We are excited to share the results of a sectoral study on the economic impact of career colleges in Ontario conducted by the Higher Education Strategy Associates earlier this year. The study sheds light on the indisputable value that career colleges bring to our province’s economic wellbeing by looking not only at its own economic footprint, but also the economic impact of its graduates. Given the vast changes that our economic landscape has undergone since the last study was conducted in 2012 – including the challenges presented by an aging workforce and exacerbated, in turn, by a global pandemic – it’s high time to zero-in on the indispensable nature of career colleges in bridging labour supply with dire labour demand. The Ontario Economic Impact Study does just that. It delves into the various facets of career colleges across the province by relying on available data sourced directly from the government of Ontario, various federal public sources, and Career Colleges Ontario demographic data.
In a comprehensive analysis, the report examines and concisely summarizes:
It then examines the sector’s economic footprint, accounts for the proportion of career colleges’ budgets which ultimately derive from public assistance to career college students, and projects how Ontario’s finances might be different if, hypothetically, career colleges ceased to exist (Spoiler Alert: it would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars!).
Given the exorbitant provincial demand for skilled labour, the findings contained within this study should be of interest not only to the career college sector, post-secondary education advocates or policymakers, but to every Ontario resident concerned about the future of our province. Among some of the most noteworthy of the study’s findings are jaw-dropping statistics pointing towards the undeniable fact that a solution for this gap in labour supply and labour demand cannot be reached without a laser sharp focus on the role career colleges play in bridging skilled labour with provincial workforce needs by producing qualified graduates. For instance, the graduation rate of career college students has been found to be considerably higher than that of its counterparts, with an impressive 80% of these graduates going on to find employment shortly thereafter.
The above-mentioned success rate among graduates can be attributed to a variety of reasons : the student profile, the flexibility of program offerings or the emphasis placed on hands-on learning in each program. As you peruse the report, you will note that career colleges serve a very distinct type of student population.
With these statistics in mind, it becomes clear that the average career college student comes to college with a specific career path in mind and oftentimes with underlying training or vast professional experience. For these students, attending a career college was a path they chose from existing education into the job market. These factors certainly contribute to the distinctively purpose-driven mindset career college students have, and quite possibly stand as some of the many explanations behind the high program completion, graduation and success rates they enjoy.
When it comes to addressing the match between occupations for which career colleges train students and labour market demand, the report highlights the roughly 900 diverse programs offered. Their most common programs prepare students for occupations in which future prospects have the best possible rating according to Employment and Social Development Canada. In the healthcare sector for instance, job vacancies increased by 60% between 2019 and 2021, with a well-publicized shortage of Personal Support Workers (PSW) province-wide. Career colleges answered the province’s call and now proudly produce 80% of Ontario’s PSWs, which stands as a clear testament to the sector’s unique ability to pivot and adapt to evolving economic challenges.
Throughout the report, it becomes crystal clear that the key contribution of career colleges to the Ontario economy lies in the training they provide and the purpose-driven students they attract. We’re excited to share these findings with you and look forward to the many ways our sector’s contributions will continue to fuel provincial economic development in its capacity as a bridge to Ontario’s workforce.