Career Colleges Ontario (CCO) represents a vast network of over 280 regulated career college campuses across Ontario. These colleges have been integral to Ontario’s post-secondary education and workforce development, providing timely, affordable education that equips learners with practical, job-ready skills.
We share the Canadian government’s aim to bring stability to the educational system and we eagerly embrace the opportunity to engage with both the federal and provincial governments in the endeavor to strengthen the international student system fostering trust, security, and the well-being of Canadian communities. This approach, grounded in the imperative of aligning immigration programs with the needs of our current and future labor force, aligns harmoniously with our objectives.
However, we are deeply concerned about the government’s focus on graduate-level international students as the preferred candidates for entry, especially when Canada is currently facing a significant labor shortage in skilled work. There is an urgent demand for skilled workers in crucial sectors such as health care, technology, and construction, areas in which career colleges excel.
Furthermore, we take issue with the unjust characterization of career colleges as the primary conduits of international students. According to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), only a small fraction of study permit applications is for career colleges. The majority of our member institutions do not depend heavily on international student tuition or public funding. Instead, they focus on training domestic students for roles in critical sectors, thus meeting the critical and essential needs of the Canadian workforce. According to IRCC, less than 10 per cent of study permit applications are for regulated career colleges. We echo our federal counterpart (National Association of Career Colleges) in their call to see more data to show exactly where the problems lie, in an evidence-based approach.
It is equally concerning that the policy fails to differentiate between responsible institutions, and bad actors. Defamatory remarks comparing all career colleges to “Puppy Mills” or disparagingly alluding to our colleges as ones that operate above “massage parlours” proliferates misinformation about our sector, but more importantly, it discriminates against and demeans career college students who take pride in the quality education they chose to pursue at our institutions.
CCO members have always prioritized student wellbeing, and will continue to do so. Last year, our institutions came together to unanimously approve a Standards of Practice that formalizes this commitment to prioritizing both domestic and international students’ success. We are committed to ensuring that each student has the resources and tools available to thrive both in and outside of the classroom, and we look forward to working with our governments to achieve this across the post-secondary education system.