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
Senator Art Eggleton (Chair) in the chair.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
What interface do you have with traditional academia as to who links the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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