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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

4:50 p.m.

Director, Policy, Polytechnics Canada

Ken Doyle

Yes. I believe the threshold for accessing a student loan or financial support for a college or university student is 12 weeks of a program. Most apprenticeship programs for the in-class training are only eight weeks, so they are given the option of going on EI, but that amount of money doesn't meet the financial obligations they've accrued over the year. The income drop-off and the lag to get the EI cheque are strong impediments for them to drop out and remain unskilled.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

But it goes beyond trades training too. It goes into other diploma programs that are able to receive EI benefits.

4:50 p.m.

Director, Policy, Polytechnics Canada

Ken Doyle

And giving the apprentice the option of either EI or a student loan would be a fine compromise.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

We've had an elongated four seconds, but we'll move to Mr. Daniel.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, gentlemen, ladies.

Just following on the apprenticeship thing, I come from the U.K., and the U.K. apprenticeship programs are quite long. They're three or four years. They're paid apprenticeships. Does that compare with anything we do here in terms of apprenticeships?

4:50 p.m.

Director, Policy, Polytechnics Canada

Ken Doyle

Yes. Our apprenticeships are paid, so 80% of the training is done on the job, paid, and then 20% is go back to the classroom and learn to get to your next level.

I've recently read a study that compared 20 different variables of all the European countries and their apprenticeship training systems. What was quite remarkable was that the average age of an apprentice in Europe is around 17, whereas in Canada it's 28. So they clearly value apprenticeship and the skilled trades at a higher level earlier on, and they're available for more occupations than in Canada.

I think it even comes down to the nomenclature. In Canada apprentices who get their ticket are known as journey-persons, whereas in Europe they're considered master craftsmen. An analogy to hockey would be a journeyman hockey player is a third-line player--ten different teams, ten different seasons--whereas a master player is on the cover of a video game, and children want to buy his jersey.

So even something as simple as that might improve our completion rates in Canada and have parents and students appreciate the value of the skilled trades.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

How long is the actual apprenticeship training program?

4:55 p.m.

Director, Policy, Polytechnics Canada

Ken Doyle

The 52 red seal programs vary between two and four years, and most take four to six years to complete.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. O'Heron, you spoke passionately about all the data you've collected, etc. What is stopping you from publishing all that?

4:55 p.m.

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

Herb O'Heron

We do publish it. We do put out all these kinds of studies. A lot of data is available.

The kinds of information we have in the documents that are on the disks are shared with the public. They're online, so we do make this as available as possible to the public.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

So the complaint is nobody is looking at it.

4:55 p.m.

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

Herb O'Heron

No, it wasn't my complaint at this stage. What I'm saying is we try to put it in accessible forms. A document that is 80 or 100 pages long, which you need for an analytical study of these things, is not accessible to the normal high school student.

Part of the reason we put out these one-page brochures or two-page front-and-back brochures is to put the information in a much more concise, more user-friendly format, so guidance counsellors and others.... We have orders from guidance counsellors for hundreds and hundreds of the “Value of a Degree” brochure, to look at some very concise information and a source to go to, to get more if you need it.

Part of what we're trying to do as universities is say that this is a role we can play. We can try to take the data that is available, as good or bad as it is, and make sure that it's as accessible to different forms of the public as possible.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Turning to your slides, the second slide shows the increase in the volume of degrees, etc., but it shows that the trade certificates haven't increased much or proportionally. Can you talk a bit about why that may be? From what we're hearing in this committee from the mining sector in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and places like that, a huge number of trade skills are needed for them to complete all their work.

4:55 p.m.

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

Herb O'Heron

One of the things we've done in this publication, or in the series of slides that are available to you, is do the same kinds of slides by province. So you can see that while there are employment increases for tradespeople in Alberta, and a little more in Alberta than in most other provinces, the rate of growth for people with university and college degrees is far more rapid.

The Alberta economy is creating jobs for everyone. It's a very hot economy. If you look across and if you look at either the proportional change or even the change in numbers of people, that's why these data are important. It's not just jobs for tradespeople. There are jobs for them. As my colleagues would say, in looking at the data it gives us the numbers of people who got the jobs, not the number of people who would have had jobs if there had been more of them. So that's a bit of a concern.

But when I look at the data underneath that and look at wage rates and the other people who are then filling those jobs, I don't see the kind of dire statistic that we hear about around shortages in some of the occupations, so I'm trying to understand some of that data myself.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

How do the institutions you represent help connect these students with potential employers? My question is for everybody.

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 Conservative 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 NDP 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 NDP 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 NDP 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 Conservative Ed Komarnicki

There is a lot in there, but go ahead.