On Thursday June 23, 2016, the Ontario government announced that they are considering mandatory work experience programs for all high school, college and university students.
The highly skilled workforce expert panel set up last December to develop an integrated strategy to better link the education system with the future job needs of the province’s economy, released its final report.
The Building the Workforce of Tomorrow: A Shared Responsibility report makes several recommendations on how the province can build on its world-class skills, education and training systems to prepare Ontario’s current and future workforce for the technology—and knowledge-based jobs of today and tomorrow.
The report’s key recommendation is to establish a better partnerships between educators and employers. This includes that all students get “experiential learning” or work co-op placements. Moreover, the report recommends as a first step, that the Ontario government commit to ensure that every student has at least one experiential learning opportunity by the end of secondary school (in addition to the existing volunteer requirements). The the government should also commit to ensure that every student has at least one experiential learning opportunity by the time they graduate from post-secondary education. To support this recommendation, the government should fund more placements (for students in all disciplines including liberal arts) in the growth sectors identified by the Planning and Partnership Table.
The Planning and Partnership Table is recommended as a formal, institutionalized body responsible for driving change and developing actionable solutions related to skills, talent development and experiential learning opportunities. The report suggest that the PPT should not be a government-driven body but rather a mechanism in which all partners are invested and action is their primary concern.
In addition, the panel also suggested,
- that educators and employers need better information on the labour market. This would include a better system to collect local data from employers.
- that the PPT directly engage employers and their associations to address the barriers and challenges faced with hiring people with disabilities.
- that the PPT build culturally competent, safe and inclusive workplaces.
The panel’s recommendations were welcomed by the Ontario government.
Premier Kathleen Wynne stated to the Canadian Press, “I completely support this recommendation because I believe that young people need to have experiential learning opportunities, both in the elementary and secondary panels, and in the post-secondary education panel.”
The panel will use the remainder of its mandate to work with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development and other ministries to develop projects that will implement recommendations in the report.
Rationale for work-experience programs
Work experience are intended to help prepare students for the transition from various levels of educational institutions to the world of work or further education and training. Work experience provides students with an opportunity to apply classroom learning in a context outside of school and to bring back to the classroom new perspectives about their learning. Work experience also provides students with the chance to gain new skills that can be used in future work opportunities.
Through work experience, students also have the opportunity to observe and practice employable skills required in the workplace, as well as technical and applied skills relating to specific occupations or industries.