Ontario’s 2019 budget, released on April 11, contains a few announcements relevant to the adult education and training sector.
Several efforts mentioned in the budget are directed at the automotive sector in response to the shutting down of GM’s Oshawa plant. While these efforts are specific to that sector, I think they signal how the province plans to deal with training in general.
The province’s Driving Prosperity strategy is built on three pillars – a competitive business climate, innovation, and talent. The talent ‘pillar’ is made up of :
- Promote careers in advanced manufacturing
- Leverage industry input
- Enhance and raise awareness of existing employment and training programs
- Strengthen and formalize Ontario’s technical education pathways
For the automotive sector, the province plans to:
- Develop a talent roadmap and skills inventory;
- Launch a micro‐credentials pilot to help the unemployed and at‐risk workers gain skills to succeed;
- Create new internships and other experiential learning opportunities;
- Establish an online learning and training portal focused on manufacturing skills; and
- Increase funding for AVIN’s TalentEdge program to support internships and fellowships for research on connected and autonomous vehicles.
The concept of micro-credentials appears again under the proposed review of the Second Career program, which provides up to $28,000 for training, where the province intends to launch a micro-credentials pilot.
Micro-credentials, or as they are called in some jurisdictions, badges, “are most frequently online representations of proficiency in a particular skill or competency.” Micro-credentials lend themselves to short, specific training sessions not necessarily based in time and are seen as an alternative to more formal, time-based programs.
British Columbia’s Decoda Literacy Solutions developed a series of badges for practitioner and learner credentials. An infographic on its webpage explains how they work.https://www.decoda.ca/literacy-in-bc/badges/digital-badges-infographic/. Bow Valley College in Calgary introduced micro-credentials through its Pivot-Ed program https://bowvalleycollege.ca/teaching-and-research/pivot-ed/introducing-pivot-ed. Learning Agents’ Don Presant has promoted the use of online badges for years and hosts an online platform for tracking badges. http://www.learningagents.ca/raconteur/services/openbadges/
The concept is particularly useful for shorter training programs and for prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR). Micro-credentials can build a pathway towards full credentials.
However, the notion of micro-credentials shows up in proposed changes to how apprenticeship will work in the province. The province had previously announced the winding down of the College of Trades which regulates apprenticeship. Budget 2019 contains initiatives to “modernize” the apprenticeship system. One initiative caught my eye:
“Part of this modernization approach includes a new flexible framework to enable training and certification in a full trade or in a portable skill set, which would allow training and certification within and between trades.”
This immediately brought to mind BC’s experiment in modularizing its apprenticeship system back in 2003. A report by the BC Federation of Labour based on Statistics Canada data found, among other points, that:
- Overall apprenticeship completion rates have declined compared to a decade ago and relative to other jurisdictions.
- Lower average rates of completion for trades that are compulsory in other jurisdictions suggest that the absence of compulsory trade certification in BC decreases the motivation for apprentices to complete.
- Certification in Red Seal trades has declined significantly in BC, from 84% in the 2001 to 2004 period to 65% in the 2011 to 2014 period. This decline is greater than that experienced in the rest of Canada and suggests fewer tradespeople in BC are completing the full Red Seal certification since implementation.
These findings were echoed by the BC Chamber of Commerce which outlined some ‘unintended consequences” promoting the Chamber to recommend that the provincial government:
- Should discontinue certification of modular in training; and
- Should realign with the certification practices of the rest of Canada accompanied by using a clear framework for the review of trades with an effective compliance and enforcement policy, based on evidence-based analysis and input from industry.
One can only hope that Ontario checks in with BC about its experiences.
Another budget item of interest was the announcement of a review of training and employment support programs (191). The review will also look at supports to employers to invest in their own employees’ training. Efforts will also be made to enhance the labour market information website including improved connections to the government of Canada site.
Changes will also take place in service delivery. A new competitive process is planned for selecting service providers. As well social assistance employment services will be integrated with the Employment Ontario network. These changes are likely to be disruptive to service delivery if the last modernizing process is any example. On a positive note, the budget states that wraparound supports will be provided to social assistance recipients.
Enhancements to the Ontario Immigrant Nomination Program will aim the program towards reflecting labour market needs, including those of the technology sector. Efforts will also be made to bring immigrants to smaller communities.
The budget outlines the province’s dissatisfaction with the federal Labour Market Development Agreement (LMDA) arguing that it does not receive its fair share of that agreement compared to its population. It also criticizes the recent federal budget for not addressing barriers in accessing EI benefits and training.
Budget 2019 includes several education elements. A ‘back to basics’ approach for elementary school education is proposed with a focus on ‘memorization’. The introduction to a pay for performance scheme for post-secondary education institutions is also outlined. For an in-depth analysis of the pay for performance scheme I recommend reading Alex Usher’s blog http://higheredstrategy.com/blog/.
The budget makes no mention of literacy and is short on specifics for adult training. The budget for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities appears to be forecasted for 2019-20 at about $1 billion less.
 Harvey, David. “Make way for micro-credentials.” Canadian HR Reporter. March 1, 2018. https://www.hrreporter.com/article/36126-make-way-for-micro-credentials/
 BC Federation of Labour. BC’s (Not So) Great Apprenticeship Training Experiment: A Decade Reconsidered. November 2017.
 BC Chamber of Commerce. “Improving Apprenticeship Completion Rates (2018)”. http://www.bcchamber.org/policies/improving-apprenticeship-completion-rates-2018