Ontario colleges will be able to offer three-year degree programs for the first time

Posted on April 12, 2022 in Education Delivery System

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TheRecord.com – News/Waterloo-Region
April 11, 2022.    By Brent Davis, Record Reporter

Province aims to address shortage of skilled workers

Kitchener — For the first time, colleges in Ontario will be able to offer three-year degree programs — along with an expanded range of four-year degree programs — as the province looks to address a shortage of skilled workers.

Speaking at Conestoga College on Monday, Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop said new programs will train people for sectors experiencing workforce shortages; positions in demand include technology workers in health care, digital, data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and process automation.

There will also be a focus on programs related to electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as infrastructure, roads and transit.

“Students will have more opportunity to gain hands-on skills through career-focused learning and work placements,” Dunlop said.

Expanded bachelor’s degree programs will bring more opportunities to students in underserved communities, she said. Students may be able to pursue a more affordable degree closer to home, and enter the workforce sooner.

The new rules increase college degree program cap limits by five per cent — 20 per cent of program activity at Institutes of Technology and Advanced Learning, including Conestoga, can now be degree programs, and 10 per cent for all other colleges.

New three-year applied degree programs must be career-oriented and distinct from university degrees; they’ll be reviewed by a quality assessment board and require the minister’s approval. The province expects new programs will be launched by fall 2023.

“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes,” said Conestoga president John Tibbits. “We’re ready to go but we have to follow this process.”

Currently, Conestoga has 4,500 students in three-year advanced diploma programs; Tibbits estimated the college could have 6,000 students in more marketable three-year degree programs 10 years from now.

“This is a historic day for post-secondary education,” said Colleges Ontario president Linda Franklin. “These changes bring true equity to our post-secondary system.”

Barb Willoughby, operations manager for the products division at ATS Automation in Cambridge, said the expanded degree programs will “strengthen the pipeline of candidates” that companies such as hers depend on.

“Our ability to grow, succeed and give back is, in part, dependent on our ability to recruit and retain skilled, passionate and engaged workers,” she said. “They are our biggest asset.”

Brent Davis is a Waterloo Region-based general assignment reporter for The Record.

https://www. therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/2022/04/11/ontario-colleges-will-be-able-to-offer-three-year-degree-programs-for-the-first-time.html?rf

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