career more in tune with their own aspirations or may have been forced to retrain for a new job due to changes in the economy.

In fact, the Second Career strategy in Ontario has certainly increased the interest in training in Ontario. We can effectively help retrain people because of our ability to adapt to the new demands of our economy. We adapt quickly. This allows students to get better and more meaningful jobs.

Our members work with a number of national and provincial organizations that certify students to allow them to practice in their field, including apprenticeship programs, trades training and so on.

Private career colleges are proud to have partnered with government institutions in retraining programs. We have been asked to work with the federal government and provincial governments to help retrain people in some communities, especially after major layoffs or plant closures.

We have partnered with the Government of Canada to attract international students to Canada. We have participated in trade missions. We were at the Canadian Village at the Vancouver International Trade Fair a few years ago and were asked to participate in the trade show during the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministers of Education in Halifax.

If we are good enough to partner with the government to provide education and training to Canadians, you would think that the government would have no problem letting us promote ourselves under their educational brand called Imagine Education au/in Canada. Well, that is not the case. We are not able to use that brand. We are not even able to know why we cannot use the brand.

While we train and educate Canadian students, the government does not provide temporary work permits to foreign students who are registered in private career colleges. This reduces our ability to attract more students and increases costs to all of our students in Canada. Why are foreign students registered at community colleges and universities able to benefit from those work permits while our students cannot? We cannot get a response, but maybe you can.

If the government agrees that we provide education and that we are useful to help Canadians face the challenges of a new economy, why are we not given the same GST rebates as community colleges and universities?

All of these issues have a negative impact on our ability to provide better access to education to a greater number of Canadians. We want to participate in a barrier-free education and training system for Canadian students that will allow them to compete and shine on the international stage.

We are a willing partner to help government achieve its goals in education. The government should help us increase accessibility to programs in career colleges. It is in our interests to attract the greatest number of Canadians to our institutions to help them pursue their educational goals. It is in your interests to have the greatest number of Canadians benefit from a quality education.

Honourable senators, we are not asking for a special deal. We are asking for the government to take steps that will not cost money but will allow us to increase accessibility to education and training in our facilities. We look forward to recommendations in your report that will deal with these two issues.

Shaun Thorson, Executive Director, Skills Canada: I thank the committee for the opportunity to present to you on this important topic. Our organization, both nationally and all of our provincial members, are appreciative of this opportunity.

I will start by talking about one of the major challenges we face in engaging young people in skilled trades and technology training, namely, ongoing negative perceptions about the opportunities that are available in those careers.

A study was undertaken by Skills Canada and the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum between 2004-06 looking at the perceptions of some of the occupations. One of the interesting statistics that came out of that was that 69 per cent of parents when asked if they thought skilled trades and technology were valuable careers and if they encouraged their sons or daughters to pursue them, indicated that they did. However, when the children of those parents were asked if their parents had indeed encouraged them to consider those occupations, the percentage dropped down to 28 per cent. Obviously, there is a disconnect there. We need to ensure that we are delivering the proper message and that students are aware of the opportunities.

I want to talk a bit about our organization and some of our initiatives and activities. We are a national organization that started in 1998. We did have some provincial-territorial offices that were in operation as far back as 1989. We have offices now across the country in all 10 provinces and three territories. Skills Canada is a member organization to WorldSkills International.

Our goal is to actively promote careers in skilled trades and technologies to Canadian youth because we want to raise the profile of and awareness around the opportunities available to young people to give them an idea of all the career options available to them, specifically in the trades and technology areas. We do that through a number of activities beginning in elementary school, through high school and into post-secondary education.

Skills discovery activities, such as cardboard boat races and model wind turbine challenges, give students an opportunity to do some problem solving, work together as teams, do on-the-ground thinking and develop some of those essential skills that have been identified as required for success.

Skills camps are very similar to a summer camp, where we bring young people in to listen to presentations and participate in hands-on practical challenges from industry professionals, individuals with a high level of technical expertise that can give them a basic introduction as to what is involved in trades and technology careers. Maybe that will ignite that spark in some of those young people to look a little further and consider trades or technologies as a potential career choice.

We do First Nations career events, skills conferences for young women, Try-a-Trade and Try-a-Technology interactive demonstrations and skills clubs. We are probably most known for our skills competitions, and I will talk about a couple of these activities in a little more detail.

The sectors that we are really targeting are construction, information-communication technology, manufacturing, service, transportation sector, and leadership. Obviously, leadership is an important element of all of those other sectors that I have identified.

I want to talk a little about the competitions. All of our activities are targeted at something very interactive, a very hands-on sensory experience to try to provide that experience that we feel young people will take away. They will remember that activity, the touch and the sounds and the smells involved with that activity, and that memory will be left with them. We hope they will be encouraged by this to maybe pursue something in the future.

Approximately 100,000 youth participate in our competition process every year in approximately 40 different contest areas. That begins at the school level, which may be a mechanical cab design project starting at a school level. That will lead to a school board competition, on to a provincial competition, then a national competition, and every two years Canada sends a team of young people to represent us at international competitions.

Most recently, Canada was the host to the WorldSkills Calgary 2009 competition, where we welcomed participants from 53 countries participating in 45 contest areas. We took over Stampede Park and had 800,000 square feet of event space. Approximately 151,000 people went through over the four days. It provided opportunities for people who are perhaps not familiar with trades and technology careers to gain an understanding of the complexities involved with those careers, while at the same time measuring Canada against world standards in some of those areas.

We have recently introduced Try-a-Trade and Try-a-Technology demonstrations. Our competitions are set up in a convention-style format that is very conducive for media and the public to come in and have an opportunity to see what is involved in the competitions. However, we also want something available for those visitors who come to the competition site, something for them to do that will provide an opportunity for them to gain appreciation for what is involved in those occupations.

The focus around the Try-A-Trade and technology demonstrations is that they provide an opportunity for visitors to build a brick wall, wire a circuit board, colour someone's hair or mix some baking dough. Many different opportunities are available; we have a wide range. You would be amazed by the comments from people who think these occupations are easy before they try them. After trying to build a brick wall that is straight and plumb, they realize they are not. It is a great activity for visitors.

Skill clubs are also something that has started to grow with some of our organizations in the territories and dealing with some of the Northern communities. In areas where they do not have as formalized a system of education, our organization has started to offer skills clubs. They are interactive, hands-on, practical experiences that draw on the expertise of technical experts in the communities. It gives them the ability to take that learning out to remote areas to promote trades and technology careers that try to meet the needs of the community. Maybe the demand in the community is for hair stylists or for CNC — computer numerical controlled — machinists or welders. Whatever the demand is, the clubs provide an opportunity for that type of education to be delivered.

Our programs work due to the delivery of these programs and activities by partnerships, dedicated individuals and organizations at national, provincial and territorial levels. We bring in people with diverse experience who provide great opportunity to build effective programs that deal with both employer and industry demands but are also focused at a proper educational level.

Interactive elements are important. As I said, sensory experience is the key behind all of our activities; we look for hands-on activities and things that will be truly special experiences for our participants. We must also ensure the programs are relevant to what industry is looking for and at the appropriate educational levels.

We believe our programs are appealing to youth because they obtain practical experience, work with technical experts, access hands-on experience, ask questions, receive feedback on how they can improve and have new experiences. They are also meeting new friends and industry representatives. A lot of teamwork and problem-solving is involved. When you have hands-on practical projects, you have tangible results. Young people can see that they have accomplished something, and many times they can take that home and show their parents, which also has a huge impact.

In terms of benefits, we see increased levels of pride and confidence in youth who have participated in our programs. They have the opportunity to network with industry and education professionals and contacts. They develop a peer group because now they are not the only person interested in wiring a circuit board or in building a doghouse or a playhouse for the backyard. They identify that other young people have that same interest, and they develop a strong bond with that group.

Our activities touch on essential-skills development, which is key. It is also a social and cultural experience when they participate in activities. For many, they are leaving their community, getting on a plane and going to a city for the first time. Therefore, great life learning takes place there.

We have some recommendations for consideration by the committee. We would like to see exposure to a broad spectrum of careers, including apprenticeable trades and technical occupations; experiential learning opportunities and a practical hands-on approach to introducing young people to the opportunities that are out there for them in trades and technology careers; an equal emphasis of importance placed on skills trades, technical education as well as academic streams.

A couple of these recommendations are targeted more toward rural and remote communities: It would be helpful to have some bridging programs or activities from secondary to post-secondary education, and possibly looking at mobile training facilities. Instead of asking young people to come to locations and have training delivered there, let us try to take training out to some of those remote communities.

The Chair: Thank you, all four of your, for your opening comments.

I have a question for Mr. Cochrane and Ms. Rougeau, but the other two can jump in on either of these questions.

My question to you, Mr. Cochrane, has to do with mature students. Recent data shows a high demand in the 25 to 64 years age group for education and training opportunities. However, many of these people say that they have a problem being able to obtain that education. Some of the reasons they give are family responsibilities, having to schedule education with their work and sometimes their employers do not give them much support.

I would like you to comment on those or any other barriers you see as the main barriers for mature students.

What do you think the federal government can do about it? In particular, do you think the federal government should provide financial assistance for mature students?

Mr. Cochrane: I am happy to respond as best I can. As I said in my opening remarks, the vast majority of the people who we serve through our college are mid-life, mid-career and so on. The struggles are many: balancing family, community, a job while trying to advance learning. Just on the clock, that is challenging, let alone adding financial burdens and implications.

Some of the issues are financial, and I realize that is the root of why we are here. Some of the reasons are also structural. You can work your way through several possible chains. As an example of a simple one, an employer may consider providing reimbursement or funding sponsorship for education in the university environment — that is the only area I can speak to with any familiarity. They may do so if it is credit toward a degree because a degree has cachet, value and currency.

That may or may not be attainable, practical or desirable from many perspectives, or even valuable to the employer ultimately, as much as some other type of learning opportunity may be. Most post-secondary educational institutions have a relatively prescribed notion of what education is. Most of it is laddering credits toward a diploma, degree or second degree.

Through continuing education, it is not an ``all or none'' deal. Many of my colleagues across the country are engaged in providing that extension function for their institutions where credit is advanced to adult learners and others in various other targeted groups. In many other institutions, the credit stream is the purview of the faculties only, and the continuing education units are involved primarily in non-credit. Therefore, it is a mixed bag, to put it lightly.

In terms of funding, if there were more consistency and similarity between and amongst the needs of the clients, it would be an easier question to answer. I am not purposely dodging your question. However, the answer depends on whether someone is interested and would find value in pursuing a full degree credential, or someone requires something so that they can move to the next level in the employment ladder. That may be something as simple as understanding how the books are done, which may or may not be a full credit course in accounting. It may be as simple as a series of workshops where a person can gain those skills.

Most of the funding arrangements, even the tax relief that students receive, focus on the credit study. Although it is changing, credit study typically is what I would call the ``come all ye'' approach: Universities know; if you want to know, you come, and we will tell you. That is for blocks of time that are 12 weeks at a time, which may or may not be practical if you are balancing community, family and career. In my part of the world, we have many people who are mobile. Many military personnel are coming and going, and to commit to a regular stream of academic activity is not simple. Therefore, various institutions have attempted to adjust delivery modes. They have compressed mode schedules for various courses and all of the varieties that are possible through continuing education. However, that may or may not be funded, depending on the employer.

The Chair: Ms. Rougeau, we have a chart that shows that the number of registrations for registered in apprenticeship training in 2007 was 358,555; yet the number of completions was only 24,495. This has been a pattern for a number of years. Can you explain such a wide variation between those who register for apprenticeship and those who complete it?

Ms. Rougeau: First, you need to have the context that every jurisdiction is responsible for the counting of completions and the counting of registrations, and sometimes definitions get in the way. Regardless of quibbling over percentages, the completion rate is lower. It is because of a combination of factors.

Our organization and other organizations have been looking at this across the country. One of the factors is that it is a workplace-based training program tied to an economic cycle. When it is busy, employers and apprentices alike do not want to be released to go to the school portion of their training, which is part of the requirement of the entire program. There are X number of hours of on-the-job training and X number of hours of in-school completion. When the economy was busy such as it was in British Columbia and Alberta not long ago, apprentices do not want to go to school, and employers are reluctant to release them because they need them on the job. In an economic downturn, apprentices are the first to go; they are often laid off. Therefore, if they are not in the program or working or in school, they often drop out. They may stay in the system; they may be working, but they are not actually completing the program. I am referring to the lost generation.

Often, an individual who goes to an apprenticeship program is an individual working in a more applied context. The schooling component of their program is measured in an academic context. As well, their completion is measured in one format currently, which is a sit-in class examination that is also done in an academic context. Anecdotal discussions with apprentices tell us that they fear, in that context, writing an exam. That is why they moved into an applied workforce in the first place.

A variety of factors is to blame, but certainly the economic cycle is one. The other issue that apprentices tell us about is the need for a strong mentoring context on the job. All journeypersons are not teachers. Often, you are learning in the context of the person who is applying and showing you. Discussion takes place often within the apprenticeship community about supports needed for that mentoring context, whether it is tools or incentives to journeypersons to help those apprentices in the training context. Those are the three top-of-mind responses.

Mr. Thorson: I want to reinforce this idea around recognition of work and skills. If someone is working through an apprenticeship or has completed their apprenticeship and are a journeyperson, we are trying to look at career development. We are not just talking about a job where a young person perceives that they may be a carpenter for 35 years. There is nothing wrong with that if that is what someone wants to do. However, many young people are wondering how that can lead to a career interest. Can that lead to becoming an estimator, or a foreman or a project manager on a job site? This supports the idea of recognizing credentials and transferring that into people being able to take a few other courses to be able to move into some other positions in companies.

Ms. Burns: I would like to support what Mr. Thorson has said about this ability to come in at a specific level and to be able to move forward. Certainly, the issue of funding always exists. In a recent national survey of career colleges that was done with HRSDC and the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, 39 per cent of our students had household incomes of less than $20,000, and 53 per cent had household incomes of less than $40,000. There is a huge need, and there is also the difficulty that was recognized in a study — I cannot remember who conducted that study — where they found that people in lower-income brackets tended to overestimate the costs involved in post-secondary education, and that in itself became a barrier.

Senator Ogilvie: My first question is for Ms. Burns; the second one is jointly to Ms. Rougeau and Mr. Thorson. I am not ignoring Mr. Cochrane; I know a great deal about his area and some of his comments reflect what I will ask in the other areas.

Ms. Burns, you referred to some challenges that career colleges have. You correctly pointed out the long history of career colleges in Canada. Over time, they have been tremendously successful and important, but they also have developed generally in a manner different from the so-called university sector. You have been more private-sector oriented in how you operate. Just as universities are fiercely tied to the public purse, you have often been very much private sector.

Over the last 25 years, career colleges have been quick to get into some of the new and greater opportunity areas such as information technology, pilot training and business, to take three different types of areas. However, we have seen some spectacular failures and disappointments to the students enrolled.

Do you see any opportunity in the association of evaluation process that ensures society will have a greater confidence in the stability of these new areas? We have seen how popular career colleges are when they get into these new areas. Obviously, there is a tremendous opportunity and need, but it undermines the confidence of potential students when we see some of these failures. I do not want to paint the whole career college area with the same brush, but it has been quite dramatic in a number of communities.

Ms. Burns: Yes; I understand what you are saying. We are concerned about those situations as well.

We have strongly supported standards in career training. We have been involved in that since the beginning. NACC's one and only mandate was to provide standardized curricula and to test students as a quality issue in its mechanism. We have been involved with the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in around their qualifications framework. We strongly support what is happening there because it is based on learning outcomes and not on lengths of programs. We are told it will permit the kind of step-by-step moving forward should someone wish to do so all the way up to a postgraduate degree.

One of our success stories is the Personal Support Worker Program that we now offer in provinces other than Ontario. To date, since we began to offer an exam to test the theory portion of the program in 1998, 40,000 students have graduated from colleges who signed the agreement to deliver the program in accordance with our standards and guidelines — not necessarily the ministry's, but ours. In fact, quality assurance measures are in place for our particular programs where we visit schools, check them out and ensure that they are following our guidelines. We have endorsed the accreditation process set up by the Canadian Education and Training Accreditation Commission as the one we see as best fitted to assess quality in the private career-college sector.

Senator Ogilvie: Thank you. I would like to go down the route of dealing with the financial stability and security of career colleges, but that may take us into another discussion. I will not take the time to do that.

Now I would like to come to an issue that I observed throughout my lifetime in the education sector. As a society, it is my observation that, in Canada, we tend to devalue trade and technical college experience or apprenticeship programs relative to the degree programs. Mr. Cochrane referred to it indirectly with respect to even employers wanting training to be related to a degree, which may not just be in the interests of either the employee or the employer down the road.

I had the opportunity to go on a benchmarking exercise in Europe about a decade ago for technical trades that supply the automotive industry. Particularly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, these are impressive organizations. Families would rather get their children into these programs than have them go to university. Their issue is dealing with those who go through the programs and how they interface with perhaps an engineering degree down the road once they build up experience and so on.

Then I looked at our situation here in Canada. One issue that strikes me as being a tremendous difference, with the result that we cannot automatically apply experience elsewhere, is the vastness of this country and the sparseness of our population, which means not only people but industries. You have talked about specific things. You gave the example of the competitions. Those have been enormously successful. However, the issue is how we reach both the student and the employer and bring those two groups together in this area in this vast country. We need to have a different model. How can you help us find the way to help you meet that need?

Ms. Rougeau: The silver bullet would be so wonderful. Our board is committed to this. We have just reviewed our strategic plan. Employer engagement is the top priority for the board. That means not just our ability to influence employers, as we know it, but also our ability to influence those that influence employers, such as associations.

We just recently had the opportunity to work with two or three employer associations in their strategic planning of their organizations to talk about how apprenticeship is vital. Our research suggests that the way to encourage employer engagement in training is to develop the business case. It is partly incentives, but it is also talking about why it makes good business sense and why it is a competitive advantage to provide opportunities for those who are training to share their experience and try to influence those that are not, to understand that there is a value and a business case. Hence, our study on the return-on-training investment, which was a significant study and is being copied internationally.

We are also looking at what other organizations and countries are doing. It is an issue not just in Canada. Although employers have opportunities to address their skills shortage issue through immigration and other avenues, those cannot be the sole solutions. We are using those messages to communicate with industry.

One of the biggest challenges is that employers in apprenticeship and skilled trades are predominantly small businesses, and getting to small businesses is a significant challenge. They do not have human-resource infrastructure. They are not thinking about the future; they are thinking about today. We are starting discussions with organizations that are working with small businesses to try to understand what would resonate and what would work well with small businesses to help them develop a training culture. They do not have the resources. I do not have the answer, but we are working on it.

Mr. Thorson: In response to that, I do not think there is one solution to this challenge. We are trying to create opportunities where we can bring employers and educators together to identify the needs in specific communities. I talked about the skills-club approach. With our offices across the country, in all the provinces and territories, programs are developed specifically based on the needs of those communities.

In the development of the programs that we deliver, we call upon industry to be a voice at the table and provide information on whether we are going in the right direction with this program and whether we are touching on the key elements that would make these people employable when they are finished participation in these activities. It is a huge challenge. We are trying to create as many opportunities as possible at the community level where we can get community people out networking together and actually discussing some of these issues. I think that is part of the solution.

Ms. Rougeau mentioned small and medium-sized enterprise. They are probably the industries being impacted the most by the skills shortages initially. Larger companies tend to have a stronger offering for benefits plans and salaries for workers. Probably the first group being impacted by a lack of skilled labour is the small and medium-sized businesses.

It is difficult to get those people out to participate in activities because they are small companies and small organizations, and they are trying to work on their core business. We are starting to get the message out there that opportunities exist for them to have the chance to influence what is happening in the education system and influence the direction of what is happening in their communities.

The Chair: I will need to move on, but if you have further response, maybe you can add it in your response to the next round of questions. I will move to Senator Keon, the deputy chair emeritus of this committee for many years, from Ontario.

Senator Keon: He is being very kind. I retire next week.

Thank you for your presentations. They were fascinating.

This afternoon, we had a lengthy discussion in the Senate about the ratio of men and women in various sectors of society. An interesting fact is surfacing in that the ratio of young women is much higher in the traditional academic circles. I was fascinated, Ms. Rougeau, when you said that you have the flip side. Very quickly, because my other question will take time, is this the experience of all of you? Are there more males than females in your educational and training systems?

Mr. Thorson: The quick answer is yes. We are definitely seeing, in what would be considered traditional trade areas, a larger percentage of males than females across the board.

Ms. Rougeau: I echo that, yes; exactly.

Mr. Cochrane: The post-secondary education university sector is the reverse. There was a significant push some years ago — I hope it was not this committee that did it. There was a push; namely, where are the girls in science, technology and engineering? Significant efforts were put into the school systems to encourage, mentor and role model young girls to consider the sciences. That was very effective. They are certainly the dominant population.

Ms. Burns: I would like to comment on the issue of women in trades. I know one of our colleges in Newfoundland was involved with a project to encourage young girls between 10 and 12 years of age to come in and work on a project where they built go-carts. They had a race and then took pictures of all these amazing go-carts they had made. It appears to be a small project, but I think projects such as that really work and really get people thinking and looking at things in a different way. They feel they can do it.

I thought it was a terrific idea. I do not know if it was part of Skills Canada or not but it was terrific.

Senator Keon: Would you have a hypothesis as to why this is the case with the trades?

Ms. Rougeau: Historically, it is the same issue you were facing in the sciences and technologies. Young women have very few role models in the trades with whom they can identify. The negative attitudes are exacerbated for women; they are perceived to be dirty jobs. However, experienced women in trades have very positive experiences. Employers working with women in trades also have positive experiences because they bring a different skill set and experience to the workplace.

Therefore, lack of role models, young women not seeing themselves in the trades and no opportunities to mentor are the predominant reasons.

Senator Keon: Between your organizations and traditional universities, colleges and academia, you are collectively producing the workforce, are you not?

What interface do you have with traditional academia as to who links the dots?

Mr. Cochrane: I cannot speak from a national perspective on this, though I do have some knowledge about the Nova Scotia sector. I could be trumped by at least one other person around the table who has more knowledge.

In Nova Scotia, going back several years, the vocational school system was the trade school system through the 1960s, 1970s and so on. That organization underwent a massive shift into what is more traditionally known as the community college model across the country. It continues to offer some trades training, but it has a different and broader focus. Although I have never seen the mandate of the Nova Scotia Community College, they have an eye to do exactly what you suggested, to start to connect the dots. In that way, it becomes more linear as opposed to being disjointed, as had been the case historically.

I know universities in Nova Scotia and elsewhere have linkages between the community college system and the university system, whereby students might take a one- or two-year degree program. To Senator Ogilvie's point about the vastness of our geography, they might be able to take the first year or two at the community college in or close to their community before they venture off to a university somewhere else to finish their degree.

I think those linkages are coming, and the consumers, the people we serve, are much more demanding than they have been. Ultimately, they will drive it.

Ms. Rougeau: Canada has some examples. The one that comes to mind is Royal Roads University. They are looking at trade certification and comparing that and finding mechanisms to ladder that into other forms of post-secondary education in a way that provides recognition of prior learning for individuals who have trade certificates. It is a valuable and important thing. Other countries, from my understanding, are doing much better job of that than we are in Canada.

It is important to address the issue of completion, as well as — Mr. Thorson's comment — the career pathway and also address the economic downturn with workers in transition. It is critical for people to know that the steps to take to get to the next form of post-secondary credential are a smaller endeavour than having to start over. There are some examples, but it is very slow.

Ms. Burns: I would just like to talk about the interface. Right now, as far as our sector is concerned, it is done on an individual college-to-college or college-to-university basis. No real system exists.

However, some affinity groups have come out of the public college system around the unregulated health care worker and the early child care affinity group as well, partnering with sector councils that our colleges and our sector have been involved in.

I think it is starting to grow, but it is a question of trust from one group to another. It takes time to establish that trust on both sides. That is something we are continuing to work on.

Senator Keon: Let me press a little further.

Do you share any of your curricula? Let us take a geographic area, one of the small provinces, for example. Is there any milieu for your organizations to come together with the traditional academic organizations and share the curricula so that you get maximum interface and fill the holes that must exist with the lack of communication? I do not think there is, which is why I am asking the question. However, I think it would be very important.

Mr. Thorson: Yes, with the development of our activities, we have our technical committees, which I have talked about as technical experts from across the country. In certain cases, we have had people from both the university system and the community college or technical institution system working together to develop criteria along with industry around some of those activities. However, that has been on a case-by-case basis, and we do not have a formalized structure through our activities right now to do that.

Mr. Cochrane: I just want to finish off on that thought. The root behind the question of this notion of interconnectedness between and amongst the various participants in education, trades, universities, career colleges or whatever it might be infers the existence of some broader collaboration afoot between and among universities. I cannot speak for the others, but there is no such thing as universality of credit, for example. One would think you could apply a course from Simon Fraser University to any other reasonable degree equivalent anywhere in the country, but that is not the case.

I always say that there is no such thing as free trade in education in Canada. You have to justify your case at every provincial border and, frequently, at every educational institution. Prior learning assessment is coming, but it is moving very slowly. However, not enough incentive exists for the system to provide the ladders yet for people to make moves from one place to another. Again, I speak from personal experience. In Halifax, we have half of Canada's navy sitting in our front yard. They can navigate a vessel around the world. What is that worth toward a university degree? Not much, unless they can articulate some very specific skills that they have extracted from those experiences that are applicable in a meaningful way toward a degree.

Senator Callbeck: Mr. Thorson, I want to ask you a couple of questions about Skills Canada. The money comes from the federal government and is governed by a board of directors. Is there a representative from each province and territory on the board?

Mr. Thorson: Yes. In terms of the funding model, we have support from the federal government as well as the private sector to deliver our programs.

In response to the question on the governance, yes, the national board of directors does have a representative from each of the territorial and provincial organizations that are members of our association. Those are the individuals that are at the table representing each province and territory.

Senator Callbeck: You receive some private funding. What, roughly, would be the federal government portion?

Mr. Thorson: That depends across the country. Some of our offices are heavily funded from the private sector; some are supported virtually 100 per cent by the federal government. That is a difficult question to answer on behalf of all our offices because the situation is different from region to region.

Senator Callbeck: You have the overall board of directors for Canada, but what about in the province? Who determines what takes place in that province?

Mr. Thorson: Each of the provincial and territorial organizations is an independent entity. They also have a board of directors that determines their provincial and territorial activities.

Senator Callbeck: I notice they are volunteer boards.

Mr. Thorson: Yes.

Senator Callbeck: How do you become a member or a director of the overall organization?

Mr. Thorson: Do you mean of the provincial-territorial organization?

Senator Callbeck: Yes.

Mr. Thorson: There are different methods, but the organization goes out to look for key individuals within the community to help move the idea of trades and technology promotion forward. An election process takes place; they are elected boards of directors in each of the regions.

Senator Callbeck: My other questions are on apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is really a provincial jurisdiction. Every province has a board, therefore does every province have differences in what the apprenticeship should involve?

Ms. Rougeau: You are absolutely right. One of the wonderful things about Canada and one of the challenges is that apprenticeship is both a provincial and a territorial responsibility. Not every jurisdiction has a board, so even that adds an interesting aspect. For example, Quebec does not have an apprenticeship board and Ontario is in the midst of creating a college of trades that will then lead to a board. Therefore, technically, those two large jurisdictions do not have boards. Those jurisdictions have the mandate, authority and responsibility for how curriculum is developed, how training is delivered and how funding for various programs and transfer payments to community colleges for certain components are made.

Two mechanisms bring the stakeholders together; our board is one. We bring in the jurisdictions, as well as business and labour from a broader perspective. There is also the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship. Whoever has the provincial or territorial responsibility in a jurisdiction comes together from a national perspective and works together toward harmonizing their own jurisdictional training into the Red Seal certification. An endorsement in Red Seal demonstrates a national mobility.

Senator Callbeck: To how many trades does that Red Seal apply?

Ms. Rougeau: Roughly 50 trades.

Senator Callbeck: I often hear the complaint from students that they cannot get apprenticeships; that is, they cannot get anyone to take them on. Does the institution that they are attending have any obligation to find them one, or is it up to the student?

Ms. Rougeau: The first step is finding the opportunity with the employer.

Senator Callbeck: Do they have to do that?

Ms. Rougeau: Yes, they have to do that. Various organizations within communities provide support to do that, which varies from province to province and territory.

Senator Callbeck: What is the employer's commitment?

Ms. Rougeau: I worked in Ontario for a number of years, so I will give you that as my reference point. The individual signs a contract of apprenticeship, which is an agreement between the employer, the apprentice and the provincial body that is administering the program. However, there is no enforcement in the context that if the employer's circumstances change, then that individual can be laid off regardless of the contract of apprenticeship. It is based on their employment needs.

Senator Callbeck: If they are laid off, do they then try to find another employer?

Ms. Rougeau: Most recently, supports have been put in place to assist laid-off workers, including journeypersons and apprentices. Mechanisms are in place to try to get the apprentice into an in-school training environment while they are laid off to take advantage of the down time so that when the economy picks up, they can get back with the employer. That does present challenges.

Senator Callbeck: What is the commitment to the employer for the person taking the training? If they have signed up for six months can they just leave?

Ms. Rougeau: Yes, they can leave.

Senator Callbeck: Are there no penalties?

Ms. Rougeau: No. Some employers say that they do not invest in apprenticeships because they are fearful that they will invest in someone who will move to someone else. The employers to whom we spoke said that that was not an overall concern for them. However, a young person can move from province to province and from employer to employer. They will go where they see opportunities.

Senator Callbeck: You mentioned the Red Seal endorsement for roughly 50 trades. What is the certificate of qualification?

Ms. Rougeau: When an individual completes all the requirements for their training, on-the-job requirements as well as the technical in-school component, they write an exam and that becomes their ticket. In the world of a trades person, it is the ticket that allows them to work. That is their certificate of qualification.

Senator Callbeck: Can they work anywhere in Canada?

Ms. Rougeau: Regardless of whether it is Red Seal, the Agreement on Internal Trade says that any trade certificate from one province will be recognized by another. That is contained in Chapter 7.

Senator Cordy: Thank you very much. The presentations have been excellent this afternoon.

Mr. Thorson and Ms. Rougeau talked about the negative perception for trades and apprenticeship programs being a challenge. You gave the example of parents thinking that they might encourage their children to go into the trades, but the children often said that that was not the case. How can we build a more positive attitude toward the trades? You think that it is built because you hear about the amount of money that trades people can make, and so on. You would think that would be an incentive for parents to encourage their children.

Mr. Cochrane talked about Nova Scotia and how we went from vocational schools to community colleges. The current president of Acadia University, Ray Ivany, was working at that time in community colleges and did a tremendous job of promoting community colleges in Nova Scotia and the importance of them. He seemed to be everywhere, both on television and on billboards. He still is on a billboard, but this time he is promoting Acadia University. I thought he did an excellent job of promoting skills, apprenticeship programs and community colleges, and he did a great deal of work in coordination with the universities within Nova Scotia and, in particular, within the Halifax area.

I know apprenticeships are under provincial jurisdiction. However, can the federal government play a role in promoting and espousing the positive aspects of trades programs?

Mr. Thorson: I thank you for your question. We are battling some long-held perceptions that careers in trades are not valuable. They do not seem to be valued. It is difficult to change those perceptions overnight. It takes a sustained effort to try to get the message out that these are positive careers that definitely contribute to the Canadian economy.

Everyone in this room, and every Canadian, is impacted by a lack of skilled trades people. We would not have a number of things in this room without skilled trades people. Without skilled trades people, we would not have the design of this simple microphone cover. This is a message we need to get out to people so that they understand that the lack of these people has a significant impact on society.

I was talking to a group of career counsellors yesterday and saying that we are concerned that we have qualified people in our health care system — doctors, nurses, the entire health care system. We want to ensure there are qualified people working. To go to that meeting yesterday and have a discussion with the career counsellors, I flew on a plane, and I was equally concerned that the aircraft maintenance technician who worked on the plane was also qualified and knew exactly what he was doing.

We need to get the message out that this does impact all Canadians. It takes a sustained effort. You do that by doing the things that have been talked about earlier, such as the success stories. We need to profile successful people who are working now in these occupations or who started in a skilled trade or technical occupation and moved on and are now working in another career path as a result of their past experience. It does take a sustained promotion effort to do that.

We need to ensure that we have the key people at the table and that we have engagement with employers, career counsellors, parents and, most importantly, the young people so that they get the message that those careers have changed. They are not the ``get your hands dirty careers.'' They are high tech. Technology has made a significant impact on traditional trade areas, as it has on all occupations. We need to continue to deliver that message to young people through some sustained marketing and promotion.

Ms. Rougeau: The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and Skills Canada did have a sustained marketing campaign for a number of years that relied on champions, commercials, radio, television, videos, posters, and products and services for young people, as well as products and services for those that influence young people. For example, we had articles in Reader's Digest and Maclean's that tried to change perceptions and attitudes, and we worked with educators to develop products and services that they could use to help change attitudes within the school system.

One of our biggest challenges, working in a lower-key context, is with our own apprenticeship community. At our national conferences every two years, we talk about the importance of the apprenticeship community to act as champions. Some of the biggest challenges are trades people themselves and the messaging that our own trades people give. They give their own children advice about careers in trades as well.

Mr. Cochrane: I will venture way out of my personal experience to make an observation. This situation in terms of the nobility of trades or lack thereof is not a historic phenomenon in Canada. I would observe that in industrial towns, which made up much of the fabric of this country for a long time, to get a trade and work at the local mill as a pipefitter or welder was certainly a noble endeavour. They were frequently leaders in the community.

Paired with that was a willingness of employers to host those apprentices and get them through to their journeyperson status; frequently it meant a job for life. A job for life in terms of the European model that Senator Ogilvie talked about was common in significant parts of Asia as well, where they have vibrant apprentice and apprentice-like programs. There is a loyalty and an assumed permanence to the relationship.

This does spill over into the university sector as well, in that the current mobility of the Canadian workforce has its pluses and minuses. Why would I invest in you if you will end up moving from Halifax to Vancouver because now you have more skills and are going to greener pastures or whatever the case may be? Not to be lost here is the notion that the workforce is very mobile.

The economy is very volatile. The potential for these small mill towns to actually incubate trades or university education or whatever the case may be and the notion of a long-term pay back for the mill, for the employer, has been seriously eroded by the fluctuations we have seen in the Canadian economy over the last few decades.

Senator Cordy: Mr. Cochrane, you deal with lifelong learning. As a former teacher, I applaud that. You talked about the targets for government funding having changed little over the years. Some incentives are provided for apprenticeship programs, which would not be at the university level, but you have considerations and suggestions in the document that you gave. Is that related specifically to targets for government funding? Perhaps you can expand on that. You threw it out and said that it was a question for a longer period of time. However, can you expand on the need for change if we are to look at continuing education?

Mr. Cochrane: Thank you. I did just throw it out there, and I am pleased that someone picked it up. I personally find it regrettable that, in 30 years of working in and around continuing education, we are still remediating the same circumstances that we have been remediating forever, for the same target audiences. There is something fundamentally wrong. My colleagues and I have made very good careers out of remediating mistakes and problems from somewhere else, so I am shooting myself in the foot, but at some point I will retire too and leave it to others.

The recent information released around literacy is disheartening. We have invested millions of dollars across this country to address literacy issues, and we are no better off than when we started. That is the short and sweet of it. The fact that the target audiences on the target audience list for funding continues to be exactly the same target audience 30 years down the road points to something basically and fundamentally flawed. We should not be continuing down this path. I do not have a recommendation except that when something is broken, I know it is broken.

Senator Raine: What do you mean by ``target audience''?

Mr. Cochrane: If you go to virtually any targeted audience list provided by what used to be Human Resources and Social Development Canada, previously the Department of Manpower and Immigration, and Employment and Immigration Canada — they have changed their names several times — the targeted listing for funding, and I am at risk of missing some from the list, is consistently persons with disabilities, Aboriginals, youth, women and, in my part of the world, people from African ancestry. It has been the same list forever. That is my point. Please do not misunderstand that I do not think these audiences deserve to be addressed; they do. However, we are not doing them any favours by addressing them constantly and forever in a remedial way. We need to get in at the base and fix it before it gets broken. My hope would be that one of these groups would drop off the list in my lifetime.

Senator Martin: I also echo the comments made by the other honourable senators about the quality of your presentations and the important work that you are doing. One of the first things that came to my mind while listening to your presentations was that there are many options for students. You are filling the gaps, so to speak, in all of the different trades and other opportunities that exist.

I was at a training centre, UFCW, in New Westminster. It was a 12-week program, and a successful graduate spoke and gave testimony about how he had been in prison for five years and there were barriers to employment. In completing this program, he was able to take other skills in a college and, as a result, has become employed. I think these success stories are important, as you say.

We have talked about how boys learn differently from a very young age. With the promotion marketing that your organizations and your members are doing in not just high schools but even earlier on in middle school, those differences really emerge in how boys learn; it is much more hands-on. That is generalizing, but many of these trades are attractive to boys who enjoy getting their hands dirty or being interactive in their learning.

Accessing your programs would be important to the students who may not choose a traditional route. I am curious about what has been done and what could be done with the types of promotion and partnerships you are doing with high schools and even middle schools.

Mr. Thorson: Moving down, starting in the elementary school system, some of those activities that I mentioned in my presentation are our skills discovery activities — cardboard boat races, the turbine challenges, go-cart races and things of that nature. We think those are important, and those give us the opportunity to start making that initial introduction into this different type of work and different type of interaction between people.

I started out working for the provincial association in Alberta 16 years ago, where we began offering cardboard boat races. To give you the context of what it is very quickly, we provide students with limited materials, such as cardboard, duct tape, contact cement and string. They have an hour and a half to actually make a boat that they then get in. There is a race component, a weight component and a design component that is judged by industry experts, typically from a community college or technical institute.

The first year when students heard about that challenge, they showed up with their team of four. They did not have a plan. They knew what they were going to work with but had no plan. I am sure at the school they thought that they would get to spend some time in the pool for the afternoon, so they would work on this project for an hour and a half and see what they could come up with.

They were moderately successful — they came up with some interesting designs — but as we continued to offer that type of activity, we started seeing students showing up with computer-aided design or CAD drawings of what they had tested at the school. They had put a design together, tested it at the local pool, gone back to the school, redesigned it and started asking the teachers if they could stay a little longer after school to try something else — for example, to look at how the buoyancy would work. They started to look at formulas.

We started to see a real progression in the enthusiasm around that activity. I had many teachers tell me that they had never seen such passion from the students: They had been asking the teachers if they could stay after school to work on the projects.

That is part of this hands-on, interactive piece, to provide a sensory experience at a young age so that young people can start to see the different possibilities for interaction and different ways to learn that will maybe lead them, linking that to other opportunities, as they continue to move through the education system.

With those projects, we saw that teachers started to take those and incorporate them into the curriculum at their schools. Indirectly, were influencing some of the curriculum development at the school level. It was very interesting.

Senator Martin: In terms of curriculum, I really love the phrase ``nobility of trade.'' I think that is something that can be introduced in the schools to change the perceptions and attitudes. I am wondering if your organizations may collaborate on something similar in working with the Ministry of Education. You are absolutely right; many cultures have that tradition of trade that is passed on from father to son, and so on.

Ms. Rougeau: To respond to that, the campaign that our organizations worked jointly on was ``careers equal respect, opportunity and good pay.'' That was something that youth indicated resonated with them. We focus-tested it, and it was a very popular tag line. Everything we did around marketing careers in trades was linked to that message.

Building on some of the good work that Skills Canada does, our organization focused on educators. Our role was to try to influence the passion in the teachers through these educator guides, which was a turnkey product developed by teachers and tradespeople on how to demonstrate practical experiences in the classroom to engage young people in the idea of careers in trades. They do a career-training portion, and our focus has been mainly on teachers of Grade 9 students.

Interestingly, teachers would tell us that they noticed a change in the results of the students in the classroom when they started to see how they were applying math in a measurement context. Their grades would increase because of the applied context. All of the Grade 9 teachers in Prince Edward Island and Manitoba are using that educator's guide in their classrooms.

Senator Raine: I find this very interesting. I also sit on the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and we are studying Aboriginal education from kindergarten to grade 12. Some of the aspects you have touched on are coming up there as well.

I would like to start with you, Ms. Rougeau, on the apprenticeship program. I understand students must finish Grade 12 before they start an apprenticeship. Is that right?

Ms. Rougeau: It depends on the occupation and the jurisdiction, but generally speaking, employers ask for Grade 12.

Senator Raine: I spent two years in Switzerland with my family, and our children were in Grades 7 and 8 at the time. We saw how they worked in Switzerland. The system was fascinating because they have an orientation cycle. They have elementary school and when students finish that, if their grades are good, they go into one stream and if they are not as good, they go into another stream. They finish a curriculum over either two or three years, depending on their speed, so that they finish at the same point with the same education level. They then go into three streams, academic, technical or vocational, and they pick. A large amount of counselling happens at that Grade 8 and 9 levels. Normally, the students who have gone through the A stream go into the academic course; and those who have finished the same program — so they have a good base — in the other streams either go into vocational or technical.

As they go through, they can ladder back. If they decide not to take plumbing, but they want to learn how glues work, then they go over into the technical side. Then, if they want to be a scientist, they can go back over into the academic side. However, they would probably have to go back a year and catch up.

I brought it up because I wonder if any thought is being given to that. I see a big dropout rate occurs at that level. When you talk about hands-on learning, are we missing an opportunity to keep the kids in school doing something that will be better for them?

Ms. Rougeau: I am not in the best position to comment on how the K-to-12 systems work in all jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions do have more streaming — I think Ontario is an example. They are working in Ontario with various sectors; at the end of your high school graduation, you can end up with an endorsement, if you will, in a transportation technology; they are laddering courses that are linked to transportation, such as maths, sciences and some applied context.

Interesting things are happening in various jurisdictions, but I could not speak as knowledgeably as I wish I was able to tell you what is happening in each province around K to 12.

Senator Raine: That makes it difficult. I was interested in what you were saying about continuing education and how, after 30 years, nothing has changed. At another meeting I was at, someone pointed out that we do not have a national education strategy. We spend huge amounts of money, yet the outcomes we get when measured against the rest of the world, in some cases we are doing really well, but in others we are not. It is a big challenge.

Mr. Cochrane: Everyone is figuring it out separately, which is the scary part. Each province and territory is doing it on its own.

Senator Raine: They do have interprovincial ministerial meetings. Does this subject come up?

Mr. Cochrane: I have never been to one. I will not likely be invited after this either.

Mr. Thorson: I do not know the education system intimately in Quebec, but I believe it is a little different than some of the other jurisdictions across the country. Some opportunities happen for some streaming at a younger age, beginning at level three of the secondary level, which is the equivalent of a Grade 9 or 10. At that point, students can start to specifically stream to technical education or vocational education, then they can move through that and into different systems. If they decide at some point that they would like to move into the university system, mechanisms are in place for them to do that. However, I do not know all the intricacies of that.

Senator Raine: In Switzerland, when you finish your high school, no matter which stream you are in, you have your basic numeracy skills, literacy skills, as well as social studies and history. That is all part of it. It does not matter which stream you are in. You are much better formed, and I would suspect they have a very low dropout rate.

Ms. Rougeau, you mentioned that Royal Roads University has a system. I am not sure that is the right university. I am the chancellor at Thompson Rivers University, and we pride ourselves on being the one in British Columbia that does that. Our university has, on the same campus, vocational, technical and academic courses that are all laddered together. You can go back and forth.

We are also the centre for open learning in British Columbia. We specialize in the open-learning section in the prior- learning assessment, which is proving to be an interesting specialty. I find that very interesting. A university doing what we are doing is the way of the future. Maybe I can get your comment on that.

Ms. Rougeau: I think any mechanism to focus on learner focus is worthwhile. Our board has made a decision that apprenticeship is important for the Canadian economy, but it also needs to take into account the needs of the learner. The needs of the learner are changing in our society, and any mechanism that is able to accommodate the student moving in and out and that respects different forms of learning through prior-learning assessment and still values and recognizes that, is fantastic. I will be looking into that for my next presentation.

Senator Raine: It is interesting because they definitely go up when the jobs are weak. Then, as soon as the job market picks up, they go down again and go back into the trades with which they are training. The linkage between the employers is key.

When you told us about the study that has been done on the economic value of apprenticeships and that you can only get 25 per cent of employers involved; I was shocked. I wish you the very best of luck on progressing there.

Ms. Rougeau: Thank you.

Senator Seidman: Thank you for coming here to talk about such an important subject. There are so many reasons why we ought to take this subject seriously. I think you mentioned the changing workplace, the need to retrain older workers, new technologies and industries changing. However, I am hearing around the table how underappreciated, underutilized, misunderstood and how poorly promoted this whole aspect of education is.

I would like to go back to the Statistics Canada 2006 census. They looked at the proportion of the population with apprenticeship or trades certificates and diplomas in the age category of 25 to 64 years. It is quite interesting that, if you look at the breakdown by province, Ontario has only 9 per cent of the population with apprenticeship or trade certificates, yet Quebec has 18 per cent.

I think Mr. Thorson has touched on the Quebec situation. I think it is particularly an interesting one in this regard. Perhaps that is because of the CEGEP — the collège d'enseignement général et professionnel system, which regulates, standardizes, promotes and ensures quality. As a result, students seriously consider the trades. Clearly the CEGEPs have a relationship with the high schools, as well, so that they can educate students through guidance counselling.

Could we discuss this aspect as one means, perhaps, of promoting and ensuring a certain degree of quality for students?

Ms. Rougeau: That statistic was very interesting to many. As part of our governance structure at our board, we have a board of directors that is participating on various committees. Our research committee has been informed of the various statistics, and this interesting success happening in Quebec is one that jumped out at us. We are looking at the factors and structures that contribute to that, education wise, as well as the training environment and what is happening in the workplace.

I cannot give you the answer, but I can tell you that it is on the radar of our board as a priority project. We want to look at not just what is happening in other countries but what is happening with this dynamic, with that 18 per cent. It is on our radar as an important consideration.

Ms. Burns: I would like to make a comment that goes back to the recognition of the value of trades and trades training and in thinking about the elementary and secondary system. We were talking about the various streams. This is just a personal comment based on my experience in the elementary school system. If we provide enough exposure to students to try different things, even if they are not very good at it themselves, they can recognize someone else's ability and respect it. I think that is the type of thing I would like to see us doing more of.

When you talked about ensuring quality for students, one thing I would like to comment on about private career colleges is that they are highly regulated and that most of the instances that seem to hit the media tend to be schools that are not operating legally at all. They are not registered with the ministry and are not regulated under the provincial act. Those issues of quality are always there.

Mr. Thorson: Canada obviously has a diverse economy. I support what Ms. Burns has said in terms of the opportunities. Youth need a full understanding of all of the career options, that there are not careers hidden away that we do not talk about which they could pursue. We want to provide experiences and opportunities for them to have a broad spectrum of what careers are available and let them make decisions based on that experience.

From the perspective of Skills Canada, if we have a young person who comes to our events and participates in a Skills Canada activity and decides they are not interested in that career, that is still a success because at least they will turn the page and look at another option for them to find a valuable career. I support Ms. Burns' comments on that.

Senator Seidman: One piece of my question was whether you actually have relationships with the high schools and secondary schools. Do you do anything to build in information and promotion?

Ms. Rougeau: Many of the high schools in various jurisdictions in Canada have school-to-work programs that are linked directly to apprenticeship. This is the first time our organization has brought all of the administrators of the school-to-work programs together for a national conversation to share best practices and experiences in developing programs. Many activities are happening in the country connecting high schools and apprenticeship.

Senator Champagne: It does help that after secondary school in Quebec, they have CEGEP. Therefore, they have the choice as soon as they finish secondary school to go into CEGEP. To get young people who do not want to go into the trades for one reason or another, I will tell you one thing, a music teacher will teach music because he or she loves music and wants young people to get to know music but will probably charge them $25 an hour. However, if you call a plumber, he will charge $60 an hour. Therefore, it might be good for the young people to be aware of that. That is just a slogan for you.

Senator Raine: In your presentation, you mentioned your disappointment in not being able to obtain the Imagine Education certificate. Could you explain that?

Ms. Burns: It is the brand.

Senator Raine: With all the regulation and registrations that the schools go through in your organization, why are you not branded?

Ms. Burns: We have not had a specific answer on that. We keep asking the question.

Senator Raine: That may be something for follow-up research by the committee. It does not seem right. These schools are doing a very legitimate job to train and educate Canadians. They should be part of the system.

Ms. Burns: We absolutely hope to be.

The Chair: We will have a meeting scheduled on that subject.

We have come to the end of this session. Thank you very much to the four witnesses who have enlightened us and given us some valuable information. We will continue with access to post-secondary education tomorrow. This meeting is adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)