Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue 9 - Evidence - June 9, 2010
OTTAWA, Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met
this day at 4:18 p.m. to study the accessibility of post-secondary education in
Senator Art Eggleton (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs,
Science and Technology.
Today, we continue with the topic of accessibility to post-secondary
education, PSE, in Canada. We have five witnesses; four will speak and one is
here to assist.
Louis Dumont is Director of Project SEUR at the University of Montreal. He is
a professor with the Department of Pharmacology in the Faculty of Medicine at
the university. He is also founder and director of Project SEUR, which was
designed to promote the interaction of high school students with university
students, professors, researchers and professionals to help the students better
understand the value of education.
Jean-Pierre Voyer is President and CEO of Social Research and Demonstration
Corporation, SRDC. He became the CEO in 2006. Prior to that, he was the federal
assistant deputy minister in charge of Policy Research Initiative, an
organization responsible for conducting research on crosscutting social,
economic and environmental issues. He was also the chair of the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development — OECD — Education, Labour and Social
Affairs Committee from 1998 to 2000.
Mr. Voyer is here today with Heather Smith Fowler, Senior Research Associate
with the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation in Ottawa. She is
currently working on two large-scale randomized evaluations and programs
designed to increase youth access to post-secondary education.
Norman Rowen is Director of Research and Evaluation with Pathways to
Education Canada, an organization whose name frequently comes up in committee.
He was Pathway's program director for its first five years. His background
includes community development, adult literacy and 30 years in educational
research, evaluation and policy analysis.
Scott Haldane is President and CEO of YMCA Canada. He has had a 33-year
career with the YMCA starting out as a lifeguard and youth worker in Montreal's
West Island. He worked up to become the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater
Honourable senators can see from the backgrounds and current work of our
witnesses that we have a good panel to discuss access to post-secondary
We will start with Louis Dumont, Director of Project SEUR, University of
Louis Dumont, Director, Project SEUR, Université de Montréal: Mr.
Chair, I would like to thank the committee for the invitation to take part in
these discussions on the importance of post-secondary education in Canada.
I think that everyone around this table is convinced of the importance of
post-secondary education for both individuals and society as a whole. Some might
ask: why? Because it improves both the well-being of individuals and the
wellness of all groups in society.
We can address how to improve post-secondary education or increase the number
of young people attending post- secondary institutions in a number of ways.
Based on the experience that we have acquired through the SEUR project, I think
that one of the key issues in post-secondary education is how to motivate young
people so that they complete their high school studies and, ideally, further
their education. That is probably the most important element.
Why are we here to talk to you about this issue? It is because the SEUR
project has some experience with at least five students who work at our
secretariat. There are hundreds of university labs, research centres and
business officials involved in developing activities to motivate and stimulate
young people so that they continue their education.
In our view, the fundamental problem is one of attracting young people to
post-secondary studies. Why do we need to tell young people to pursue their
education? I think that is a fundamental duty. Today's society is
knowledge-based. As an academic, I realize how quickly knowledge is evolving.
Almost all areas of knowledge are renewed every 10 years. And I suppose that
young people who drop out will be less drawn to acquiring more knowledge.
There is another part to the problem: I think that universities are at the
heart of post-secondary education. They attract young people, help mold them and
then set them on their way to develop professionally within corporations or the
service sector, so that they can put to good use all the knowledge and know-how
acquired at university. Therefore, universities are at the heart of knowledge
development and help young people develop their skills. They are special places
where positive actions can be taken to raise young people's awareness.
University students are close in age to high school students and want to
interact with them. This is an environment that is an interface between high
school and CEPEPs, which are the equivalent of colleges in the English-speaking
world. University is a place for interaction between the educational world and
the labour market, and is at the heart of this development. We are well placed
to understand what young people want to do. Studies have been published showing
that all young people would want to pursue a university education. It is part of
their makeup. But for various reasons, many young people stumble and never
complete high school.
Our brief shows that the drop-out rate among youth under 20 is approximately
30 per cent. That is an enormous loss for both society and the individuals
What can we do to improve post-secondary education in Canada? The problem
isn't that there are fewer young people who undertake college or university
studies, it is that we need to increase enrolment in order to develop knowledge
and training profiles. We need more students at university and more doctoral
candidates to replace people like me within the next 10 years. Studies show that
there will be a major wave of professors retiring within 10 years, and the
number of new PhDs in Canada will not be sufficient to replace them. We have to
speed up the process; we have no choice.
We must find ways to interest the students, who are a human asset, in playing
a citizenship role; let them go beyond their formal training, and when they
exercise a profession, let them broaden their zone of influence and let them
give something in return for the privilege that they enjoy as a result of having
been university students. This is the message that we are sending to
universities. The hundreds of students who work with us, who represent the SEUR
project, interact with young people and serve as career models, and even more so
as models for a certain career path.
I am certain that among you, there are some who have not had a linear course
in their career. Who have interrupted their studies and taken them up again one
or two years later. This is what we must tell young people: that careers can
take different paths. It is important to create an enthusiasm for university
studies, to light a spark that will ensure that the young person will take an
interest in a profession and ultimately take advantage of post-secondary
Another important element for the university is that we are at an interface
between the primary and secondary levels and the companies in the business
world. And with the experience of the SEUR project, we can create extremely
dynamic interaction among the various environments. It is not a simple matter
for stakeholders from secondary schools to interact with companies, and vice
versa, because there are conflicting interests between high school and the
companies. We must find ways to accommodate these two environments. This is what
we are trying to do presently with the companies.
The other investment which is equally important for developing post-secondary
education in Canada consists in financial investments. The brief mentions the
fact that funds come from the federal and provincial levels, and local
organizations, and that there is a whole array of projects that are of interest
to the young. The problem is, in my opinion, that there is not enough
investment. Universities must commit funds based on percentages of indirect
costs so as to develop programs.
When we developed the SEUR project at the Université de Montréal, the
directors of the university said: "Your project is very worthwhile.'' When
university directors as well as company directors interact with young people
from high school, they are dealing with people who may be at university over a
The effect is not immediate. We are not talking about an immediate increase
in the number of students registering in universities. However we must go
forward if we want to increase attendance.
The companies are another important element. We can tell the young people
that the university offers 60 training programs in 60 departments. The young
students can choose their programs at will. They come to university, they fill
out the appropriate documents, they visit laboratories and carry out
experiments. They will ask us questions such as the following: What does a
demographer do? What does a biologist do? If I asked you these questions, you
would find it difficult to give me an answer. The young student finds that the
training is interesting. Nevertheless, what do university graduates do in their
Through the ten years of our intervention, we noted the following problem. We
must stimulate the interest of companies beyond a simple one-time expression of
interest which consists in receiving young visitors, and after the visit, the
visitors leave and no one ever does any follow-up. It is very difficult to get
companies involved, because their profitability horizon stretches out over the
twelve or twenty-four upcoming months.
We must convince these companies to make investments. To do so, tax breaks
could be implemented to incite them to intervene in a way that could be
beneficial over a five- or a ten-year horizon.
We need long-term investments. However, currently, the subsidies have a
maximum horizon of three years. Our experience has shown us that after three
years, the projects that we developed have taken hold in the environment and are
functional. Consequently, we are told that we must find financial help from
Jean-Pierre Voyer, President and CEO, Social Research and Demonstration
Corporation: First of all, I want to thank the committee for having invited
us to provide an overview of our work on access to post-secondary education.
Over the past few weeks, you have heard from many stakeholders on the issue.
Therefore, I will not provide a diagnosis. Instead, I will focus on the status
of our projects and the results of our research. We have handed out a document,
in both official languages, which summarizes my remarks.
The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation is a non-profit research
organization that develops, field tests, and rigorously evaluates new programs.
We have offices in Ottawa, Vancouver, and Toronto, and we are active in all of
Our mission is to help policy-makers identify policies and effective
programs, and raise the standards of evidence used in assessing such policies.
Essentially, we are involved in demonstration projects, commonly called pilot
projects in bureaucratic jargon. However, our activities go much farther, in
that the projects are always subject to a rigorous evaluation. We also evaluate
existing programs and are involved in experimental economics. Our involvement
goes beyond post-secondary studies and extends to many social issues.
I want to emphasize that our organization is dedicated to research. We are
not involved in promoting policies or programs that we evaluate. The program
ideas and actions that I will tell you about are selected in cooperation with
governments and organizations that have funded our work on these projects. Our
role is to evaluate them objectively.
SRDC is currently conducting four projects to test new approaches to increase
access to post-secondary education, with special emphasis on under-represented
groups. By that we mean students from low-income families, first- generation
students, whose parents did not go to CEGEP, university or any kind of college,
and also aboriginal students.
Rigorous evaluation of the impacts of education-related programs is very rare
in Canada — it is rare in general, but much more so in Canada than in the United
The way to determine if a program will achieve the desired results is by
conducting a rigorous study using an analysis model. This must often be done on
a comparative basis. To see if a program is working, ideally, you need to
randomly assign students to a control group and a program group and to measure
the impact of the difference. During a recession, registration in post-secondary
education tends to increase given the decline in the job market. The phenomenon
is in part cyclical. It is difficult to measure the impact of a new program the
year that it is launched. So it is important to have a basis for comparison.
Using random assignment makes it possible to measure the impact of a program
without relying solely on the most motivated people, as more often than not,
they are the ones who register in special programs and that leaves a skewed
impression as to the overall results.
The first project that I would like to tell you about is called "Future to
Discover.'' Recently, we published a description of the program in a preliminary
report. The objective is to increase access among students from low-income
families, particularly where parents have little or no post-secondary education.
The main barrier is the parents' lack of knowledge about the opportunities
offered by post-secondary education, and the economic and social advantages.
Many members of these groups believe that post-secondary education is not
affordable financially speaking.
The project involves strengthening career education planning for grades 10,
11 and 12, which involves multiple components and includes workshops involving
This program also includes an early guarantee of an $8,000 grant for young
people who want to pursue a post- secondary education. The funding is available
in $2,000 instalments for each semester of post-secondary education completed.
This large-scale demonstration project currently involves more than 5,000
students, in 51 schools in Manitoba and New Brunswick. We have been following
these students for several years now. We used a random assignment design that
enables us to measure the impact on the different language groups. New Brunswick
has two school systems: the French system and the English system. The systems in
Manitoba and New Brunswick are different. In addition, students come from low-
and high-income families.
For the time being we only have interim impacts to report. The impacts are
relatively modest, even though intervention seems very significant. We know that
students are thinking more intensively about the future and planning for it. We
know that the preference for a diploma has changed along the way. The intention
to obtain a diploma has increased. Attitudes toward post-secondary education are
better and students are more informed on the costs and benefits.
However, the positive impacts we observed are very different from one group
to the other. Sometimes, they are negative for certain groups. As a result, when
we examine the scope of a program of this nature, we must expect highly
diversified results based on the groups of individuals participating.
We have already identified some shortcomings. For example, some of our
four-year career-planning programs are offered after school. Many students and
parents decided not to participate. For some of these workshops, there is less
than 50 per cent participation.
In addition, it is very difficult to get Grade 8 and Grade 9 level students
to understand that they may be eligible for the grant. That is low in their
priorities. Later, when we ask them if they are aware of it, a rather large
number of students say that they are unaware of the program even though they
have been identified as participants.
The final report is not ready yet. We will be looking at the final outcome on
access to post-secondary education, and the report will be available in 2011.
The second project is on the way in British Columbia and its objective is to
increase participation of young people with a certain potential but who are
showing behaviour that implies they will not go to university.
The identified barriers are middle academic achievement and lack of early
support to pursue PSE programming in school.
This is a version of a very popular program in the U.S. called, AVID,
Advancement Via Individual Determination. More than 4,500 schools are using this
program, mostly in the U.S. and Canada. There is talk about implementing it more
widely in Canada. It is very important that we evaluate properly because, even
though it has been in place for several years in the U.S., it has never been
evaluated properly. That is what we are doing. It is the first large-scale
evaluation of this program.
Essentially, it is an elective class delivered through the regular academic
timetable that has a special curriculum focused on learning strategies and study
skills. It has tutorial sessions using students who have already graduated. It
also works on motivational activities and field trips to universities, colleges
and so on to familiarize students with the environment.
Our interim report will be released in the fall. Again, it is not the final
impact. This project currently involves some 1,500 participants in 21 British
Columbia schools. We are comparing the experience of participants in the program
to pre- assigned control comparison groups in non-participating schools.
What we have seen has led us to believe that the program is making a
difference. The students started the program in Grade 9, and by Grade 11, we see
increases in enrolment in rigorous courses, which is one of the program
prerequisites. We also see subsequent success in some of those courses and
specific provincial examinations with increased retention in AVID schools. It is
a little early, but I encourage you to keep an eye on it.
The third project, Willingness to Pay for PSE, is not a demonstration
project, per se; it is an economic experiment. Few such experiments are being
run in Canada. They could be counted on one hand. We tried to address whether
some students from under-represented groups were more sensitive to the costs of
PSE and whether they were averse to loans. Basically, we know that we have an
excellent financial aid system in Canada, so if someone wants to study, they can
do it because they can borrow the necessary money to do so. However, certain
types of students might be reluctant to take on any debt and, therefore, deprive
themselves of the privilege of PSE.
We have done this experiment with some 1,200 students across Quebec, Ontario,
Manitoba and Saskatchewan in high schools and CEGEPs. Students represented
various interest groups and various societal groups, with an emphasis on
under-represented groups, such as Aboriginal, low-income and first-generation
students, and students living at a greater distance from PSE. It would take too
long to explain the methodology but, basically, we submit students to real
choices between cash and financial aid. With that information, we were able to
construct their sensitivity to the price of education.
These final findings will be published in a report in a month or so. We found
that students from low-income backgrounds with parents having no more than a
high school education, Aboriginal students and boys tend to have greater price
sensitivity. They react more to price change. When I say "price,'' I mean the
overall cost of education. One makes the determination to participate in PSE by
considering the expected benefits of PSE versus the costs. Raising or reducing
the costs through various policy means or tuition fees resulted in different
responses. The chart shows, in a hypothetical case, that there would be much
gain in attracting students from under-represented backgrounds if the perceived
costs were changed to better reflect the real costs.
We find that students from these backgrounds show a higher probability of
recording low grades, underestimating the net benefits of post-secondary
education and discounting the potential higher-rate future earnings. These
characteristics explain much of the difference in PSE participation rates. It is
not because you are from a low-income background that you will have lower
grades. However, there is a tendency to show these characteristics more often,
which explains why some of these subgroups show lower participation rates. When
we take those characteristics into account, we cannot explain the full
difference in participation for Aboriginal students only. Something is happening
in that group in the way of unobservable causes that, despite the large number
of indicators collected, we cannot identify clearly.
The studies suggest that government could change the perception of returning
to PSE. Information policies that address identity issues — by that, I mean peer
pressures — could make a difference. About 30 per cent of participants show
signs of loan aversion and at least 10 per cent show repeated signs. That
suggests policies are needed that target information constraints and financial
literacy and, with respect to student aid systems, a decoupling of the grant
portion from the loan portion. Often, a student needs to secure a loan if he or
she wants a grant.
I will conclude with the final project, which is very exciting. We are
starting this one in B.C. with a huge number of schools and participants. We
will try something that has proven to work in other circumstances. We will help
students fill out their applications to university and the financial aid
applications while they are still in high school. They will then realize that
PSE is available to them to pursue. Experiments done by H&R Block in the U.S.
show that it made a huge difference in access to PSE for many low-income
I will leave it at that. If you are looking for the role for the federal
government in post-secondary education, I would suggest one that is clear in all
areas of social policy: Participate in the infrastructure building. That is to
say, ensure that there is good data, good evaluations and plenty of experiments
so that the provinces can benefit from the lessons learned and invest in and
The Chair: Thank you. Mr. Rowen, please proceed.
Norman Rowen, Director of Research and Evaluation, Pathways to Education
Canada: Let me begin by thanking the committee members and the chair for the
invitation to speak before you today on this important issue. I am currently
Director of Research and Evaluation at Pathways to Education Canada. More
important, though, 10 years ago, I began the process of developing the Pathways
to Education Program at the Regent Park Community Health Centre, in a community
that is home to Canada's oldest and largest public housing project, and in two
census tracts with the lowest family incomes in the Greater Toronto Area. I had
the privilege of being the program director for Pathways' first five years in
Regent Park. Since 2006, I have worked at Pathways Canada to support the
replication of the program in other communities.
In 2007, programs began in five other communities: two in similarly
challenged low-income communities in Toronto, Ontario — Lawrence Heights and
Rexdale; in the Pinecrest-Queensway area in Ottawa, Ontario; in Verdun,
Montreal; and in Kitchener, Ontario. In 2009, programs began in Hamilton and
Scarborough, Ontario; and, in September 2010, three additional programs will
begin in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Kingston, Ontario; and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Pathways to Education Canada is a compelling program and a compelling story.
It was born of the palpable despair of violence and hopelessness: nine murders
in Regent Park the year we developed the program, a 56 per cent dropout rate and
a community of immigrants, refugees, poverty and fear. Beneath the tough veneer,
however, it was also a community of promise, of people with wisdom,
resourcefulness and resilience. Currently, the program in Regent Park is
completing its ninth year. It is these cumulative results, experiences and
lessons that may be important to your deliberations today.
The challenge of access suggests that there are some important reasons why
post-secondary education is an issue of some importance that merits our
attention and your attention. First, there is the collective need to educate a
higher proportion of the population at much higher levels. Recent analyses
suggest upwards of 70 per cent of jobs in the next decade will require
post-secondary education, and less than 8 per cent will be available to those
without a high school diploma. According to the recent report of TD Economics
that was released just last month, "Canada's post-secondary education (PSE)
system will play a pivotal role in enhancing our nation's standard of living.''
Second, important expectations are placed on post-secondary education as a
vehicle for inclusion. We have not, however, been very successful in ensuring
success for those traditionally under-represented. Indeed, we have had far less
success, and it has become quite challenging to include in post-secondary
education young people from the lowest-income families, First Nations and
first-generation students, those people Mr. Voyer spoke about. For example, the
TD report sites Statistics Canada data showing "a gap of approximately 20
percentage points between the PSE participation rate of the highest and lowest
income quartiles.'' Children of families earning over $100,000 annually were,
according to Statistics Canada, participating at more than twice the rate of
those from families with annual incomes of $25,000 or less.
How to increase the participation rate for the three groups that I have
mentioned has been the focus of some recent discussion, including that by the
Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and, most recently, the TD economics
report. All have noted similar lessons, namely, the need to identify the
multiple barriers for participation and, by extension, the need for
comprehensive supports. In their 2007 report, the Canadian Millennium
Scholarship Foundation, CMSF, noted the following:
Specific interventions designed to alleviate a narrow set of barriers —
by targeting one kind of barrier, such as academic ability — will be
limited in their effectiveness because they leave the other sources of the
problem untouched. . . . Without a comprehensive approach to overcoming
these barriers, it is unlikely that Canada will gain the post-secondary
achievement necessary to chart a successful course in the 21st century.
To address these challenges, namely, the multiple barriers identified by the
community, Pathways to Education Canada was developed. I want to touch briefly
on three questions: What does Pathways to Education do? What have been the
results? What are the implications for your deliberations?
I want to tell you of our experiences and why we believe there is some cause
for optimism and some lessons that flow from our experience over the past
As some of you may know, Pathways to Education is a community-based program
of comprehensive supports for youth in secondary school. Four supports are
provided: academic support; social support; financial support, including current
support, as well as a post-secondary education scholarship; and staff support to
provide counselling, advocacy and case management.
In developing the program, the community told us that to have an impact, the
program must be open to all students entering secondary school in a defined
low-income geographic area and must provide the main elements for all of their
years in high school until they graduate. In each of the past nine years, 90 per
cent of the geographically eligible youth in Regent Park have participated, and
the rate averages around 85 per cent in other communities.
The results to date have been nothing short of remarkable. In Regent Park,
over the first five cohorts — the first of which began grade 9 in 2001 — we
reduced the 56 per cent high school dropout rate to 11.7 per cent. Of nearly 600
graduates through last June, post-secondary participation has increased from 20
per cent to over 80 percent, and 90 per cent of these young people are the first
in their families to go on. We have now seen the program replicated in seven
low-income communities; over 2,400 students are getting results similar to
A study by The Boston Consulting Group, BCG, which looked at the investments
required and the results obtained, estimates a rate of return of 12.5 to 1 in
real dollars, with a net present value of nearly $50,000 for each and every
young person enrolled in the program. That Pathways is an important long-term
and effective approach was recently echoed in the report produced by McKinsey &
Company for the task force on Quebec dropouts chaired by Jacques Ménard, which
cited Pathways as one of six leading approaches. TD Economics similarly referred
to the benefits of the approach and our results in the report released just last
The important lessons that we have learned about increasing access for the
lowest-income young people concern the four challenges that Pathways has been
able to address: financial, academic, disposition and relationship.
First, it was long assumed that cost was the greatest barrier to
post-secondary education participation for such young people. We still have a
long way to go to provide the right approach. The TD analysis comes to the same
conclusion Pathways did, namely, that funds need to be targeted specifically to
those with greatest need.
The ineffectiveness of the current approaches to supporting those from
lowest-income families, however, has led to alternative suggestions such as the
proposed "charitable RESP subscriber initiative'' proposed by the OMEGA
Foundation last fall, which would provide tax benefits to donors to charitable
organizations that could facilitate participation in Registered Education
Savings Plans, RESP, by low-income families through establishment of a central
mechanism to allocate donor dollars through a group RESP structure. Pathways to
Education believe this is an alternative worth pursuing.
In addition to financial barriers, however, are several equally important
challenges which Pathways has tried to address. Obviously, the first is the
challenge of academic preparedness. Pathways have obviously addressed this
through the supports provided and evidenced by the results we have obtained.
Others have said that the challenge is motivation or disposition; that is, that
low-income youth are not motivated to go on to college or university. We can and
have addressed this challenge by creating a culture of high expectations,
coupled with serious supports, and by changing the prevailing ethic in the
community from one of failure to an expectation of success.
Some have suggested that the disposition to access PSE is a function of
parental support. Pathways is happy to see parents helping to motivate their
adolescent children, but, in truth, our experience suggests, particularly in
communities where few parents have PSE, that a peer culture of expectations to
continue on to PSE is by far the most important factor. Pathways have helped
create this expectation and environment.
Finally, perhaps the most important factor in the success of Pathways
students is the ability to find the right post- secondary program for each
student. That knowledge, of the institutions and of each and every student, is
what makes it possible to have a post-secondary attrition rate of less than 5
per cent for our students.
It is a variety of relationships that make this possible. I have perhaps too
often repeated the phrase "community- based'' as a central characteristic of
Pathways. This is not to denigrate the good work of many institutions, secondary
and post-secondary alike. Rather, it is to acknowledge the important lesson that
the community holds a central place of trust in the lives of those who have been
under-represented for so long. It is in the strengthening of these communities
and their capacity through programs such as Pathways that real and lasting
results will happen.
A final lesson learned first in Regent Park and now available from the other
communities is that realizing these results requires a long-term commitment. The
community told us this a decade ago, and their wisdom has proven to be good
council. It is the most important learning that we need to hear. There is no
quick fix. Important and lasting results take time. Changing the stigma,
inspiring all youth to realize higher expectations, providing the comprehensive
supports that will achieve these results and developing the relationships that
are so critical to the success — all these, and more, take great effort and
great time. Our resolve to address these challenges must be as great and be
Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I am open to questions later.
The Chair: Thank you very much; you will be getting some.
Finally, we have Scott Haldane, President and CEO for the YMCA.
Scott Haldane, President and CEO, YMCA Canada: Good afternoon. Thank
you as well for the opportunity to take part in this important focus on access
to post-secondary education.
We may be the surprising member of the panel. Many people may not think the
YMCA is involved in this area, but we actually have a very rich history of
involvement in both the formal education system and the informal education
system as an organization that focuses on strengthening the foundations of
community. We believe that access to post- secondary education is in fact a very
important part of building strong communities.
We have focused in recent years within the framework of the determinants of
health, and it is very clear in looking at those determinants of health that
education is one of the critical factors in ensuring healthy outcomes for
children, youth, families and our society as a whole.
In the work we have doing specifically on access to post-secondary education,
we have looked at both the financial and non-financial barriers, and I know that
you, as a committee, have heard much about this. Financial access is the most
obvious barrier that young people face, and for this reason many strategies have
attempted to address this.
We realize that non-financial barriers are equal to the financial barriers
young people are facing. There are information and communication barriers in
that young people and their parents are not receiving the information they need
in a way they can understand and relate to, which is particularly important for
the more marginalized groups in our society. Working with newcomers and through
the federal government — for example, the YMCA of Greater Toronto works with
approximately 50 per cent of the newcomers who come to the Greater Toronto Area,
GTA, within their first three months in the country. We have a large welcome and
information-referral program for newcomers. We know that navigating the Canadian
post-secondary educational system is a huge part of the challenge that newcomers
face when they come to our country.
That applies to all first-generation students who do not have someone in
their families that attended post-secondary education in the past. I think about
my own situation. I was in a position to provide my kids with a good deal of
support, including a university tour, helping them fill out the forms and do
their budgets to figure out how they will go to school. I cannot imagine a
situation where parents have not experienced that or were not present to see
what young people are able to do. Certainly my kids, who come from a more
privileged background, had that opportunity through us.
We know that the education system cannot do this on its own. There is a need
for many others. I will talk more about that because I want to explain about the
YMCA's role specifically and why organizations such as the YMCA are critical in
A study conducted in March 2009 by Ekos Research on behalf of the Canada
Millennium Scholarship Foundation found that the major factors and obstacles
that prevented students from continuing their studies after high school were
directly linked to their negative perceptions of school, their views of PSE, and
limited access to key information. They also mentioned various intrinsic factors
identified as barriers to PSE which included: inadequate information about PSE
and a lack of information among parents resulting in less and optimal parental
support and engagement in the planning and decision-making process.
I want to focus on two key elements in addition to what you have heard. One
is about the importance of coordination and sharing of best practices. Just in
bringing the four organizations to the table to speak to you — we have done
quite a bit of work with Pathways to Education — this type of venue is not
frequently available. One of the things we have been working on is the Canadian
Post-Secondary Access Partnership, CPSAC, which was developed in partnership
with the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation — I believe it is just ending
its tenure now — in response to a growing community call for information and
education about who can go to post-secondary education, how and why. Many
different organizations are trying to work on this and are developing best
practices, but there is no venue for them to come together in and share
This partnership is designed to exemplify the extent of reach of the
charitable not-for-profit sector and a credibility that we have in communities.
We form a very important bridge between young people on the ground in their own
neighbourhoods and the post-secondary institutions themselves. It is difficult,
despite best intentions, for the post- secondary institutions to reach into
communities and actually connect with young people.
Speaking for the YMCA, we work every year with about 10 per cent of Canadian
children and youth. We are working with them in neighbourhoods, community
centres, YMCA facilities and in schools through our child care programs and in
our camps. We are in touch with them all the time to send the message about
post-secondary education; to create the vision that they can actually access
these opportunities; to help them see that it is a possibility in their future
by helping them in loco parentis explore the possibility and fill out the
forms; and to find out more about this as an effective way to link the
post-secondary institutions with the lives of these young people in their
We believe the partnership is essential and that all sectors have a role to
play in finding a solution. The partnership was designed — I will explain that
in a moment — to build an access network of experts that share research and
promising practices similar to National College Access Network, NCAN, which is
the U.S. version of the Canadian Post-Secondary Access Partnership. We have also
worked with the European version of that organization.
Creating some type of mechanism, which we have been working on but have had
difficulty with the funding of this initiative, is an important part of the
message I wanted to give you today.
The second part is, we know there is a gap of communication, information and
motivation for first-generation students. However, one of the questions is who
is in a good position to provide this. This link that I mentioned before of
using the not-for-profit network or those organizations that are already part of
the lives of these young people and adding this as part of the role that we can
play is important.
We have done this through a program called YMCA YOU CAN GO, or ON Y VA, where
we have access workers who work in YMCA centres, our camps and employment
training centres to help young people, their adult allies and parents to explore
future career paths and employment options that fit their interests; to discover
why post-secondary education is a step to seriously consider; to identify
post-secondary programs at various colleges, universities or technical
institutes or apprenticeship programs that would send them on the right path
towards their chosen career; and to select the programs and schools most likely
to meet their needs, assist them in completing their applications and support
them in securing financial support for their studies.
In each city and region — 12 developed were over the last year and a half or
so — the programs are linked to local colleges, universities and technical
schools, businesses and community organizations, and they are tailored to the
unique features and particular needs of individual communities.
With respect to the program statistics in that approximately year and a half
since we started the YMCA YOU CAN GO-ON Y VA program, we have seen 2,000 young
people in one-on-one counselling sessions where we have sat down with them to
help them fill out the applications and discuss this option and what they can do
to build a personal action plan to get to where they want to go. About two
thirds of that group were newcomers to Canada, and over 90 per cent were
first-generation students, young people whose parents, or anyone in their
family, have not gone to school before.
In group sessions and workshops for young people, adults and their parents,
we have over 14,000 participants. In approximately a year and a half at 12
cities across the country, we helped 16,420 young people in loco parentis
to build this action plan.
As mentioned earlier and as the research has shown, Aboriginal youth are a
very challenged group with respect to creating this vision and planning their
future. Particularly in our Western sites — Winnipeg, Regina and Prince George —
a significant percentage, between 25 per cent and a third, of the participants
have been Aboriginal youth.
Unfortunately, our funding ended in March 2010 when the millennium foundation
wound down. We are currently working with Human Resources and Skills Development
Canada, HRSDC, to explore core funding through the Advantage Canada strategy. We
have been making progress. There will be a gap in funding between the end of our
seed money from the foundation and core funding from the federal government.
However, we developed a number of partnerships. Ernst & Young LLP is our main
corporate partner. They provided financial assistance for this initiative. They
also provide all of their employees from coast to coast as mentors in the
program. Therefore, they are our volunteer cohort, coupled with the YMCA's
volunteers, to help young people have an adult role model who can see the vision
Our YMCAs in Toronto, Vancouver, Regina, Quebec City and Montreal found other
means to continue this funding. The other seven sites have wound down, at least,
temporarily. We hope to revive them once we have the program operating again.
In the question period, I can be more specific about the needs. Coordination
in the sharing of best practices and using the community sector to connect with
young people are my two main messages.
The Chair: Thank you to all of you for your presentations. I find
these community-based initiatives to be promising practices, as we frequently
refer to them. They are quite exciting. The things you do make a difference in
people's lives. I hope the recommendations we develop can help you continue
these activities and grow them around the country.
I will begin with a question, and I will jump to the bottom line. We are
nearing the end of our hearings and reaching the point where we will have to
consider what we want to recommend.
Of course, we are a Senate committee and the federal government is first in
our line of focus. The federal government has a substantial interest in
post-secondary education. It provides Canada Student Loans funding, transfers to
the provinces and research funding. However, the secondary level is in the
jurisdiction of the provinces. In the words of Mr. Dumont, we have to stimulate
the interest in young people. We must reach students at the secondary level. How
do we bridge this to get more people into post-secondary education?
Specifically, what can the federal government do to help more people continue
into post-secondary education?
Mr. Voyer offered thoughts on the matter by suggesting infrastructure
funding. Maybe you could expand more on that. I was happy to see that $20
million was allocated in the budget to Pathways to Education to do outreach.
They provide a best practice that can be replicated in different communities
across the country. You have outlined places that you are going. I say, the more
the better, given that your success in reducing the dropout rate from 56 per
cent to 10 per cent in Regent Park is phenomenal. The committee has been to
Regent Park and talked to children. It is gratifying to see that initiative.
Mr. Dumont: In fact, that is already mentioned in the brief which
contains recommendations for the federal government, such as the federal
government could target the budgets of large research granting councils to set
up specific budgets for universities. Then it could focus these budgets on
developing mechanisms for interventions to attract young people from high
school. I think it is absolutely essential to stimulate the interest of students
who will be leading our institutions and businesses in the next five to ten
The federal government could also offer tax incentives to companies to enable
them to develop programs to attract young people and other mechanisms for
interaction. That is what will make young people aware of training, professions,
and businesses' requirements.
In our interactions we have seen at first that businesses are reluctant to do
it because it is not in their immediate interest. But if there are tax breaks, I
think that businesses will participate in the programs knowing that there are
partners working together towards the same objective, which is to stimulate
Mr. Voyer: I will return to my last point that was also mentioned by
I will pursue the notion of best practices. Through my career in the public
service, one of the most valuable policy tools was the capacity to meet and
exchange with provincial counterparts on many areas, not just access to post-
secondary education. We have slowly been losing that tool. It could be
rejuvenated to create the opportunity for people to learn from each other.
Of course, provinces will complain that they do not have money to do new
things such as that. However, the federal government created central funding in
the past. This can be done in different ways. The federal government can fund,
in collaboration with provinces, pilot or demonstration projects and
experimentation to be followed by government officials coming together to share
the experiences with each other.
Tom Courchene said the benefit of a federation is that we have ongoing
experiments across the country. This is fine, but we need a way to share the
Another element is information. Information is a public good; therefore, it
is no one's property. Most information distributed to students or schools
emanates from the federal government because it has the models to calculate
shortages in occupations X or Z and to provide basic information. Provinces
derive their information from the national economic and occupational forecasts.
This is not well recognized, but there must be a modern way to distribute this
information instead of printing books and sending them to the schools. In the
era of the Internet, we may be able to find another way.
As the chair mentioned, the federal government provides a large chunk of the
financial aid. There are ways to frame it so that is more appealing to students
who might have a loan aversion having seen their peers going into debt and are
no longer open to borrowing money to go to school.
Mr. Rowen: I will pick up on a few of these points. Several things can
I think we have to follow what Don Drummond said in his last TD report,
namely, to focus on those with the greatest need. Over the last 20 years, the
proportion of student aid money going to those with the most need has declined.
It goes more toward a merit-based rather than needs-based funding.
I mentioned the proposal from the OMEGA Foundation, which is one option.
There are several other ways to move toward grants first and loans later. I do
not know if this is connected with loan aversion; the poorest of our families
and communities have never been able to take advantage of RESPs or Canada
student bonds. It is simply not possible to talk to people in Regent Park about
putting aside a few hundred dollars per year for each of several children; it is
an impossible task.
I think that the federal government does have a role to play in directing the
use of grants and tax schemes that would allow — as the collective RESP proposal
would — the ability for donors to contribute on behalf of the broad community of
young people who need that work.
The second thing, following up on the question of data that is really
important, is to develop a system of common metrics. While the Council of
Ministers wanted to do that many years ago, I do not believe there is a common
and commonly understood way of understanding the dropout rate or post-secondary
participation. It is frankly a bit of an embarrassment. The ways in which
different provinces and different school boards within different provinces
compute this makes the analysis of data and focusing on those who are most in
need extremely difficult. That function, whether invested in an independent
agency, Statistics Canada or a call for the Council of Ministers to revisit this
question, certainly seems to be important.
The third thing I would say goes back to something the late Arthur Kruger
mentioned many years ago, which was the creation of an envelope to fund the best
practices that are community based. The then HRDC had such an envelope many
years ago. We need to return to the idea that we are building the health,
responsibility and capacity of communities to look after their own.
That envelope should be focused on a number of features that we have learned
are about best practices. Single interventions do not work. It needs to be
comprehensive in those communities and over a longer term; it needs to provide
for accountability, and it needs to be community-based rather than
We have a budget in the Province of Ontario — I cannot equate it to any other
province at the moment — of some $18 billion of funding that is used from the
Ontario Ministry of Education and the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and
Universities. Of that, the amount of money that goes to an initiative such as
Pathways to Education, that goes to the total sum of community-based initiatives
is what my boss calls a rounding error. We are talking about hundreds of a per
cent of an $18 billion budget.
The Province of Manitoba will be participating in the support of the Pathways
program in Winnipeg. I hope that the Province of Quebec will soon be able to
fund additional programs or support, in part, additional programs.
The last claim about this envelope is that we do need to do rigorous
research, but I think we have had great success in being able to demonstrate.
The business community, the private sector has been more than generous with
respect to the funding of Pathways. The budget allocation, which is quite
important to us going forward to other communities, as you mentioned, Mr. Chair,
is $20 million. It is about 20 per cent the budget over the next four years.
The private sector has, in fact, stepped up over the last 10 years to
Pathways. We need to keep that going. Some form of stability of funding for
programs that have proven themselves becomes very important. That is true at the
provincial level and the partnerships that we have begun to forge with
provincial governments, and it is true at the federal level.
Mr. Haldane: I understand, certainly, the jurisdictional issues when
you look at it from a political, structural and organizational point of view.
However, if you look at the results end, it actually cuts across jurisdictions
and impacts on Canadians. It would seem to me that it is an issue of prosperity,
which is a federal government responsibility, even though education is a
provincial government responsibility.
Some of the specific ideas that I would offer would include an investment by
the federal government in national infrastructure around this issue. Regardless
of how you look at the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation from a political
point of view, it nevertheless played a role in providing us with information,
with research and with a way of convening the organizations that have an
interest in this. We need something to replace that role, frankly, and we think
that this Canadian Post-Secondary Access Partnership, an online community that
shares best practices and so on, is a very important role and function, and is
something that certainly could benefit from federal support.
The second thing would be the not-for-profit sector. We do not have a
particular jurisdiction. Most not-for-profit organizations that work nationally
are federations. Pathways is just moving nationally now, and there is an
opportunity for perhaps the federal government to enable these organizations and
create that bridge between post- secondary institutions, which are provincially
regulated, and the community, which has the need. I think that would be helpful.
As an example, we have benefited from federal government investment in
internship programs. For the past 15 years, the YMCA has run a program called
the Federal Public Sector Youth Internship Program. This program takes young
people who have dropped out of high school, or finished high school with no
intention of going on to post-secondary education, or finished some
post-secondary education with no work experience and places them in federal
government departments and ministries in every riding in the country, whether a
YMCA is in that riding or not.
We have had tremendous success with the program, and it has spawned a new
program called the Youth Eco Internship Program. This program places young
people in not-for-profit organizations across the country that have green
training interest and so on. There may be a way of coming at this with a similar
model where we enable a not-for- profit organization to deal with the
jurisdictional issues as opposed to the government having to do it.
Specifically, we have been talking to HRSDC about core funding for this
post-secondary internship program at the level of $3 million. That builds the
national infrastructure but positions us, as well, to seek funding from both the
province and the private sector, as Pathways has done. We have had some interest
from the Ontario government, Manitoba and B.C., but without the national
infrastructure to enable us to do that fund-raising work, it is very difficult
to come at. A number of opportunities exist for the federal government to be
directly involved while respecting the jurisdictional responsibilities.
The Chair: Thank you very much. You have all given us many ideas.
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you all for very interesting presentations.
I have one question for clarification and a couple of observations.
First of all, Mr. Voyer, could you help me with this chart that was in your
document? I am unable to fathom the nature of the graph relative to the
conclusion you drew from it. I wonder if you could explain what the vertical
axis is and why it is a bell-shaped curve, based on its title.
Mr. Voyer: I admit that I regretted putting the chart in because it is
a hypothetical chart. If you think of the proportion of each income group, this
is basically a normal bell curve for each group. We assume that the price and
the low-income and high-income categories are represented by the bell curve
distribution. We are showing a situation where we are supposing that the
low-income category would be more reactive to price. This is to illustrate what
we were looking for in the study. We found that low incomes were more reactive
On the horizontal axis you have a price, say $5,000, that someone calculates
to continue on to PSE. It shows, if you have these differences between low and
high income, the large gain you would achieve in the low-income category by
lowering the price in the low-income category.
Senator Ogilvie: What is the vertical number? Is it increased or
decreased or proportion?
Mr. Voyer: It is proportion.
Senator Ogilvie: Therefore, the higher the line up the vertical axis,
the greater the percentage of students going to PSE. Is that correct?
Mr. Voyer: On the vertical axis, if you had, let us say, 40 per cent
at the top, then you would say that at $6,000, 40 per cent — I should not say 40
per cent. One hundred per cent of the participants are represented on the curve
and are distributed normally.
Senator Ogilvie: I will not pursue that further. I cannot fathom it. A
curve such as this would indicate that as the price of tuition goes up, we have
an increase in the number of students going to PSE. All of a sudden with tuition
at $8,000, we reach a peak.
Mr. Voyer: No, we will not because the number of participants under
the curve is reduced as it goes up. The density is reduced, but we can talk
Senator Ogilvie: I do not understand the point you make.
I have two observations about the overall issue we are dealing with. As I
said, you all made very good observations and described very good programs.
However, I am concerned about something. When we talk about access to PSE, as
you have addressed today, we tend to deal with lower-income families. However,
the reality is that we are not coming close to getting 100 per cent of young
people from middle-income families going to PSE. I hear suggestions that perhaps
we should shift the tax benefit, but it seems to me that we should not do
anything that would be likely to diminish whatever success rate we have from any
given income cohort simply because we think it does not benefit as much a
lower-income cohort. To summarize quickly, I am concerned about the groups you
have identified today. We want to increase the percentage of them, but we do not
want to reduce or be likely to reduce the percentage of other groups accessing
PSE. I suggest that merit-based tax benefits, scholarships, and so on, have an
impact on middle- income families to some real degree. We do not want to
decrease the number of students going to PSE from that group.
I might have misunderstood you, but I believe you commented on certain
provincial budgets, their financial support of PSEs and the rounding errors. The
reality of total provincial budgets for PSE, which is only one component of the
education budget, is that a significant percentage goes to post-secondary
education overall. Did I misunderstand?
Mr. Rowen: Perhaps we had a misunderstanding. I was not speaking of
the amount of money going into post- secondary education and, in fact, going
into student loans. Our student financial assistance is very important and is
growing. It is important that it grows.
I was speaking of the rounding error with respect to non-institutional
supports that actually make the difference. The range of institutional support
includes colleges, universities and secondary schools. In terms of simply
targeting education, the ability of money that would flow, for example, to
community-based programs, is infinitesimal. Evidence suggests that for those
folks who face the gaps because they have been under-represented, it is
important that we take such an institutional approach.
Pathways to Education has partnerships with every university and college
where we exist. We have dual credit programs and the provinces have begun to
fund these programs. Many good examples exist of institutional-based initiatives
that have been somewhat successful. We seem to need different approaches for
those people who have been the least represented in our institutions of higher
education and are the least successful in getting there and succeeding,. It was
really about that.
To respond to the question about whether this involves suggesting approaches
that would injure middle-class kids, I do not think that is true. The targeting
of funding to compensate for the inability of people to take advantage of those
tax-based programs, such as RESPs and the learning bonds, is an important
adjustment that could be made at not a very great cost and, as The Boston
Consulting Group said, at an enormous return. When folks drop out, the costs to
the justice systems, our health care systems, social services, the Employment
Insurance program, et cetera, are enormous; and we can calculate most of those
costs. We need to determine the long-term investment that we have to make to
reduce those tax expenditures in a way that would benefit everyone. The benefits
can be shared quite broadly.
Mr. Haldane: The focus being on first-generation young people as
opposed to low-income people includes many low-income kids and other kids who
have faced barriers. It is a broader category at which to look.
Being an organization that serves everyone in the community regardless of
income level and other backgrounds, we have come to realize that without a
particular focus on people living in low-income situations, we risk ignoring the
facts that access and outcomes in terms of the broadest definition of "health''
are significantly skewed amongst people living in low-income situations or
facing other challenges, such as many newcomer groups face.
While we should continue to focus on all young people and provide them with
the support and the encouragement to attend PSE, our efforts to date have tended
to benefit those in middle- and upper-income groups and those whose families
have a history of post-secondary education. Clearly, some groups in Canada have
greater problems with access, and we need to ensure that we pay attention to
Senator Champagne: Good afternoon gentlemen, and thank you for being
here. Listening to you, whether you are from the SEUR project, AVID, Pathways,
the YMCA, the YOU CAN GO program, you have a goal and it is to market
post-secondary education for our youth.
The interest of young people for post-secondary education must be fanned, and
I don't think that this is true only for the disadvantaged or for the first
generation of university graduates in a family. We must fan their curiosity. Mr.
Dumont talked about it, I find it extraordinary to tell young people that there
are all kinds of things, all kinds of careers that you do not even think about
because you don't know that they exist.
I think this is a very important point. Parents who are not university
graduates do not necessarily know about certain careers and therefore they
cannot, for instance, suggest that they take their youngsters somewhere to show
them something that might inspire them.
You mentioned the 30 per cent drop-out rate in Quebec. I have seen a rather
odd situation in Quebec, you probably know about it, in our primary and
secondary schools and CEGEPs, where programs and teaching systems are changed
regularly. I met a young man who had seen the way he was taught to read and
write change completely, and who after two years, said: "I do not have a report
card with a number anymore, I do not know where I stand. I will never be good
enough to be a doctor, a lawyer or a pharmacist.'' You talked about one of your
students, Mr. Dumont; I think this is where the problem lies.
The other problem for some young people is the nice summer job. You get a
nice summer job where, if you are ready to work on a motion picture stage for 15
hours per day for two months, you will be so well paid that you will say: "If I
can earn such a living, why go to Ryerson in September? I earned a good
They need that money to have a better transition between home and university,
they need the experience they get during their summer job, but it can also
When you meet young people, do you discuss such situations with them so that
they can be prepared for things like that? It is nice to make $400 a week for
two months, but that is not their whole life.
Mr. Voyer: You have mentioned several things. Some studies have shown
that when we raise the minimum wage, there can be negative consequences on the
retention of young boys in school. The idea that you can make very good money
with a high school education or even without a high school diploma is a
widespread belief. That often explains the difference between boys and girls.
Boys may have more opportunities to get well-paid jobs in construction or
mining, for example. They then think that they can earn a good salary, but what
seems like a good salary at 16 years of age is not necessarily a good salary
when you are 40.
A large part of the solution would be to inform young people at an early age
and to change their perception of the advantages of post-secondary education.
This is not so much of a problem for children from high-income families because
they have role models around them. They see for themselves that they will need
post-secondary education to maintain the life-style they are accustomed to.
It is another story for youth from less privileged families. Research has
clearly shown that in underprivileged families, perceptions as to the costs and
benefits of post-secondary education are skewed. One of our major interventions
— the Future to Discover pilot project — was to inform and engage parents, for
four years, in order to change these perceptions.
Senator Champagne: That is it, precisely: perhaps parents are not
entirely aware of all the options their children have. Perhaps the most
important thing we can do is to arouse their curiosity and interest in order to
make the life of a university student, and then the life of a university
graduate, seem as pleasant and productive as possible.
Mr. Rowen: Without getting into a discussion about the Quebec
curriculum, as it is constantly changing, the program in Verdun has faced this
with the kids. We know that that community is very challenging. The question is
about creating a different peer culture.
We have seen this problem that you mentioned about the summer jobs and funds,
although not necessarily with summer jobs; for example, young people in gangs in
Toronto neighbourhoods can make not hundreds but thousands of dollars, which is
a great temptation. The dollars in the pocket is of course a great temptation.
We find that it needs to have a different culture. The former head of the
Regent Park Community Health Centre, Carolyn Acker, used to call it building a
positive gang and a gang that says that this is what the standard of success is
now. It is not having the faster car and the nicer clothes or whatever; it is
about being part of a culture where everyone is able to be successful.
It is not a mystery to the kids in that this will mean deferring some of that
gratification. On the other hand, when they feel that confidence of their peers
and others — in this case, staff or volunteers as adults or mentors who came
from the same background and who are able to be those role models — to be able
to say to each other that this is possible for them, they will like what they
did when they were actually exposed to something different. The next part of the
problem is how we ensure that they can access those things, such as Mr.
Haldane's internships or other opportunities, to see themselves as successful?
There is a wonderful story about a young woman who had grown up in Regent
Park. She was from South Asia. She actually had an internship as part of
specialty mentoring that we provided at the University of Toronto. She came home
one day and said that she had touched a brain. This stimulated her. She
graduated from the University of Toronto last year and is currently in medical
school. This is someone who did not have anyone in her family who had any
exposure to post-secondary education, but she received support from peers and
from a program such as ours — we could find other examples — from folks who are
closer to her age. I used to say to my own children that the only reason I have
adult friends is so they have someone to talk to that is not me. They need to
An HRDC study many years ago talked about a constant adult presence. Someone
needs to be there, many people, a variety of people present who can constantly,
with the support of other students in their peer environment, say that the
standard is now to succeed in these ways, not in the ways they are used to and
not in the ways that gave them the summer job or the gang money. It is
challenging, but that is what they need to be able to experience themselves as
successful in these settings that they did not think were for them.
Mr. Haldane: To build on that, I had mentioned earlier that one of the
opportunities is to actually connect with young people where they already are,
so the summer jobs that you described is part of that.
Certain employers tend to hire many young people. The YMCA is one of them,
but so is McDonald's, for example. One of the thoughts I had as we were talking
about this was how do we work with those employers of young people to create a
different vision of what their future might be? I do not think we can leave it
necessarily to some of the fast-food companies to do so directly. However, with
some support, there could be ways in which we could do that.
We have a program in Toronto called the Toronto Sport Leadership Program that
takes young people from some of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods and provides
them with training to get their lifeguard certification or their camp councillor
certification. It gives them an alternative to what they might otherwise do, and
it is a way of connecting with young people in their first employment
opportunities to create a vision of what is possible and what they should be
thinking about for long-term employment.
Mr. Dumont: To answer your question, two things are extremely
important. I think it is a question of culture. All sectors of society must
participate in this culture shift where knowledge is becoming increasingly
important. In order for students to not feel abandoned and left to their own
devices, we also have to set up mentorship programs. Targeted and sporadic
interventions will not work. What will work is constant attention from
university students who will mentor newcomers over several years and maintain
their interest in their courses and in their development. I think that is the
fundamental thing: we have to change the culture and implement long-term
Senator Callbeck: Thank you for coming and for your presentations.
Mr. Voyer, I have two books here that you passed out, BC AVID Pilot
Project and Future to Discover. Were they totally financed by the
Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation?
Mr. Voyer: Yes.
Senator Callbeck: How long have they been in existence?
Heather Smith Fowler, Senior Research Associate, Social Research and
Demonstration Corporation: Since 2004.
Senator Callbeck: What is happening now that the foundation has closed
Mr. Voyer: We are completing the studies. Some funds were set aside to
complete the studies, so we will be finalizing the reports.
Senator Callbeck: How long will the funding keep you going?
Mr. Voyer: Basically, it is contract-driven, so we have to complete
things with the funding that we have available. The implementation phase is
usually the most costly, and the implementation costs have already been
incurred, so now finishing the research is where most of the costs are involved.
Senator Callbeck: You talked about financial programs for students.
Did I understand you to say that you felt they were adequate?
Mr. Voyer: As a country, Canada certainly has a system of financial
aid that is accessible to all. Whether we can change it to make it more generous
I was alluding to the fact that a good policy was already in place.
Senator Callbeck: You indicated that we should structure financial aid
to make it more appealing. What do you mean by that?
Mr. Voyer: Again, a variety of systems are in place in Canada. I
recall when I was a student in Quebec, and until recently, we had to apply for a
loan to receive a grant. If you were basically interested in a subsidy, you had
to apply for a loan; it was conditional.
I was suggesting that for people who do not want a loan, it may not be a good
way to present available support. The offer is not being framed adequately for
this minority of students who may suffer from loan aversion. We see some loan
aversion in all groups, by the way, low-income and high-income groups.
If you have an aversion to loans and you come from a high-income family, that
may not be an issue because dad and mom will pay. However, if you are from a
low-income family, it could be an issue.
Senator Callbeck: Dr. Dumont, you talked about tax incentives. Have
you statistics to show that they work?
Mr. Dumont: No. We have no evidence to show that tax incentives work.
The provincial government provided fiscal aid to businesses to train people. I
think it could work if we provide that for youth.
What I said in the report is that we need to have pilot projects targeting
companies who are the least interested in helping youth, for example, large
pharmaceutical companies or oil and gas companies. In fact, this is the type of
company that hesitates in investing over the long term.
We could develop a three-to-five-year pilot program to see whether tax breaks
would interest these companies in partnering up in existing projects. If we ask
them to start up new projects, and leave them to their own devices, they will
just say that this is not their role. However, if we provide support, I think it
will be worthwhile to start up such pilot projects.
Senator Callbeck: Mr. Rowen, you talked about Pathways to Education.
You said that the business community is providing 80 per cent of the funds?
Mr. Rowen: No, the business community provides approximately 60 per
cent. Of the funds to date, about 20 per cent has been provided by the Province
of Ontario. Their funding has been upwards of 30 per cent in some years.
Going forward over the next four years, our projections are that the federal
contribution — assuming the budget passes, and we can negotiate an agreement —
will be 20 per cent of those funds. Approximately another 20 to 25 per cent will
be from provincial governments. The balance will be from private funding sources
— corporations, foundations and individuals.
Senator Callbeck: Is Pathways community-based?
Mr. Rowen: Yes.
Senator Callbeck: Mr. Haldane, you talked about non-financial
barriers. You say that young people and their parents are not receiving the
information they need in a way that they can understand and relate to. What can
the federal government do about this? We hear this time and time again. I would
like to hear all of your views on this.
Mr. Haldane: One thing I suggest is that the federal government
support the voluntary organizations that have a national scope and add this
dimension to the programs they already deliver. We interact with these young
people all the time. In addition to the focused efforts made through an
organization such as Pathways, which I totally support and feel is an important
investment, inclusion of those messages, that information, into the connections
already in place with young people is a cost-effective way to spread the word
and to support young people and their families.
In many cases, young people do not think about this — it is not on their
radar — or they would dismiss it quickly if they did. The federal government
could offer support by having someone work with young people who they trust in
their communities to reinforce that post-secondary education is possible and
inform them of how they can go about it.
Mr. Voyer: This is a key question. It does not apply only to this
field; it applies as well to labour market information, for instance. To have
the information of a label does not mean the person consumes the information.
Looking at means to have people consume, understand and integrate information is
the big task. Zillions of things can be tried, such as peer support, social
marketing campaigns and delivering information in a format more appealing to
youth. A couple of our interventions allow us to test new approaches.
However, at this time, I suggest that we need to do more testing and quickly
because this is the key problem. A great deal of money is already spent on
information that is not used as we want it to be used.
Senator Merchant: Thank you to all of you for the information.
I think Mr. Dumont said that we have to motivate young people. I find that
many young people simply do not know what they want to do. Even if they come
from families where parents are educated, there may simply be too many fields
that make it difficult to know what to do.
For example, I talked to two priests in Saskatchewan a couple of weeks ago.
They were born in Eastern Europe. These two gentlemen knew each other in their
community. They both left home without any prodding from their parents at the
age of 14 because they knew they wanted to go to Rome to study to become
priests. This is daunting because the priesthood is a field that not everyone
wants to go into, but somehow they were inspired to follow that path. They told
me that they cannot understand young people today who are in their 20s and even
their 30s who say that they do not know what to do. Those two men knew the
priesthood was what they wanted to do. They are now priests, and they came to
I know people whose parents are educated and are already in post-secondary
education. They still do not know what they want to do. What can we do to help
people beyond financial aid and the other measure that we have discussed?
A few years ago, I recall that we complained that too many people went into
disciplines for their own personal satisfaction knowing that no possibility of
employment in those fields would be available at the end of the line when they
received their degrees. That frustrated people because they had invested money
and personal capital to attain a degree or a PhD and then could not find
employment because too many people were in that particular field.
Is it a good thing to try to steer people toward a choice where they will
find employment? If they can find employment today does that guarantee that, by
the time they finish, the employment opportunity will still exist? It is
confusing world for people today.
Mr. Rowen: I believe there is a great deal of confusion, and our
history of labour market forecasting by occupation has been abysmal over many
decades. I remember studying it when I was in graduate school almost 40 years
The challenge I have for those you are talking about is exposure to actual
occupations that they try to picture themselves doing. Literature around
post-secondary education talks about the concept of validation, the notion that
a student — whether in high school, college or university — is able to say, "I
That is part of what many low-income, Aboriginal or first-generation kids do
not feel, that they belong in the institutions the way we have designed them.
The same thing applies to labour markets.
Following up on what Mr. Haldane said, Pathways has developed over time. We
need to do better and more. We need to work with those donors and corporations
that give us a great deal of funding, to be able to give these kids exposure to
jobs and occupations that they would not normally have otherwise.
The kids in Regent Park, Lawrence Heights and the Pinecrest-Queensway area
know how to work at Tim Hortons and MacDonald's and the local record store, HMV.
They know how to do that. However, they do not know how to go into Stikeman
Elliott LLP, RBC Dexia Investment Services or Ernst & Young LLP, to pursue these
other types of opportunities that they otherwise would not have had without the
intervention. These are the primary labour markets rather than what we used to
call secondary labour markets.
These kids need exposure, particularly kids who live in homogeneously poor
environments where they have not had any. It is not their fault. Their parents
and relatives are not in those environments where they could have exposure to
that, and we need to broaden those opportunities. That would help.
Mr. Haldane: My son has chosen a career in the theatre business, so I
know all about balancing between following your dreams and keeping your options
open. That is what I tried to tell him. He is making a go of it — he has not
needed any money yet. He works with the Soulpepper Theatre Company, actually.
Basically, follow your dreams. You have to have the passion, but you have to
keep your options open to find a job.
The YMCA is the largest operator of the Job Connect program — or Employment
Ontario as it is now called — in Ontario. We have sites across the province
where we are working with young people to provide the support to make the
decisions that you are talking about. Most young people are facing some sort of
barrier to access and retention in the labour market.
We have found two important factors — and this would echo what Mr. Rowen
said. First, an adult role model other than their parents can be significant.
Even if the parents are in the picture, having an adult role model who is not a
parent is an important link. Much research indicates that that is a determining
factor in positive outcomes for young people.
The second piece is job placement; that is, having an opportunity through an
internship or a job placement, a subsidized employment opportunity or a summer
job. Nothing teaches you more than having a really bad job. Mine was a
combination of bartender and caretaker at a curling club. Having that bad job
experience is an important learning process. Those are the things that we have
found to be important ingredients in helping young people. It is not new to this
generation. It is more confusing and complex than it was before, but many people
do not make up their minds about what they want to do until their 20s and 30s.
Mr. Dumont: This is very important. I think we have to give them as
many opportunities as possible in order to expose them to various careers. It
takes years to choose a career. I do not think you can ask a student in high
school to decide what he is going to do for the rest of his life. Very rarely do
we ever see youths who already know that they want to be geologists. Our work is
to identify youths who think they might want to be geologists and to put them in
touch with a research team so that these young people can develop their interest
for the field and perhaps even start thinking about doing a master's or a
doctorate. But for most youths, the important thing is to give them as many
opportunities as possible and to encourage them to ask questions.
When we question young people at the end of the summer camp that we hold
every year, they often say that they know what they do not want to do, that they
do want to go to university, but in this field rather than that field. And we
try to keep track of them in order to ask them the following year whether their
thinking is still the same. The important thing is to keep their minds open.
Youths are not necessarily concerned with having the highest paid job they can
possibly have. What they are interested in is discovering, exposing themselves
to various experiences, which hopefully will validate their choice.
Senator Cordy: I want to thank you for being here and for the work you
are doing in post-secondary education. As a former teacher, I always value the
importance of people who are promoting education, so I thank you for that.
One of you commented that students have jobs with fast-food companies that do
not necessarily do something. There was a business owner of a Dairy Queen
franchise in Dartmouth who was wonderful. He was wonderful because for all of
the students who worked for him, if they were planning on post-secondary
education, he would set aside so much for every hour they worked, and then when
they started at whatever institution after high school, he would give them that
amount of money. It was a great thing for him to do.
I am interested in Pathways to Education. I was also at Regent Park, and we
met with people involved in the program who were amazing young men and sold the
program for us. I am delighted that the program is starting in Spryfield in
Halifax. I was delighted to read about that a while ago in the newspaper because
I was familiar with the program and the success rate.
As the chair said earlier, the community-based programs seem to be the ones
that work best, and we have wonderful volunteers in the communities doing
I will ask both my questions at the same time. The first one is related to
Pathways to Education. I know that a business person in Halifax made a
substantial donation to get the program in our city. How does a community go
about getting Pathways to Education in their community?
My second question has to do with working with families. You cannot talk
about post-secondary education when the student is in Grade 11 or Grade 12, it
must be nurtured, I believe, all along. We look at things such as first-
generation students whose parents have not been to PSE, and the challenges and
fears that they and particularly their parents face taking on debt and what that
will mean at the end of their studies. A number of you mentioned the lack of
knowledge of the advantages that having an education can provide.
One of the determinants of dropping out of school is families living in
poverty and the lack of early support; that is understandable. You also
mentioned summer jobs, but if you are from a middle- or upper-income family, you
can talk to your friends who may own a business, who are hiring summer students.
Those who are disadvantaged do not have a similar network to provide summer
How do we work with families early on to promote post-secondary education?
How do people get Pathways to work for them in their community?
Mr. Rowen: Let me answer that question about getting Pathways, and
then others probably have as much to say about the broader question.
Pathways to Education Canada is an organization that does not deliver
programs. It is there to help support all the different community programs. Each
of the Pathways programs is delivered by a local agency. It is the local agency
that people trust. Chebucto Communities Development Association, CCDA, in
Spryfield, wanted to do the program. They talked to us over a period of time.
That has been true for every community. I cannot think of one where it has taken
less than a couple of years. They would go through the application process:
demonstrate the need of the community — the very high dropout rate and low
post-secondary participation; define, over a period of time, the community
geographically; demonstrate the capacity as an organization to do it; and
demonstrate the capacity within the broader community to do it.
That takes place as a process of community engagement of over a period of one
year or so. They are just finishing up in Winnipeg, in Spryfield and in
Kingston. That is roughly the process. As an agency embedded in the community,
they would be the vehicle to deliver the program. We would provide both
financial and program support as well as a great deal of mentoring of staff over
a long period of time.
Senator Cordy: You are the guide and the helpful partner, is that
Mr. Rowen: Exactly. It has always been a community organization
initiating with us, which works best.
Others can talk about the range of supports that people need early in a
general sense, but we are talking about building within communities the social
capital — that is not to say that human capital is not important — that allows a
community to say that there is support for young people to develop in healthy
ways from early years programs right through.
Carolyn Acker used to say that she was not that a Pathways program could
exist in a community that has not engaged the community and demonstrated it
through adopting an early years program. There are several points of strategic
intervention, and that is an important one; and the transition to high school
and post-secondary education is another. If we look to the old National
Children's Agenda, we could find these things, but it takes the breadth of
community support, of which Pathways would be just one element of that breadth.
Mr. Haldane: The YMCA is a major provider of child care across the
country. We have been experimenting with building this into the national child
care YMCA Playing to Learn curriculum. We are building post-secondary access
conversations into the child care curriculum and working with parents at a very
early stage to start thinking about this possibility.
I do not know whether the committee has had exposure to Martin Connell, who
is a philanthropist in Toronto. He has been working on the issue of access to
RESP accounts. A significant problem exists in some areas with the application
to set up an RESP account. Some organizations are intercepting low-income
families in their neighbourhoods and charging a fee for what should be a free
service through the banks. We believe this is something you cannot start too
early. We can make many interventions at the early childhood level so that
families think about this in their children's early years. By the time a student
reaches the end of high school, it is challenging to implant this vision into
the minds of families.
Mr. Dumont: Interaction with families is not easy. Some youths who
join various parts of the project are already taking an interest in university.
When they come to participate in activities, the parents have already been
advised, and they must give their consent. This part is for the young people who
are already aware of the facts.
Some parents call us to ask us whether they can register their child in one
of the activities of this project. When we approach families with lower incomes,
whose parents have had no post-secondary schooling, we have to go through
parents' committees in high schools where we run the parts of our project that
target those young people who take less interest in university and who are
potential drop-outs. Parents' committees are informed of what we can offer to
raise the young people's awareness.
I am quite aware of the fact that we must attract companies to participate in
this social commitment to mobilizing young people. We must call upon those
parents who have had no schooling. They are not easy to approach. They do not
trust us because they do not trust educated people. The parents who are in a
school environment are much more likely to make the connection.
Once the connection has been well established, I think that this could spread
to different parts of society, but all this is a question of time and of
visibility for the organizations that do this work and it is also a question of
reputation. Over the years, we end up managing to break through almost every
point of resistance at various levels. I see that parents are beginning to know
about us, and they call upon us without necessarily going through the schools.
The Chair: I thank the witnesses for their contributions today that
have provided the committee with a wealth of information. I wish them good luck
in their continued efforts with their respective programs and projects.