Evidence of meeting #32 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was students.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • James Knight  President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Community Colleges
  • Nobina Robinson  Chief Executive Officer, Polytechnics Canada
  • Herb O'Heron  Director, Research and Policy Analysis Division, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
  • Ken Doyle  Director, Policy, Polytechnics Canada

4:55 p.m.

Director, Research and Policy Analysis Division, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Herb O'Heron

To start, part of this is really through the kinds of co-op and internship programs we have. As I mentioned at the outset, most of our programs have community and labour market advisers and private sector international advisers on the curriculum. So we're already connected, whether it's with the high-tech sector or other sectors, and can ask what the needs in the economy are. What are the needs in the local area? What needs are not being met? There's a lot of interplay between them at an institutional level.

What we do at a national level is work with groups of employers to identify needs at a broader level so that we can share that kind of information.

5 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Community Colleges

James Knight

I'd like to add a comment from our sector. I mentioned applied research partnerships with small and medium enterprises. One of the most exciting things I did last year was go to the Algonquin College applied research day. I saw all these employer-student relationships and the things they'd done together. It was very powerful. Those relationships end up very often in employment. That's another dimension, in addition to the comments here.

I want to say a word, if I might, about your comment on the slow rise in trades training and certificates. I don't think we market it well. I think our language is all wrong. It's class-based. Parents don't want their kids to become tradespersons. They want them to become professionals.

We need to look very carefully at our bizarre, ancient, antiquated language. I think Mrs. Robinson made these comments. I've been working very hard to find new words for our institutions to use in this area. Some have begun to do it, but I have to say that pushback from the unions, for example, is quite strong, which mystifies me.

We need new language. A master craftsman is a very different thing from a skilled tradesperson or a journeyman, whatever the hell that is.

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Your time is up. You've made very interesting points, for sure.

We'll move to Ms. Hughes.

April 2nd, 2012 / 5 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Well, since you're still on the apprenticeship piece, I'll touch base on that.

Mr. O'Heron, you talked about the lack of on-the-job training. I'm looking here at a press release from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. They did a press release on pieces of the budget, and one of the things they talked about was the direct support for skills development in the workplace and in Canada's college and apprenticeship systems. They are recognizing that as well.

Ms. Robinson, you've also talked about this. I'm just trying to get a sense of it, because even in my riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.... I just met with a gentleman a few weeks ago. He went to school three times after he lost his job, and every time, he was asked if he had experience, whether the job was driving a truck.... I can't remember the other two he did, but they were big enough. He had gone back to school to relearn, and people were asking for experience, which he didn't have.

Some of the people who do take on apprentices are telling us that once they have them in training, it's hard to let them go finish school, because the businesses are in dire need of workers. Could you talk about that a bit and about what you could find as a solution? There used to be a time when there were a lot of apprenticeships, but they haven't been as frequent.

5 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Polytechnics Canada

Nobina Robinson

With your permission, I might ask for Mr. Doyle's help. At the end of the day, when you say apprenticeship in Canada, you're talking about 52 red seal trades, such as, for example, pipefitters and machinists of some kind. There should be that model of learning for most of the needs of industry.

If you look at Germany, you can be an apprentice banker. We have reserved this model of learning for the elites in this country. Doctors and surgeons get the residency approach, but we haven't done that across the board for all the technical, vocational, and professional learning. That, I think, is the bigger philosophical piece. The “earn while you learn” model is not there across our post-secondary system. It is in very specific, narrow issues in apprenticeship.

Now I'll ask Ken Doyleto address some other aspects of the apprenticeship issue, including something that's flawed in the data.

5 p.m.

Director, Policy, Polytechnics Canada

Ken Doyle

On your specific question about how somebody with no background in the trade would be hired on by an employer to begin the apprenticeship process, Conestoga College in Kitchener--Waterloo has a fantastic program that takes high school students and gives them a first year of training—sort of theoretical background—in a trade. It equips them with the fundamental skills to try to find employers to take them on as apprentices. That helps get through the level-one, level-two part of it. The employers like it because they get apprentices with at least some foundational simulated workplace training to get those hours in to get to the next level, and so forth. They've found that quite productive.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

I want to go with that, because there are some students and people out there who don't have the literacy skills. I have met with a few organizations. I met with the Excellence in Literacy Foundation this week. The whole thing is that not everybody has that capacity, yet they can fill jobs where there are skills shortages because they're more hands-on people.

I wonder if you can maybe elaborate on that or give us your ideas on what to do. Obviously there are people falling through the cracks, so what can we do to help them move forward?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Policy, Polytechnics Canada

Ken Doyle

Every college in the country offers a variety of essential literacy skills upgrading programs, but there's one very interesting initiative of the SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary. They know that all the students have smartphones, iPads, and BlackBerries. As part of the trades training for those students—I believe it's in the heavy equipment technician program—they teach the lesson module and it's filmed at the same time. Then it's turned into a little YouTube video that the students can refer to on their bus ride to the classroom, and what not, whenever they need a refresher. They always have that. So it's complementary to textbook and theoretical teaching, but it's actually on their devices in the video. It helps reinforce all they've learned through the actual in-class training.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Thank you.

If you feel like jumping in, just raise your hand.

You talked about labour market information. We had other witnesses who questioned the COPS information, because it basically indicates there are not a lot of shortages in certain areas. But it's not really regional, because there may be a regional deficiency in one area, but it kind of balances the other one.

I wonder how you actually use your labour market information and where you get it from. How do you work with large resource or manufacturing companies to plan for multi-year projects with long timelines, such as shipbuilding that will last decades, and some skilled trades are retiring while the project is still going on? In my area there's the Ring of Fire that's coming forward.

Do you work with sector councils to determine the job needs of the future? Could you elaborate on that? What could we do better in order to decipher that? I know you've touched base on some of that.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

There is a lot in there, but go ahead.

5:05 p.m.

Director, Research and Policy Analysis Division, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Herb O'Heron

As programs like new shipbuilding come up, and as we work with the aerospace industry or others, there's a constant dialogue. We brought people in from Pratt & Whitney to speak with MPs back in January. Pratt & Whitney has relationships with 30 or more institutions right across the country. They talk about the kinds of skills they need and the kind of research they rely on universities to do so they can do their thing. There is a great deal of sharing of information across those larger kinds of institutions—whether it's shipbuilding, aerospace, or others—around what the future needs will be for their industries to thrive in a more competitive world. So there's an awful lot of dialogue that goes on between individual universities and groups of institutions.

I see a lot more consortia of institutions where not just one or two universities can help the aerospace industry; they need 30 institutions working together on different aspects to solve the problems of the future. It's that kind of sharing and interaction between institutions at both the local and regional areas that's so important for us right now.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

So—

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Excuse me; your time is up.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mrs. Robinson wants to just jump in there. Sorry.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Okay, go ahead.