2014 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review
Chapter I: Building Opportunity, Securing Our Future

Section B: Investing in People’s Talents and Skills

Ontario’s Skilled Workforce Is a Key Competitive Advantage

One of Ontario’s greatest strengths is its people’s talents and skills. By investing in them today, the Province continues to enhance its ability to meet the demands of the evolving economy and nurture its highly skilled and adaptive workforce. Investing in skills will help foster a dynamic economy, stimulate innovation and increase prosperity for all Ontarians.

The Province is focusing on its greatest asset by strengthening its world-class education system through Achieving Excellence, a new vision that will take public education in Ontario to the next level. The government is also partnering with stakeholders to create innovative programs that support Ontario’s families and youth; building on its solid employment and skills training network to maximize labour market participation; and investing in the retention and recruitment of skilled professionals who provide care for some of society’s most vulnerable.

Some of Ontario’s recent initiatives have included:

  • Completing the rollout of full-day kindergarten and investing in child care modernization so that every child has the best start in life;
  • Providing the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant, which helped over 230,000 students start college or university last year;
  • Extending the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy, giving more young people the chance to gain a foothold in the job market. This strategy is on track to create 30,000 job opportunities, including more than 23,000 placements to date under the Youth Employment Fund;
  • Signing Strategic Mandate Agreements with all 45 publicly assisted universities and colleges, which will help guide future growth by encouraging more focus on unique strengths, while avoiding or limiting expansion in academic areas where programs already exist to meet demand; and
  • Investing $150 million over three years in technology and learning tools such as digital tablets, software and professional development for teachers to further advance Ontario’s high-performing education system.

Building on Previous Achievements

The 2014 test scores from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) provide evidence that Ontario students continue making progress. On average, 72 per cent of all Grade 3 and 6 students are meeting or exceeding provincial literacy and numeracy standards — an increase of one percentage point compared to 2012–13 levels and 18 percentage points compared to 2002–03. The government is continuing to strengthen students’ math skills by:

  • Investing $4 million to support workshops for teachers and principals as well as Additional Qualification courses to provide new learning supports in mathematics for educators;
  • Supporting Homework Help, a live, interactive online math resource, which provides free, real-time math tutoring to students in Grades 7 to 10 in all English-language school boards;
  • In French-language school boards across the province, providing, through SOS DEVOIRS, one-on-one student support and interactive online resources in math as well as in a variety of other subjects; and
  • Awarding more than 2,200 Parents Reaching Out (PRO) Grants during the 2014–15 school year to help school councils identify local barriers to parent engagement and find solutions to get more parents involved in their children’s education at home and school, particularly in math.

Investing in Early Career Experience

The government is helping high school students reach their full potential by making it easier for them to find their career passion and develop the skills they need for jobs in the 21st century. Compared to a decade ago, 75 per cent of high school students are now graduating in four years, up from 56 per cent, and 83 per cent of students now graduate in five years, an increase of 15 percentage points. Investing in these graduates’ early career experience helps them achieve excellence, a key goal of Ontario’s renewed vision for education.

Ontario’s Specialist High Skills Majors Program

The Province is enhancing its Specialist High Skills Majors program to help more high school students find their career passion and obtain the skills and knowledge they need for the global economy. This innovative program allows students to choose a specific sector, such as health care or aerospace, and develop essential knowledge and skills to better prepare them for life after high school. As of the fall of 2014, more than 44,000 students will be enrolled in 1,685 programs, an increase of 2,000 students and 125 programs compared to the 2013–14 school year.

Experience Ontario

Through partnerships with communities and private-sector businesses, the government will also be launching Experience Ontario, a nine-month paid community work and service program that allows high school graduates to gain valuable work experience before they enrol in postsecondary education or choose their career path. In 2015, the first rollout of Experience Ontario will offer students new opportunities for experiential learning. Led by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, it will also support participants with better and more accessible information on career options and training pathways as they go on to apprenticeship, paid employment or postsecondary education.

Advancing Postsecondary Education

Ontario has increased funding to postsecondary education by 83 per cent over the past 10 years and has made postsecondary education more accessible by providing more than $1 billion in grants and loans to students, including the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant. These investments have helped Ontario maintain a higher share of adults (aged 25–64) with completed postsecondary education than  any country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2013, 66 per cent of adults had a postsecondary credential, up from 56 per cent in 2002, positioning Ontario to meet or exceed its target of a 70 per cent attainment rate by 2020.

To increase the value Ontarians receive from the significant investment they make in colleges and universities, the government will work with postsecondary education partners to find ways to more meaningfully link public funds to specific outcomes.

Key Postsecondary Education Achievements

  • Compared to 2002–03, there are over 170,000 more full-time students eligible for funding at Ontario colleges and universities, an increase of 43 per cent.
  • Sixty-six per cent of adults (aged 25–64) had a postsecondary credential in 2013, up from 56 per cent in 2002 and a higher share than in any country in the OECD.
  • In 2013–14, over 230,000 undergraduate students received the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant, with most students who receive it paying less in net tuition than a decade ago.

The Province continues to strengthen Ontario’s postsecondary education through a number of initiatives that will help transform the postsecondary system. Most recently, the government and all 45 universities and colleges signed Strategic Mandate Agreements that will help these institutions build on their unique strengths, avoid unnecessary duplication and guide future growth.

In January 2014, the government also committed $42 million over three years to establish Ontario Online, a Centre of Excellence for online learning that will give students access to flexible courses and greater control over how, when and where they learn. This innovative initiative will offer high-quality online courses that are recognized for credit across many of Ontario’s colleges and universities. To date, over 100 online courses have been developed, with more to follow in the coming year. The next step is to launch a web portal that creates one-window access to online university and college courses across the province, with course offerings starting in the fall of 2015.

Supporting Partnerships, Creating Jobs

The government is committed to working with its community partners and private-sector businesses to create new opportunities for Ontario’s youth. The Province is also partnering with colleges and universities to create innovative programs that would help students find jobs and young entrepreneurs gain business skills, mentorship opportunities and work experience to start and grow a business.

Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy

Ontario has made significant progress on the implementation of the $295 million Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy announced in the 2013 Budget.

A key element of the strategy, the Ontario Youth Employment Fund, has already helped more than 23,000 young people gain work experience and find jobs since its launch in September 2013. Together with the Youth Entrepreneurship Fund, Youth Innovation Fund and Youth Skills Connections Fund, the strategy is on track to create 30,000 mentorship and job opportunities for today’s youth.

On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities and Campus-Linked Accelerators

As part of the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy, the government is partnering with colleges and universities to foster student entrepreneurship and help young people develop the skills they need to launch rewarding careers. The Province is providing $5 million over two years to the On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEA) program and $20 million over two years to the Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLA) program to help students develop entrepreneurial skills and transfer academic expertise and knowledge to the marketplace. Today, almost all postsecondary institutions across Ontario have on-campus entrepreneurship programs. These platforms help connect Ontario’s young entrepreneurs with the tools, experience and business supports they need to develop skills and take their business ideas to the next level.

Examples of On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEA) and Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLA) at work:

  • The University of Toronto is establishing a central Office of Entrepreneurship to strengthen on-campus entrepreneurship activities and further build ties with the regional innovation ecosystem. It plans to expand its entrepreneurship programs to accommodate increased demand for on-campus accelerators.
  • The University of Windsor’s EPICentre will support job creation and economic development opportunities by encouraging on-campus entrepreneurship and innovation, with strong ties to entrepreneurial mentors.
  • Seneca College is launching the Health Entrepreneurship and Lifestyle Innovation Xchange (HELIX). A youth entrepreneurship initiative, HELIX is an opportunity for students and community youth to develop entrepreneurial skills.
  • Conestoga College’s Entrepreneurship@Conestoga helps students explore entrepreneurship as a career option and develop their entrepreneurial skills. The Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) Catalyst will support entrepreneurs in advanced manufacturing and related trades.

Magnet

The Province is helping university and college students find good jobs by investing almost $1.2 million to expand Magnet, an innovative career-networking platform that helps match employers with qualified students and graduates. The government has already helped expand Magnet to 18 colleges and universities across the province.

Founded in partnership with Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, this leading-edge technology fills a need by helping people find work, gathering labour market information, and linking opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses. To date, more than 25,000 job seekers have created profiles through Magnet, generating over 40,000 invitations for job seekers and employers to connect.

Improving Skills Training

Ontario’s Integrated Employment and Training System

Ontario invests over $1 billion annually in employment, training and labour market programs and services through Employment Ontario, which serves more than one million Ontarians.

To make it easier for Ontarians to access these services, the Province is continuing to move forward with government-wide modernization and integration of employment and training programs with Employment Ontario. This will better support Ontario’s most vulnerable, including those receiving social assistance, people with disabilities, long-term unemployed individuals, Aboriginal peoples, new Canadians and at-risk youth.

To ensure success, the Province will improve the coordination and integration of its employment and training system by:

  • Developing a comprehensive Labour Market Information Strategy to improve access to high-quality labour market information. This will make it easier for job seekers, students and their families to make informed decisions about their education, training and careers;
  • Piloting Local Employment Planning Councils, the next generation of local boards, to promote place-based approaches to support the workforce and generate and analyze local labour market information. These councils will connect employers, different levels of government, service providers, trainers and other local partners;
  • Launching employer-driven skills training pilot programs and testing different ways of partnering with employers to address gaps in skills training;
  • Putting in place a common assessment framework to make sure individuals in search of training or employment get the supports they need to access the right services; and
  • Establishing a new Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation that will drive innovation and evidence-based service delivery across the province.

CanadaOntario Job Grant

In March 2014, the Province signed the Canada–Ontario Job Fund Agreement (COJFA) with the federal government. This agreement provides a key source of funding for initiatives like the Canada–Ontario Job Grant to encourage more employers to train employees. As of September 26, 2014, the Province began accepting employer applications for the Canada–Ontario Job Grant, which will help meet the needs of businesses of all sizes, industries and regions.

This program provides up to $15,000 per person for training costs, such as tuition and training materials, including up to $10,000 in government contributions. Although the new agreement is a good step towards supporting those who are attached to the workforce, there is a critical need for funding to support skills development for the most vulnerable. The federal government has not come far enough to address this critical need. Any funding gap potentially creates pressures and could direct funding away from support for vulnerable workers in Ontario.

Canada–Ontario Job Grant-Funded Skills Training Pilots

As part of the Canada–Ontario Job Grant program, the Province introduced two new employer-driven skills training pilots. These pilots will test different ways of working with employers to provide short-term, flexible training. They include the:

  • Customized Training pilot, which will provide support for firm-specific training solutions; and
  • UpSkill pilot, which will support essential and technical skills training tailored to specific sectors and targeted for potentially vulnerable workers in low- and medium-skilled occupations.

Promoting the Skilled Trades

Ontario’s well-qualified skilled trades are fundamental to ensuring continued growth in key sectors. That is why the Province created the Ontario College of Trades, which protects the public by regulating and promoting the skilled trades.

To support the success of the College, Ontario appointed former Secretary of Cabinet and Head of the Ontario Public Service, Tony Dean, to review key areas of Ontario’s skilled trades system that fall within the mandate of the Ontario College of Trades.

Mr. Dean will review issues related to the scopes of practice — or type of work performed in a trade — as well as the trade classification review process, which determines whether certification to practise a trade should be compulsory or voluntary. The trade classification review process will be paused during Mr. Dean's work. The College will continue to fulfil its mandate while this work is underway.

Mr. Dean will consult with stakeholders and receive support from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the College of Trades, but will function independently of both. The appointment began in October 2014 and will continue for one calendar year. Mr. Dean will then deliver his report to the College of Trades and the ministry. The College will have the opportunity to review his findings and implement key recommendations.