Originally appeared on the Huffington Post in April 2015.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's recent announcement of $55 million in new funding for apprenticeship training in Ontario highlights an important shift in the province's approach to post-secondary education.
While people usually associate higher education with college and university, it isn't always well understood that apprenticeship is also a key part of the post-secondary landscape.
The Wynne government is to be applauded for emphasizing the importance of apprenticeship programs, particularly as Ontario strives to produce a more qualified and highly trained workforce for the skilled trades and other sectors.
There were a number of significant elements in the Premier's announcement. For example, the province has committed funding towards new equipment and technology upgrades to ensure apprentices get training that is aligned with innovations in the workplace.
The province is also committed to boosting participation levels among groups that are traditionally underrepresented in apprenticeship training.
New funding has been announced to encourage greater numbers of Aboriginal Peoples, at-risk youth, women and newcomers to Canada to pursue skills training. The funding will allow people in these groups to participate for free in pre-apprenticeship programs; and to have access to free textbooks, tools and safety equipment.
Ontario's colleges certainly recognize the importance of the enhanced support for apprenticeship training.
Colleges provide about 90 per cent of the in-class portion of apprenticeship programs. In our meetings with employers and others, we continue to hear about the shortage of skilled people in key areas and the need to help more people acquire the advanced skills that lead to meaningful careers.
"Producing a more highly skilled workforce will create a significant boost to the province's economy," said David Agnew, the president of Seneca College and chair of Colleges Ontario, in response to the government's announcement.
It is clear that strengthening apprenticeship training and investing in people's talents and skills are priorities for the Wynne government.
Certainly, there are further steps that will be needed to build on the government's funding commitments. For example, colleges will want to work with government, businesses and others to explore new ways to promote apprenticeship training and to ensure more people know how to enter apprenticeship programs.
There is also work that can be done to help greater numbers of people in apprenticeship training to successfully complete their programs.
Nonetheless, Ontario's commitment to post-secondary education has taken a meaningful step forward with this new emphasis on apprenticeship training.
Similar to the successes seen in other jurisdictions, the Wynne government's focus on apprenticeship training will help more people find rewarding careers and will promote economic growth throughout the province.