In a series of comments made last week, the Government of Ontario has indicated that it wants to move forward with creating mandatory work-integrated learning for secondary and postsecondary students. This policy would mean that every high school, college, and university student would be required to complete some form of work-integrated learning before receiving their diploma or degree. The proposal was a key recommendation of the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel, released on June 23, 2016.
New Minister of Advanced Education and Skills (formerly Training, Colleges, and Universities) Deb Matthews said the following in Queen’s Park Briefing (subscription required):
“We definitely need better, more timely and regionally specific labour market data, and that’s a real starting point for us. We know for sure, anecdotally, from employers that they’re having trouble finding people to fill certain jobs, and so identifying where those gaps are and quantifying it is a big first step. But we’re not going to wait to get all that information before we move forward on implementing the recommendation.”
There is as yet no timeline – or cost estimate – for implementing the mandatory work-integrated learning policy. Critics are nonetheless cautioning that it will be expensive. Andrew Langille, who has been vocal on the mandatory co-op proposal, said in QP Briefing:
“To ensure high-quality, sustainable placements, there needs to be some level of funding, and for every student, that would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of billions of extra dollars injected into the system…that’s not going to happen.”
OCUFA will be monitoring the development of the mandatory work-integrated learning policy closely, and will be meeting with Minister Matthews in the coming weeks to discuss the government’s plans. OCUFA is particularly interested to learn how the government plans to cope with the persistent problem of co-op unemployment already present in the system; how equity in placement quality between different programs and credentials will be ensured; and how the potential impact on the labour market of introducing thousands of student workers will be managed.