2015 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review
Chapter I: Building Ontario Up — Progress for Prosperity

Section D: Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce

The government is investing in people to help them gain the education and skills they require to flourish in the province’s evolving economy. This strategy also serves businesses that need skilled workers to grow and succeed. Since the 2015 Budget, the Province has allocated more than $80 million in funding for 2,901 new licensed child care spaces as part of the government’s commitment to invest $120 million over three years to create more child care spaces. Also, it announced plans to establish a new campus for York University in partnership with Seneca College, and launched the Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Ontario’s greatest strengths are its people’s talents and skills, which give the province a strong foundation to prosper in the knowledge-based economy.

Ontario’s publicly funded primary and secondary education system is recognized as one of the best in the world. Through the implementation of Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario, the Province continues to progress towards an increasingly innovative, creative and entrepreneurial system.

The government’s investments have produced significant gains, including a higher postsecondary attainment rate than all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Ontario is also pursuing a policy of differentiation to ensure that each postsecondary institution concentrates on its demonstrated strengths and specializations to offer students the best possible learning experience, and continues to review the university funding formula to better focus on outcomes and data.

In addition, the Province is investing in employment and skills development opportunities and building a modern and cohesive employment and training services network, to help workers adapt to a technologically advanced and rapidly changing economy.

2015 Budget: Building Ontario Up

Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education

The 2015 Budget outlined the Province’s continued commitment to implement its renewed vision for education by focusing on four key goals: achieving excellence, ensuring equity, promoting well-being, and enhancing confidence in the publicly funded education system. The plan includes a focus on 21st century teaching and learning skills, and improving math achievement.

Part of this commitment includes modernizing and building a child care and early years system by:

  • Increasing access to licensed child care by investing $120 million over three years to create 4,000 more licensed child care spaces in schools; and
  • Modernizing the legislative and regulatory framework for child care by implementing the Child Care Modernization Act, 2014.

In addition, the government has built on its commitment to create opportunities for students by:

  • Expanding the Specialist High Skills Major and Dual Credit programs; and
  • Announcing the launch of Experience Ontario to help recent high school graduates choose their career direction and postsecondary education pathway.

Postsecondary Education

Building on previous achievements in the postsecondary education system, the government committed to:

  • Reforming the postsecondary education system funding model, starting with the university sector, to ensure quality and sustainability;
  • Expanding online learning opportunities and credit transfers through eCampus Ontario and the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer, to give students flexibility to access courses whenever and wherever works best for them; and
  • Investing an additional $5 million through the Postsecondary Education Fund for Aboriginal Learners to ensure that high-quality postsecondary education and training remain accessible to Aboriginal youth through the province’s nine Aboriginal institutes.

The Province also announced plans to increase support for students and modernize the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

Employment and Skills Development Opportunities

The 2015 Budget announced a renewal of the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy by:

  • Investing $250 million over two years to help up to 150,000 youth with employment and skills development opportunities; and
  • Enriching a comprehensive suite of programs and services that are tailored to the individual needs of youth.

As part of the Canada–Ontario Job Grant, the Province introduced two employer-driven skills training pilot programs to investigate new ways of working with employers to provide flexible, short-term training: the Customized Training pilot and the UpSkill pilot. These pilots will help employers support their employees to develop the skills they need in their jobs.

The Province also announced $55 million in additional multi-year support for the apprenticeship system.

To support the success of the Ontario College of Trades, and based on the feedback of skilled tradespeople themselves, Ontario appointed former Secretary of Cabinet and Head of the Ontario Public Service Tony Dean in 2014 to provide recommendations on ways to improve key areas of the college’s activities and decision-making processes.

Progress since the 2015 Budget

Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education

Since the 2015 Budget, Ontario has:

  • Allocated more than $80 million in funding for 2,901 new licensed child care spaces in communities across Ontario. This is part of the government’s commitment to invest $120 million over the next three years to create approximately 4,000 new licensed child care spaces.
  • Commenced the implementation of the Child Care Modernization Act, 2014, which became law on August 31, 2015, further strengthening oversight of the province’s unlicensed and licensed child care sector and increasing access to licensed child care options for families.
  • Expanded the Specialist High Skills Major and Dual Credit programs, helping an additional 2,000 and 600 students, respectively, turn their passions into career opportunities.
  • Launched Experience Ontario, a two-year, $20 million pilot program that will help up to 600 high school students starting in year one to identify and work towards their future goals.

Postsecondary Education

Since the 2015 Budget, the Province has:

  • Concluded consultations on university funding reform in September. The consultations will help guide development of a new funding model focused on quality outcomes, while increasing transparency and ensuring sustainability.
  • Announced plans to establish a York University—Markham Centre campus in partnership with Seneca College for about 4,000 students, so more students can attend postsecondary education closer to home. A second call for proposals will be released in 2016 to meet the growing demand in Peel and Halton Regions.
  • Launched the Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises at Wilfrid Laurier University to help bolster Ontario’s emerging technology sector. The institute will teach students management skills and provide development and networking opportunities that will help innovative technology startups become globally competitive companies. The Province is investing $15 million over 10 years to support the institute.
  • Launched eCampus Ontario (formerly known as Ontario Online), which will bring the best of technology-enabled learning to students. In its first phase, ecampusontario.ca is hosting over 13,000 online courses and work is underway to allow students to customize their online learning experience.

Postsecondary students in the 2015–16 school year are benefiting from the government’s actions to modernize OSAP, which include:

  • Indexing the Ontario maximum student aid levels annually to inflation, starting with the 2015–16 school year;
  • Exempting student earnings when they are studying, allowing students to keep more of their part-time earnings;
  • Launching the Ontario Student Loan Rehabilitation Program, a new initiative to allow past borrowers who defaulted on the Ontario portion of their student loan to bring their loan back into good standing through scheduled partial payments;
  • Indexing the debt cap to inflation, ensuring that OSAP remains sustainable in the long term (repayable debt will remain at 60 per cent of the maximum loan support available to students); and
  • Eliminating the requirement for students to report their vehicle as an asset for OSAP assessment, allowing students to keep their vehicles.

Employment and Skills Development Opportunities

As part of the renewed Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy, Ontario launched Youth Job Connection in October to provide intensive support and training to young people facing multiple barriers to employment. The Province is investing more than $160 million over two years in Youth Job Connection to help over 27,000 young people.

This year, Mr. Dean submitted his report on the Ontario College of Trades to the government. The Province has reviewed the report and will move forward with its recommendations.

Going Forward

Ontario is continuing to strengthen its education and training system by partnering with businesses, primary, secondary and postsecondary institutions, and labour. Some examples include:

  • Youth Job Link will be available, starting in the spring of 2016, to all youth, including students, to help them access job search resources and information to assist them in transitioning to the labour market, including summer employment opportunities.
  • This fall, Ontario is launching the new Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation, which will ensure the delivery of employment and training services is informed by evidence of what works, for whom and in what context.
  • Pilot Local Employment Planning Councils will be established in December 2015 in eight communities across Ontario: Durham, Peel-Halton, Windsor, London-Middlesex-Oxford, Ottawa, Peterborough, Timmins and Thunder Bay. These councils will help address gaps in local labour market information, facilitate more informed career decision-making, and build local workforce planning capacity at the community level among employers, service providers and community groups.