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

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Good afternoon. I'd like to call the meeting to order.

I want to advise committee members that we have one panel today, so I propose that after the panellists present we have seven minutes per round of questions. We will continue to go straight through, but will break off about 10 or 15 minutes early, depending on questions. There's one remark Ms. Hughes would like to make about committee business, so we'll take that into account and then perhaps adjourn.

I'd like to welcome James Knight, from the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. I gather you'll be presenting first.

Representing Polytechnics Canada we have Nobina Robinson, chief executive officer—welcome—and Ken Doyle, director of policy. Thanks for coming. You'll present next.

Then we'll have, from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Herb O'Heron, director, and Greg Fergus, director of public affairs. You will be giving a slide presentation, I understand, and we'll have a look at that.

The plan is for each of you to present, and at the conclusion each party will ask questions about your presentations or matters of interest to them.

We'll start with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and Mr. Knight.

3:35 p.m.

James Knight President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Community Colleges

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for your invitation to appear before you today.

We're very pleased to be here, and we commend you for undertaking this study.

The study has two points of focus. The first is fixing the skills gap. The second seems to be about dealing with shortages in areas of low-skilled jobs. Our work and our mandate is to lift people who don't have skills into the skilled category, so I'm going to talk more about the first component of your study and less about the second.

We are the voice of Canada's publicly funded colleges, CEGEPs, university colleges, and polytechnics. We share membership with Polytechnics Canada, represented here today. We have 150 participating institutions, which have a remarkable 1,000 campuses in all parts of Canada.

Canada faces two realities that I think drive this study. The first is that in our knowledge-based economy, the workplace is increasingly laden with technology. As I like to say, in this BlackBerry there is more computing technology than was aboard Apollo 13. It completely stuns me, but I understand it to be true.

Entry-level positions in virtually every sector require sophisticated knowledge of complex systems: 70% of new jobs now require a post-secondary credential. We believe this number will increase toward 80%. Currently our post-secondary achievement rate is 60%, so clearly we have a gap.

The second reality is that Canada has a debilitating demographic deficit. We are a rapidly aging population. I can testify to that personally. An exodus from the labour market of mammoth proportions is under way as millions of baby boomers retire. In 2011 the first baby boomer became 65.

We think of immigration as a solution to our problem. It is a part of the solution, but it is a small part. Even with immigration, Canada's labour market participation rate will drop from somewhere above 60% to the 40% range. I don't want to be specific, but it's an enormous drop in labour market participation. This figure has vast implications.

To some extent, the current shortage in advanced skills has been masked by the slow recovery and growth since the 2008 recession. Nevertheless, industry leaders are expressing profound concern about skills and labour shortages.

Recently The Globe and Mail reported that two-thirds of Canadian corporate executives surveyed are having difficulty finding qualified employees. One-third report that the labour shortage is so severe it is preventing their companies from growing as quickly as they otherwise would.

Just two weeks ago, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce released the top ten barriers to competitiveness. It identified Canada's human capital crisis as the highest priority—the highest priority—for 2012.

I can give you some numbers, although you've probably heard many of these. The construction sector is anticipating a need for 325,000 skilled people by 2019. The ICT sector forecasts a need for 106,000 analysts, technicians, and consultants by 2017. The mining industry will need 65,000 operators and primary production managers.

We say—and this is the big statement, I think—that unless something changes, within ten years employers will not find qualified candidates for 1.5 million available jobs across all sectors. It could be somewhat less, it could be somewhat more, but this is a reasonable and scientific number.

Currently almost 2.2 million Canadians between 25 and 64 years of age do not have a high school diploma, and 40% of adults struggle with low literacy. Colleges are very much part of the answer. Colleges provide upgrading programs that will enable adults to gain a high school diploma and transition to post-secondary programs.

Colleges, institutes, polytechnics, and CEGEPs excel at providing accessible, cost-effective post-secondary education and lifelong learning—critically important. They possess a unique ability to nurture the marginalized through to graduation and employment.

Despite the sluggish economy, upwards of 90% of college students find employment within six months of graduation. We are very good at placing our graduates into the economy and into solid jobs.

We are very focused on providing adult upgrading and essential skills development for marginalized learners. We have very strong partnerships with employers to ensure that programs are responsive to the skills requirements of the labour market.

Reading the minutes of your earlier meetings, with their strong focus on labour market data, we agree that there is a need at the national level. We work at that ourselves in community environments by maintaining very tight and close relationships with local employers to forecast needs and meet current demands.

Essential skills development, also referenced in your last meeting, is a very important dimension for placement experiences. It's particularly effective at providing marginalized people with transferable skills for employment. In that process, students see real-world applications to what they are learning. Modest investments in upgrading essentials skills such as document comprehension, critical thinking, and problem solving can yield significant gains in productivity.

Budget 2012 highlighted the importance of linking skills upgrading to the delivery of income assistance for first nations on-reserve students. This model could have broader application.

To give a little more detail on our work with the private sector, college program advisory committees, comprising local employers, develop and update curricula to ensure that college graduates have the leading-edge knowledge and the practical skills required by employers. Strong employer partnerships also enable colleges to provide students with work placements and internships, a key approach to ensuring that graduates are job-ready. As I mentioned, we are very effective at that outcome.

We also do a great deal of applied research. We are primarily an SME economy. In fact, 98% of Canadian enterprises are SMEs, and colleges work closely with them on their applied research needs. I think that's an important college contribution, which the Government of Canada has begun to support.

Increased immigration is part of the solution to the skills challenges. We do play an integral role in supporting the integration of immigrants to the labour market. In fact, our association has a close relationship with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to enable federal skilled workers to meet foreign credential requirements more efficiently through pre-departure orientation and referral services, through the Canadian immigrant integration program. To date we've served 22,000 clients. This is federal skilled workers with their credentials to leave for Canada; before they leave, we have programs to help them hit the ground running and find employment quickly.

These are, in a very highly summarized fashion, the mitigating strategies and the contributions that our institutions can make, but the challenges we face are of very large proportions. What we must do, as a country, to come to grips with these very large issues is reach out to traditionally marginalized populations, including aboriginal peoples, the disabled, poor immigrants, disengaged young men, which is a very important category, and long-term welfare-dependent families, in order to lift them into the economic mainstream through education.

A highly skilled workforce that exploits the talents of every Canadian is our only path to jobs and to a sustainable economy. In other words, the people we need to drive our economy forward already live here, in the main, and we must ensure that they all have the tools to participate in our economy. Those tools are derived through education.

So how do we lift significantly the participation rate in post-secondary education? If I had all of the answers, I would be Solomon. I am not Solomon.

I don't know what the answers are, but I know this problem is of such proportion that we need every order of government, every sector—private sector and civil society. We need an enormous national focus on this problem, without which our economy will lose several ranks in terms of per capita income, and that will happen quickly. The federal government certainly must be an important player at the table.

Mitigating strategies are being adopted. There are changes on immigration, and HRSDC is doing many things, but we must do much more. We must take this challenge on as a grand national enterprise. It's something like taking on the trans-Canadian railway to the Pacific as a national challenge. It's something like engaging in a war, where all assets of society are focused on the same outcome. This is how big our problem is. There have been 1.5 million empty jobs in ten years because we don't have the qualified people.

I wish you every success in learning from other witnesses and dreaming big about what needs to be done, because what needs to be done is huge.

I will leave you with one small thought about one possible remedy. It's a small thought and it somewhat runs against the grain and is perhaps politically unacceptable. Within Canada's social transfer is just under $4 billion for post-secondary education. If the crisis of skills becomes so serious as to blunt the growth of our economy—frankly, it's already happening—the Government of Canada may wish to attach some strings and expect some outcomes from this transfer in the same way we expect certain outcomes with respect to wait times with the health accord. Your government may wish to attach some expectations in terms of provincial, educational, and post-secondary contributions.

I have to tell you that in some jurisdictions, despite the skill shortage, provincial governments are reducing their investment in post-secondary education. This is the last thing that should happen, given our technological sophistication and technological dependency of the workplace, and given our enormous demographic deficit.

I look forward to discussing these issues with you. To initiate a dialogue, we plan to do two things. The first is that we're hosting the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics in Halifax, in May. And in 2013 we plan to launch a national discussion through a big event in Ottawa on these issues.

Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Chair.

3:45 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you for some of those thought-provoking comments. We appreciate your presentation.

We'll now move on to Nobina Robinson.

3:45 p.m.

Nobina Robinson Chief Executive Officer, Polytechnics Canada

Thank you.

Just to jump off from where Jim was, I think we are all aware that Canada ranks first overall in the OECD on the post-secondary attainment of our population. But credit is seldom given to the fact that this ranking is bolstered by the college sector. Alone, pure university attainment would put Canada at eleventh place in the OECD. So I think the broader college fact is certainly something that both Jim and I want to underline.

Thank you so much for including me here today. I'm joined by Ken Doyle, director of policy at Polytechnics Canada, who is devoting an increasing amount of his time to the understanding of the structural problems faced by apprentice learners—the tradespeople.

Both of your studies with respect to high-demand occupations and barriers to filling low-skilled jobs are most timely. Your hearings have given you the bad news: new Canadian graduates will face challenging labour market conditions for several more years.

You have repeatedly questioned witnesses about the terrible paradox that is caused by the bad news: skill shortages are occurring at a time when the employer community and key industrial sectors are lamenting the lack of talent supply. There are actually two kinds of learners caught in this paradox: the traditional youth at risk, who are currently not enrolled in any education or training, and the poorly integrated new entrant to the workforce who might be underemployed, is unable to pursue career ambitions, and is overqualified for the proverbial McJobs that are available.

My statement today will focus on your specific concerns about how to improve labour market information and how to increase labour mobility. Let me signal very quickly that my presentation will focus on some solutions to these questions--namely, the need to mobilize existing talent supply and demand data among all stakeholders, to re-examine our apprenticeship model for its structural flaws in its logic, and to understand that undergraduate education is also delivered by non-university sectors. Simpler transfers and transitions between higher-education institutions will increase the supply of highly qualified skilled professionals for high-demand occupations.

Our recommendations today stem from the experience of the publicly funded nine colleges, institutes of technology, and polytechnics that are members of Polytechnics Canada. As Jim has noted, we share some members in common, but not all.

Essentially a subset of the well-known community college or non-university sector, our members are located in key economic regions in Canada, and indeed in some of the areas where we are seeing the highest labour shortages. Our model of education is essentially learning by doing. We offer advanced applied education in diverse fields—technical, business, health, and trades—which involve a strong component of digital skills and science, technology, engineering, and math learning, or STEM learning.

As nine large institutes of technology, digital skills are pervasive across all of our programs, be they computer programming, business administration, or even early childhood education. This is taught at the state of practice and is always relevant to what industry needs, no matter what year of study in the program. Jim has talked about the real-world nature of this kind of learning. It's designed in partnership with employers, from the curriculum design to the co-op, internship, and work placement aspects of it.

All our members offer a full range of credentials, from apprenticeship to diplomas to four-year undergraduate degrees and post-diploma or post-graduate certificates. Let me share with you some recently verified numbers that explain the size and scope of polytechnic education in Canada, which are not well known.

Our nine members alone have 182,000 full-time students, 53,000 part-time students, and 86 stand-alone four-year bachelor degrees graduating over 2,000 degree holders for the workforce each year. Over 32,000 apprentice students and 84% of all our graduates were employed within six months of graduation regardless of the program of study.

Let me emphasize one new trend in that data set: 45% of our students have completed prior post-secondary education. In fact, 13% have come from university with a degree to complete a one-year targeted certificate to get a job.

We must acknowledge that there is a difference between university and college training in general: university graduates are hoping to get jobs; college learners expect to get jobs. As large providers of trades training, we want the committee to recognize that Canadian apprentices are working toward a career in a skilled trade, not just a job.

The college system is seeing a growing number of registered apprentices who already hold a bachelor's degree or another post-secondary credential. Pursuing a registered apprenticeship is the skilled trades equivalent of pursuing graduate or doctoral studies, and should be championed by the federal government.

That apprenticeship model requires 80% of training on the job and 20% in the classroom. One important distinction to make is that as soon as those apprentices sets foot on our campuses, our institutions consider them students, like any other post-secondary student. This has led to the growth of hybrid programs that equip them with mandated in-class training but also additional credentials such as a diploma or certificate related to business administration.

Since all apprentices are treated, for tax purposes, as employees rather than students, there is little to no accessible financial support for these learners during their training. This burden has a significant impact on mature apprentices over the age of 25, who have constant and entrenched financial obligations, such as rent and vehicle payments or pre-existing loans, making it difficult for them to leave work to come back to the classroom and often forcing them to stop short of getting their ticket.

Our first specific recommendation for the committee's consideration is that all stakeholders need to collaborate to mobilize their supply-and-demand data. Let me expand. As you are well aware from the HRSDC presentation you had, labour market data in Canada is woefully inadequate, out of date, and methodologically flawed. All Canadian colleges, as publicly funded entities, track their enrolment, pathways, graduations, and outcomes, to name only a few metrics.

Governments should enable colleges to mobilize their publicly available data to all stakeholders, be they employers, high school teachers, guidance counsellors, or parents. Good national and local labour market data systems will improve the performance of high school guidance counsellors to better assist students in making education and career choices with regard to the right math and science courses needed for post-secondary success. You would do well as a committee to look back on the many recommendations of the federal advisory panel on labour market information from May 2009.

Secondly, employers too have responsibilities. Employer demand for talent is not being adequately aggregated and shared at the national or local level. More employers need to understand the dynamism of the college sector in response to their needs. In addition, employers need to avoid credential creep: why ask for an undergraduate degree when a specialized three-year diploma would do?

Third, students of the skilled trades should be treated as integral to Canada's knowledge economy and the talent needs of Canadian industry. We encourage the government to treat apprentices as learners—not as employees—and to make available the financial supports that other post-secondary students can access. Doing so would be a first step to reformulating our understanding of professional vocational training, as the Europeans have done. Abandon the false distinction between "vocational training" and the "knowledge worker"; you can be a “knowledge worker” even with vocational training.

Fourth, treat all undergraduates equitably with regard to the industry-facing internship programs funded by the federal granting councils. I know that you have heard from Industry Canada and NSERC about the suite of supports available from the granting council industrial internship programs to all university learners. To date, college undergraduates are excluded from this. At the very least, the granting councils should open up their undergraduate industrial internships and summer employment programs to college students and graduates in order to level the playing field and increase the talent pool industry can select from.

Finally, in the absence of any formal credit recognition body or mechanism, artificial barriers are allowed to remain in place, forcing students to redo learning they've already acquired in different jurisdictions at great expense to themselves, to taxpayers, and to the Canadian economy. We need to hold the post-secondary sector accountable for credit recognition in order to enable student mobility. Doing so is a shared responsibility and a national challenge.

I look forward to discussing this further with you.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much for those passionate and direct remarks, comments, and recommendations. Certainly I think you've touched on some points that are relevant to what we are considering. Thank you very much for that.

Now we're going to move to the presentation by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

I understand that you will be doing a slide presentation as well. We're in your hands to go forward with that presentation. I might add that we've gone beyond some of our time limitations simply because the subject matter is of considerable interest and importance.

Go ahead.

3:55 p.m.

Herb O'Heron Director, Research and Policy Analysis Division, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My name is Herb O'Heron. I'm the director of research and policy analysis at the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. I'm jointed today by Greg Fergus. He's the director of public affairs at AUCC.

I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to speak here today. I will skip through some of the material that repeats a little of what my colleagues have said. I think it's really important that we do share information on trends in employment and in enrolment across our institutions. For many years AUCC—and what has been part of my role at AUCC—has been producing that kind of information and, through websites, has been making it very public for guidance counsellors.

I've put a series of brochures on the table at the back. There is a data clip for you that has all of this kind of information. The data clip contains the publication we produce, on a triennial basis, that shows trends and includes very detailed labour market and enrolment information for universities. We have been doing all we can to make sure that students, parents, and all Canadians have access to reliable information on enrolment trends across Canada, labour market trends, and employment characteristics of our graduates.

It is also very important, as Nobina has noted, to recognize that we already have the world's highest participation rate. In fact, the community college system in Canada is the largest post-secondary system in the world—far larger than that of many other countries. It's much larger in Canada, in proportional terms, than it is in the U.S. It is the university sector that is much smaller, perhaps in contradiction with how we hear that everybody should go to university.

In fact, when I look at the data trends for the number of people who have completed university and college degrees, about 30% of our population aged 25 to 34 have a university degree; about 37% of the population aged 24 to 35 have a college or a trade degree; about 25% of Canadians aged 25 to 34 have only a high-school diploma; and 7% have not completed high school. So there is a lot more room to grow.

We already have a lot of graduates. Jim was at a meeting last week in Vancouver, where we had a very formal discussion among presidents of universities and colleges about ways in which we can create better pathways, easier pathways, more flexible pathways, and streamlined pathways for university and college graduates and students to move between institutions so that we can meet the needs of the economy.

Why have we seen the kind of growth we have seen across our enrolment trends, whether it's for universities or colleges? In fact, there are more apprentices in Canada now. The number has doubled in the last decade. The number of college students has never been higher, and there has been a 50% growth in enrolment demand.

Those trends exist because of signals coming from our employers. There is a great deal of enrolment growth and a great deal of change taking place across Canada. As you look at these trends, you'll see a decline in the number of people who have high school or less employed in our economy. There has been some growth in the number of people with trade certificates—it's about 31%. The number of people employed who have university or college degrees has doubled since 1990.

Those are the signals that are going out to students and families about where the jobs are, where employment growth is, and where they and their children should go when they are looking at the kinds of education that are in demand in our economy.

The next slide really points to the types of jobs that are out there. These are professional and management occupations, and this shows the kind of growth that's taken place in those jobs for university and college graduates over the last 20 years. There have been 1.4 million new jobs for university graduates in professional and management occupations. There are another 600,000 administrative and technical support jobs for university graduates.

When we look at the changes in employment growth for college graduates, we see with the doubling of the number of jobs all kinds of job growth for college graduates in the areas of technical and clerical support, trades, and manufacturing occupations. There is huge growth.

What we see in other occupations is a tremendous decline in the proportion and the number of jobs for those who have high school or less. Those people are leaving the labour market. They're aging their way out of the labour market and being replaced by a cadre of graduates, and highly educated and skilled graduates, both from universities and from colleges.

We know these are good jobs. We know these are good jobs because the income levels of the graduates continue to rise. When we look at the income levels of—

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

I'm going to interrupt you for a moment. I've been advised that both screens are in English. One was meant to be in French and one in English. Are you able to—

4:05 p.m.

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

Herb O'Heron

Oh, I'm sorry. It was supposed to be in French. I can switch it. I can do that right away.

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

If you can switch them, I think we'll be good to go.

4:05 p.m.

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

Herb O'Heron

I'll just let you know that all of this kind of information is available for each province as well.

Now we're back to where we were.

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

That's excellent. Carry on.

4:05 p.m.

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

Herb O'Heron

I'm sorry about that.

When we look at the income levels and the fact that incomes rise with education, age, and experience in the labour market, we can see that the income levels for those with college and trade certificates are well above those with high school certificates for people of all ages. The income levels for those with university degrees are also higher and continuing to rise over time. There's a kind of matching here of labour market growth.

We've seen a huge growth in the number of people with university and college degrees, and the fact that the income premium for those graduates continues to grow shows, as Nobina mentioned, that it's not McJobs that these people are going into.

The match between the labour market supply and the labour market demand that we've seen over the last 20 years has kept things in relative balance. We've seen the premium continue to hold steady or continue to rise.

However, as Jim noted, the future is a lot different when we look at the trends that are taking place. Take the doubling of our population 65 plus and compare that to the change in the potential labour market growth—the population of those 25 to 64 growing by about 8% in the next few years and then levelling out. What do we have to do? We don't have enough people within that 25- to 64-year-old group. We need to make sure that those who are in that group have as much access to post-secondary education as possible. With education, employment rates rise. With employment rates, income levels rise as well.

So what can we do? One of the things that's most important, as we look forward, is how to not only increase access to post-secondary education but also make sure that the quality of the educational experience is as strong as possible. That way, the graduates we do have can contribute to the kind of growth and the kind of additional needs that an aging population will place on our economy and on our society.

Where will the jobs be in the next 20 years? I can't truthfully predict, as your former witnesses before this committee also told you, exactly where the jobs will be in 20 years' time, in which occupations. Many of those occupations don't exist today.

I can tell you that universities develop students, personally and professionally, so that they can adapt to changing labour market needs and changing labour market demands. It's amazing when you look at an occupation like computer programmers. About 40% of people with bachelor's degrees who are doing computer programming have a computer science degree. About 23% come from various engineering disciplines. Another 10% come from business programs. The rest come from English and geography and a whole host of other disciplines.

Why? Because they can adapt and learn on the job. They can learn at Nobina's institution and at universities, taking certificates in computer science and other areas, because they're adaptable, because they're lifelong learners. That's the kind of graduate we need to meet shifting labour market demands and occupational profiles that we cannot begin to project 20 years out.

We can look at the skill requirements of the total labour market, but within specific occupations we have a much more difficult time. This is why universities are doing all they can to enhance the quality of the undergraduate experience. A high-quality learning experience produces more engaged and productive students who, upon graduation, are going to become our next generation of lawyers, doctors, managers, scientists, social workers, leaders, and innovators. That's the kind of graduate we're looking for into the future.

Our members have developed, through their academic plans, ways to integrate their academic programs with the local community and with the private sector. Well over half of our institutions have links with the private sector and private sector advisers to update their curricula, to help institutions set enrolment targets, and to help them devise the kinds of programs that will be beneficial for their students in the decades ahead.

Universities are also working with the private sector to create far more co-op experiences. Through experiences with the private sector, communities, volunteer organizations, practicums, co-ops, internships, and field placements, students can connect their learning—they're learning while they're learning—with private sector and community-based employers.

It's really important that universities develop these things. Right now, about four in ten students have that kind of opportunity by the time they graduate. We're working with employers to make sure we can do more of that in the future.

What other kinds of things can we do here, as a committee, as we move forward? What are the things to think about in addition to what others have talked about?

Well, Canada lacks on-the-job training. Our employers don't train in the same way that other countries do, and certainly not with the same number of hours they provide in on-the-job training to their employees.

We have a lot to learn from what others are doing. PSE institutions across Canada are really quite prepared to work with employers to make sure that those kinds of on-the-job training and that kind of cooperative experience with our students is one way to increase the interaction between post-secondary institutions and the needs of the labour market.

We need to increase the participation of under-represented groups, especially aboriginal Canadians. There are about 460,000 aboriginal Canadians under the age of 20 right now. That group is a prime market. Their high school completion rates are less than half that of the rest of the population. Their university completion rates are less than a third of those of the rest of the population. There are a lot of ways to improve and increase the labour force participation rate and the university participation rates of our aboriginal Canadians, so that they too can contribute to and participate in the kinds of jobs the future holds.

Third, we need to provide more hands-on training for our students. All PSE institutions are trying to connect their students with local companies. As was mentioned earlier, about 98% of our companies are small and medium-sized enterprises that are looking for and need the kind of support that would allow them to benefit from having a university or college graduate in their place of work.

Finally, there is a lot more we can do to improve the transmission of labour market information. We have all kinds of it. We need to make sure that what we do have is as reliable as possible and that we can build on what we have and in fact share it.

I have so much labour market information that I can't begin to share with you; I can tell you the occupational profile of every type of graduate, such as social science graduates, and what occupation they work in. We need to get that kind of information out there so that employers and students see that the career paths for students in a whole array of disciplines—university or college—lead to solid career paths down the line.

I'll leave it there. I look forward to your questions.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much for that presentation. Much of what you say reinforces some of the things that we intuitively know, but it's good to hear or to hear again.

We'll start the round with Monsieur Patry.

April 2nd, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.


Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Knight, you said earlier that the postsecondary achievement rate for youth is 60%, meaning that 40% are unsuccessful.

The population is aging, but we also have to think about people who are losing their jobs. I will be speaking about Quebec, because I do not know what is going on elsewhere in Canada. There is tremendous job loss in Quebec. However, some 40- or 45-year-olds are able to continue working for another 10, 12, 15 years.

What are we doing for those people? What are we doing to help those young people who quit school or who have problems studying at the postsecondary level, so that they can learn a good trade and earn a living?

What are we doing for aboriginal people? It is all well and good to give out money, but before we resort to using immigration—I have nothing against immigrants—it would be preferable to look after ourselves first. What are we doing to help those people, in tangible terms?

4:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Community Colleges

James Knight

Thank you for the question.

Youth unemployment is a terrible problem in Canada—you've cited some statistics—especially among young men. Women are doing much better. They are more present in post-secondary institutions, especially in universities. We do have an issue with young men.

I used a phrase in my presentation referencing disaffected young men. There are many remedies available. There are upgrading programs. There are essential skills programs, as I mentioned, but they mitigate the problem only to some degree. I wish I had some magic answer to this problem. It seems to be an attitudinal issue. It seems to be fairly recent—in fact, in the past decade—and I cannot really explain why except to say that there are some remedies. My remarks focused at the very high level.

We have done some remarkable things with social marketing in this country. We have more or less ended drunk driving—not entirely, but we have hugely affected the incidents of drinking and driving. We have done remarkable things about smoking; there have been national campaigns. We have done reasonably well in fitness with the ParticipAction program.

What have we done and what are we saying to young people, especially young men, about the importance of education? Where do you see that on television? You don't see it at all. It's not something we're investing in. We can influence opinions and attitudes, and we can increase the participation of young men, but we have to engage in effective social marketing activities, and we're not doing it at all, as far as I can see.

4:15 p.m.


Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Would it be possible to develop some other type of training, sir? Not all of these young people who are experiencing problems at school are capable of becoming notaries or lawyers, they cannot all go to university or CEGEP. That is not for everyone. Some must learn a basic trade.

As was mentioned earlier, many of these people get on-the-job training in the plants. In the place where I used to work, they even installed equipment that was more modern and sophisticated. So CEGEP professors were hired and brought into the plant. It took six months to learn the job. It was a technician's job and they knew how to do it too.

Would it be possible to do a similar thing and develop skills along those lines, to reach out to the people who are experiencing difficulties and teach them the trade, so that they can work and contribute to society?

4:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Community Colleges

James Knight

Let me respond in a somewhat different way this time. I did reference the fact that some provinces are reducing their investment in post-secondary education, which I think is inappropriate at this time.

Also, we do have great regional disparities. In Quebec, in Montreal many of the CEGEPs are virtually at capacity. They're full. If you go to the Gaspésie and to Lac Saint-Jean, you will find capacity availability, but where it's needed, unfortunately, it doesn't exist. I'm not targeting Quebec here. The same is true of the institutions in Toronto. They are operating at capacity.

I remember visiting Red River College in Winnipeg when I first entered this sector. In talking with the president, I asked how things were and what were his issues. He said, “We have capacity problems”. At that time, four years ago, if you wanted to become a carpenter in Manitoba, you probably had to wait four years to get into a program.

I don't want to be seen as criticizing provinces for this, but as a country, despite our remarkably high statistics, those statistics are not high enough, given our demographic problems. Really, if we want to solve these problems, we have to provide the spaces and opportunities where students are in place.

My staff just handed me some notes about this. At Algonquin College in the fall of 2011 there were 1,010 applications for practical nursing positions. There were 126 available positions. This is an occupation where you can get employment tomorrow, yet approximately only one in nine was able to get in. These are qualified students, by the way; they're not the ones who didn't qualify. In medical radiation technology, which is another very important field with a huge demand, there were 781 applications for 25 seats.

So we have a capacity issue. We're under-investing. That's a big message for you to think about.

4:20 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Ms. Robinson, did you want to make a comment there?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Polytechnics Canada

Nobina Robinson

I would make some additional points outside of what Jim said but including what Jim said.

You, sir, were talking about the proverbial high school dropout. There's also the traditional term, “youth at risk”. There's a new acronym I would like to introduce to the committee, and it's called NEET: not employed and not in education or training. This is a new HRSDC word.

The fact is that colleges, including CEGEPs, are able to respond to those needs. That's not our bread and butter, but we can certainly do it. Those solutions have to be place-based and in the community, so community organizations play a big role.

Last week we heard about YMCA programs, mentorship, job shadowing, and showing the student or the dropout what they could do. I'll give you one specific example from out in Vancouver. There are the same challenges in many urban areas.

We have in the inner-city schools in Vancouver high dropout rates—drug-related dropouts, families, etc.—and BCIT is using rehabilitated people who'd previously had exposure to the Hells Angels to go into those high schools and say, “Come for six weeks and shadow us. Look at the kinds of things you could do.” It's called the trades discovery program, and we are getting huge success rates. No one is funding BCIT for that, not the provincial government and not the federal government. They're doing that because it is their commitment to increasing access to post-secondary.

There are myriad stories like that around the country. We need to harness that for what it says. There is good work being done.

4:20 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you, Ms. Robinson.

Your time is up, Monsieur Patry. You can perhaps pick it up on the second round, if you have more to go, but we're well over the seven minutes.

We'll go to Mr. McColeman.

4:20 p.m.


Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I want to extend my personal thanks to all of you for being here.

This is a very useful session. I've met some of you in the past through our Conservative post-secondary caucus and in our travels across the country. We've been right across the country now and have visited probably somewhere north of 30 post-secondary institutions, including many colleges, polytechnics, and universities.

Our last journey took us to Alberta, and we ended up at Olds College to start. Then we went on to Red Deer College and visited at the University of Alberta. What's unique and what I want to get comments on from all the members here is the recognition of what I think Mr. Knight was talking about and what I think was referred to by Mr. O'Heron, and that is the need for all levels of post-secondary to be working together to create those pathways and those pathway careers that haven't traditionally existed.

Let's call it what it has been. Institutions have operated in somewhat of a silo mentality in a lot of ways, and I think breaking down those barriers is one of the most encouraging things. Every time we have done these one-day tours across the country, we have come away actually very optimistic, very buoyed by the fact that the changes are happening. I compliment you all for working together on those.

Mr. Knight, you talked about us having the resources in this country and needing to do outreach to those who are marginalized and such. I think there are creative ways in which institutions working together can do this job through redeploying resources they might have been using for other things. In my view, there doesn't necessarily need to be all new funding to solve the problems or to create the new generation of institution that looks at those who are marginalized and opens its arms to them and says, “Come in and be educated and be transformed and be all those things that education can help you be”.

I want to focus on Olds College. While having a population of only about 8,000, Olds, Alberta, is unique in the way it embraces post-secondary education right from the time the student starts kindergarten. On its campus now it has incorporated its high school. When a new high school needed to be built, it was built on the Olds College campus.

With regard to the barrier to bringing in public sector money, Olds has created a theatre funded by the community. You probably know about Olds College. When I returned from Olds College, I thought, yes, that works in a community of 8,000.

How do we take the learning and the take-aways from that and apply them to breaking the barriers down? When I go to Red Deer, I see a lot of the things you've talked about, such as working with private sector and having initiatives to get out and actually do the research for the private sector SMEs that can't afford to do it. There are many good things happening across this country. It's a very exciting time, and I'm sure you're noticing that.

Given that frame of reference, what do you see as some of the things that can do that? Let's face it: the challenge will be finding new money at both the provincial and the federal level. How can we look at existing resources, redeploy them, break down barriers, and let the kids who are going into grade 9 in their community see and feel what it means to go beyond grade 12? It used to be grade 13 in my province until they did away with it a couple of years ago. What a great motivation for them to be there and for the community college to be interacting with them.

How do we do these things? I think educators and the post-secondary presidents and their management teams, their whole teams, are working on these things. We are breaking down those barriers.

Taking those thoughts, I'll throw it over to you now and ask for your views on how we can continue to keep this momentum going.

4:25 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

I think you provoked a lot of interest with the preamble to that question.

I'm not sure who wants to start. Perhaps all of you may have a comment.

4:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Community Colleges

James Knight

I know Olds College, and I know its president very well. The college has shown great leadership and great imagination.

You mentioned Red Deer College, and I would say the same for it.

I'll cite another example. They have a program to train elder-care workers, and they have the seniors residence on the campus. I mean, that's brilliant.

There are all sorts of tremendous innovations. I have the greatest respect for these institutions and the people who lead them.

I would say that Alberta is among the true leaders. It's been very well resourced and financed. In other jurisdictions they haven't been so resourced or financed and have had more challenges.

I'll cite one more example. The most exciting innovation that I can remember that really touched me was on my first visit to Red River College in Manitoba. I was with the president, and there were all these semi-trailers in the parking lot. When I mentioned that I saw that they had a program in trucking, I was told, no, they didn't have a program in trucking: “Those semi-trailers, Jim, are mobile classrooms. We truck them up to northern Canada, right up into the Indian reserves, and when they unfold we have a shop.” So this instructional capacity reached out to young aboriginal people who might be interested in the various resource industries under way in northern Manitoba—hydroelectric, forestry, mining, whatever it might be. They taught those right on site.

Believe me, I'm very excited by many of the innovations. We get together and we share them and we visit. We have presidents visiting other institutions. We bring faculty leaders together, and we have training programs for them. These ideas are shared.

I'm still worried, though, about our issues of demographics and the penetration of technology. What we're doing we have to magnify. I think that's my basic point. We have some wonderful experience to share in Canada.

By the way, we're working more closely than ever with universities on the pathways opportunity, but we really have to work hard, because our challenges are big.

That's my prime message: this is really an important area, our demographics are debilitating and disastrous, and we have to manage it better.

4:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you, Mr. Knight.

Your time is up, but I think Nobina Robinson....

Please be relatively short in your response. I know you'll have more you want to say, but perhaps you can pick it up in the other rounds.

4:30 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Polytechnics Canada

Nobina Robinson

What I wanted to come back to....

You picked Alberta. Post-secondary is a provincial jurisdiction, as you very well know. Alberta calls it a “web” of credentials, not a ladder. We have hierarchical thinking in most of this country: BA, MA, PhD. We call it a web, with any point of entry, any point of exit. You can get two-plus-two programs. You can do dual credit. You can do it in Ontario too. That's a creative model, with high school and college graduation.

Third, to answer your question on the creative ways to go, every single college program has an industry-based representative on the program advisory committee. Why aren't we harnessing what those guys know about the industry demand for a national story?