REASONS FOR AND THE IMPACT OF THE RECENT DECLINE
IN THE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS OF THE COLLEGES OF
APPLIED ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY IN ONTARIO
Released for Publication May, 1990
Study Completed May, 1989
Posted on the Stargate Web-site January, 2002
College Affairs Branch
The Ministry of Colleges and UniversitiesGovernment of Ontario
Thomas E. Clarke, M.Sc., M.B.A.Jean Reavley, B.Sc, B.L.S., M.B.A.
STARGATE CONSULTANTS LIMITED
1687 Centennary Drive, Nanaimo, B.C. V9X 1A3
Tel: (250) 755-3066
[This is an abridged version that contains only the highlights of the report]
From the beginning, the general mandate of the colleges was clear: the preparation of individuals to enter the workforce, with training of both quality and relevance, to contribute to the economic progress of the province (Dennison and Gallagher, 1986, p. 95).
Recent examinations of enrolment statistics of colleges and universities in the early 1980s have shown a decline in the number of high school students opting for engineering programs.
This apparent decline in interest in technology is occurring at a time when Canada's investment in science and technological innovation must be increased if Canada is to be a significant industrial nation in the 21st century.
The importance of having well trained technicians and technologists cannot be overlooked in any efforts to advance Canadian industries' technological capabilities. Technicians and technologists play an important role, both in Canada's overall R&D effort, and in the application and use of advanced or "best practice" technologies.
The Premier's Council report entitled, Competing in the New Global Economy, states that, "For every 400 engineers in Japan, there are only 112 engineers in Ontario" (Ontario, 1988, p. 222).
It can be assumed that the comparable figures for employment of technicians and technologists per total population are equally low. Thus, any factors that contribute to the apparently more rapid decline in the number of students entering the science/technology streams of post-secondary education should be clearly identified and eliminated.
The concern over falling enrolment in the technology programs in Ontario community colleges also includes a concern for the impact that such decline might have on Ontario industry's innovative and competitive capabilities, and on the colleges themselves. Concern has been expressed that declining enrolments will result in a shortage of college technology graduates needed by Ontario industry to increase its international competitiveness, layoffs of experienced college instructors, and the loss of valuable technology programs in the colleges, due to reluctance to invest in needed equipment to maintain state of the art programs.
These concerns prompted the College Affairs Branch of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities of the Government of Ontario to commission this study to determine:
- the reasons for the decline in technology program enrolments in the colleges
- the degree of decline in technology program enrolments by technology and by college;
- graduation rates by technology program;
- the impact of the declining enrolment on the technology program activities of the colleges; and
- the impact, if any, of the decline in enrolments on Ontario industry.
Questions concerning the weighting used to determine the funding of technology programs were outside the mandate of this study, and were not addressed.
Data for the statistical analysis of the enrolment levels and number of technology program graduates in Ontario and elsewhere were obtained from a number of sources including the following:
- Ontario College Information System
- Statistics Canada
- Labour Demand Analysis Group, Employment and Immigration, Canada
- Individual college data bases
- Graduate Placement Reports
- Reports such as "Enrolment Trends in Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology" and "Job Futures: An Occupational Outlook to 1995"
Information about the reasons for the enrolment decline, the impact of the decline on the colleges, and the impact of the decline on Ontario employers was gathered by means of personal and telephone interviews, and questionnaires. Information was obtained from:
- College technology deans
- College technology instructors
- College students and graduates
- College high school liaison personnel
- College placement personnel
- College presidents and vice presidents
- High school guidance counsellors
- High school math, science and technological studies consultants
- Members of college technology program committees
- Industrial associations and Ontario employers
- Ontario Association of Certified Technicians and Technologists
Personal visits were made to all 22 colleges and, when time permitted, one of the consultants attended college open houses for high school guidance counsellors, and college information fairs. One of the authors also attended the Annual Meeting of the Ontario Student Counsellors Association (OSCA) held in North Bay in October, 1988.
Over 100 people were interviewed at the 22 colleges. These included the 22 deans of technology, three college presidents, and approximately eighty technology program chairmen and instructors, college liaison personnel, college registrars, college guidance counsellors, and college placement officers. Also interviewed were 66 women technology students , four women technology graduates, and 15 male technology students.
In addition to five personal interviews, information from high school guidance counsellors was obtained by means of a structured mail questionnaire. Some of these questionnaires were left with college liaison people to send to local guidance counsellors, and some were sent directly by the consultants to the counsellors. Other questionnaires were handed out during guidance counsellor meetings at the colleges, and at the OSCA meeting in North Bay. Of the approximately 100 questionnaires distributed, only thirty-six were completed and returned.
Structured questionnaires were also sent to members of the technology program advisory committees at the colleges. Of the approximately 200 questionnaires mailed out, 40 were returned. Personal interviews were held with seven advisory committee members at Conestoga College and with the mining advisory committee at Haileybury.
Telephone interviews were held with both industrial association representatives and with senior employees (generally in the personnel offices) of Ontario employers. Interviewees were sent a copy of the interview guide in advance so that they could prepare for the interview. Of the 45 Ontario employers contacted, 37 agreed to an interview. Fourteen industrial associations took part in the study.
In total, the authors obtained information from approximately 240 people in Ontario. In addition, senior officials at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Lakehead University, the Ontario Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, and the Department of Science and Education in London, England, were interviewed.
It should be noted that the information obtained from the interviewees, and the subsequent quotations and statements attributed to them used in this report, have not been independently verified. In general, however, the comments and statements used in this report to illustrate a particular point of view were only reported if they reflected the opinions heard from many interviewees.
Definition of Technician and Technologist
For the purposes of this study, a technician was defined as a graduate of a two year college program and a technologist as a graduate of a three year college program, or a co-operative education technology program.
The following definitions of technicians and technologists are based on the definitions and duties of technicians and technologists provided by the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists.
An engineering technician is an individual who, through academic training and experience in the application of mathematics and engineering or scientific principles, is capable of accepting responsibility and of exercising judgement in the specialized portion of the field of engineering technology in which training has been achieved. The technician may:
-assist in the design of equipment or systems; assist in the interpretation and preparation or modification of specifications, technical drawings or instructions; prepare estimates and supervise phases of major projects;
-conduct tests; build prototypes or models; operate pilot plants, trouble-shoot equipment; resolve production or construction problems; compile data and report;
-supervise phases of construction projects; inspect construction projects; conduct tests, surveys, or prepare estimates for construction activities;
-trouble-shoot, service, calibrate or supervise the repair or installation of equipment, processes, or products;
-provide support for operations activities including supervision of operations or operation-related activities such as quality assurance, production control, and maintenance;
-provide support in laboratory environments by conducting experiments, conducting tests, or servicing complex equipment in support of research and development, quality control, or academic activities; and
-supervise, train, and coordinate the activities of others.
An engineering technologist is a person who, through academic training and experience in the application of mathematics and engineering or scientific principles, is capable of assuming responsibility and of exercising independent judgement in the field of engineering technology in which training has been achieved. A technologist may:
- design equipment, processes, or systems; interpret and prepare specifications, technical drawings or instructions; prepare estimates and manage projects;
- specify tests; conduct non-routine tests; develop prototypes; operate pilot plants, trouble-shoot complex equipment; resolve production or construction problems; compile experimental data, or prepare reports; and
- supervise, train, coordinate and assume administrative responsibility for the work of others and participate in short- and long-range planning.
CHAPTER ONE: REVIEW OF TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM ENROLMENTAND GRADUATION STATISTICS
Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology
There are twenty-two Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology located throughout the Province of Ontario. The colleges offer a wide range of technology programs from Avionics Maintenance to Welding Technology. In 1987, the colleges offered approximately 428 one, two, and three year technician or technology programs. The precise number cannot be given because it is difficult from statistical data to distinguish some of the one year certificate programs from trades programs, which were not part of this study. Another source of confusion is the compressed one year technician programs which result in the student earning a diploma, rather than a certificate.
Summary of the Review of the Statistics
The following is a summary of the review of the extensive body of statistics obtained during this study.
The enrolment decline in college technology programs is not unique to Ontario. Other provinces, such as Quebec, Alberta and B.C., have also experienced declining enrolment in their technology programs.
Many of the Ontario colleges, and many of the individual technology programs have experienced considerable enrolment drops since the middle 1980s. All have had at least some enrolment drop in their technology programs from their peak enrolment year. Civil engineering and electronics programs have had the greatest number of severe enrolment declines.
The colleges that appear to have had the smallest enrolment declines [to Fall, 1987] are:
- Fanshawe College, London
- George Brown College, Toronto
- Georgian College, Barrie
- Humber College, Rexdale
- Seneca College, Willowdale
- Sir Sandford Fleming, Peterborough
The colleges that have experienced the largest enrolment declines from their peak enrolment year are:
- Cambrian College, Sudbury
- Lambton College, Sarnia
- Loyalist College, Belleville
- Northern College, Kirkland Lake
- St. Lawrence College, Cornwall/Kingston
- Sault College, Sault Ste Marie
There is a clear geographic pattern in the enrolment trends. Colleges in northern and eastern Ontario have suffered more from declining enrolment than their counterparts in southern Ontario.
Most of the major technology programs have experienced some enrolment decline, and this has resulted in a decline in the number of technology program graduates at both the technician and technologist levels. Women continue to be under-represented in most of the physics-related technology fields such as electronics and mechanical engineering.
CHAPTER TWO: REASONS FOR THE DECLINE INTECHNOLOGY PROGRAM ENROLMENT
"Our educational institutions must provide people with the training required to contribute to and advance our modern, technological capability. Study after study points up our inability to motivate young people to even attempt the disciplines of the sciences" - R.A. Ferchat, Pres., Northern Telecom Canada
Summary of the Review of the Reasons for the Decline
There are two root causes for the decline in enrolment in the technology programs of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology in Ontario.
The first is the lack of appreciation by Canadians of the role that science and technology play in the economic performance of a country or province. This lack of awareness of the importance of science and technology results in parents and the education system neglecting to instill in children, from a early age, a respect for, and an understanding of the role that science and technology plays in their daily lives, or the impact science and technology will have on their future economic well-being. Children are not encouraged to consider a career in science and technology, but rather are encouraged to consider careers in business and the service sector.
One result of our attitude towards science and technology is a school system that does not appreciate how vitally important it is to teach math and science effectively at the primary, intermediate and secondary school levels. Consequently, there are fewer qualified students interested in a career in science and technology, at either the college or university level, and ultimately a shortage of people with the skills necessary to maintain a modern economy. As Pierre Lortie, formerly President of PROVIGO, stated in his keynote speech at the National Conference for Technology and Innovation In Canada, held in Toronto, "the inadequate quality of science education has some unfortunate consequences, one being that students are not particularly interested in, or excited by, mathematics and the natural sciences (Richardson, et al, 1989, p. 50).
The reduction in the number of high school students taking math and science courses and in the numbers opting for careers in science and technology is not unique to Ontario. In fact it is not unique to Canada. Other countries are also voicing concern about both the quantity and quality of their math and science students because of the effect this will have on their economic competitiveness.
Steen (1988), in his review of the quality of mathematics education in the U.S., states, "evidence is indisputable that U.S. leadership in science and technology is rapidly diminishing; as a nation we are simply not renewing our intellectual capital". He goes on to state that international studies (e.g., McKnight, 1987) "show that the mathematics yield of U.S. schools is substantially less than that of other industrialized countries and far below the levels necessary to sustain our nation's present position of leadership in scientific inventiveness".
In their review of physics courses in American schools, the American Institute of Physics reported that although physics is available to 96% of all U.S. high school students, only 20% take the subject. The report notes, "almost 90% of the schools in the United States had mean [physics] scores lower than the average of physics students in their final year at the poorest performing secondary school in Hong Kong, the country with the best overall scores (AIP, 1988).
In his review of science education in the U.K., Thompson (1988) gives the warning that, "Schools cannot afford to be complacent about the state of science education. Recent studies have suggested that English pupils perform poorly at the ages of 10 and 14 by comparison with pupils in most other major industrialised countries".
Numerous studies in Canada have examined the state of science and math education. In their study of science education in Canada, Orpwood and Souque (1984) noted that by the 1980s, science teachers were being called upon to teach subjects other than science, or to teach several different science courses at varying grade levels, and concerns were being expressed about the currency of science teachers' knowledge and teaching methodologies. In a related study, Orpwood and Alam (1984) found that, "Over one-third of all middle-year teachers have taken no university level math or science; over one-half of all early-year teachers have taken no mathematics, and nearly three-quarters of them have taken no science at university level" (p.35). Even at the senior-years level, where a majority of the teachers have studied university level math and science, Orpwood and Alam noted that it had been more than ten years since one-third of them last took a university science course.
American researchers have also expressed concern about the quality of science teachers and education in the primary grades. Steen (1988) notes that despite the importance of the quality of training provided to elementary school teachers, "the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that continues to pretend, despite massive evidence to the contrary, that elementary school teachers are able to teach all subjects equally well. The reality is that elementary teachers too often take just one course in mathematics, approaching it with trepidation and leaving it with relief". Unfortunately, Canada can be included in his condemnation. Steen argues that such teachers are unlikely to inspire in their students an interest and understanding of mathematics and its role in society. He suggests that, "we educate a cadre of elementary mathematics specialists well prepared to teach young children both mathematics and science in an integrated, discovery-based environment". Steen also recommends the "widespread use of calculators and computers as tools for calculation and instruments of discovery".
Questions have been raised about the quality of in-service support for science teachers in Ontario. In their extensive review of science education in Canada, Connelly, Crocker and Kass (1985) found that "Four out of five Ontario school board respondents rated the resource personnel for science in-service work as inadequate to non-existent" (p. 270).
While it is beyond the mandate of this study to examine the quality of science and math training in Canada, it is apparent that many observers of the educational scene consider that much remains to be done to improve the quality of science education. In a call for a shake up in education, Dr. Larkin Kerwin, Head of Canada's Space Agency, states, " ... it is in education, beginning with the primary schools and going on all the way to graduate school, that we have to make a major sustained effort". He further states, "there must be more emphasis on science, innovation and enterprise in schools. Without that, the country will be ill-prepared to meet the challenges of high-technology industries (Ottawa Citizen, March 20, 1989, p. A4).
The report of the Premier's Council entitled, Competing in the New Global Economy, noted that the results of the Second International Mathematics Study (SIMS) that showed Ontario students to be only average in mathematical skills compared to students in other countries "clearly signal a need for Ontario's education system to foster higher levels of achievement in both basic and advanced mathematical skill" (Ontario, 1988, p. 219). The report also states, "our students need earlier and more effective exposure to an expanded scientific and technological knowledge base" (p. 223).
Participants at the national and regional conferences on Technology and Innovation in Canada, held in 1988, concluded "there was a need to enhance both the quality of science teaching and its relevance to the world outside the classroom". Participants' concerns were particularly directed to "the primary and secondary school levels where they saw a clear need to provide more and better quality teaching of science and technology" (Richardson, et al, 1989, p. 50).
It is clear that if students in the primary grades do not have rewarding experiences with science, they are unlikely to consider taking more science courses in high school beyond the compulsory courses. This sets up a trend of fewer high schools offering a full spectrum of science courses because of low enrolment, thus denying those students who may be interested in different fields of science, an opportunity to take courses that match their interests.
Another aspect of the lack of appreciation of the importance of science and technology to a modern society, is that scientists, engineers and technologists receive fewer high profile rewards than do people involved in business, sports, or entertainment. This in turn can discourage qualified students from opting for a technology-based career in Canada.
Again this situation is not unique to Canada. Researchers in England have noticed that the number of students opting for science and math A level courses, as a group, has not grown since 1978. Ironically, more students are taking more individual A level science courses but along with other subjects such as economics. This group of students taking "Mixed A levels" have been found by Smithers and Robinson (1988) to be more likely to go into business studies. In 1985 , the number of students taking "Mixed A" levels exceeded those taking just math and science. (The group most likely to opt for a science/math career). In their interviews with "Mixed A" level students, Smithers and Robinson found that, "these [mixed A level] students felt that they were more likely to do well with a business education than specific scientific or technological training ...". As one of them said, "Why become a scientist when I can become his boss?" Smithers and Robinson feel that the present economic climate in England is providing a message to the students that the real rewards go to, "those who deal in money". They call for preferential grants for students interested in a career in science and technology but noted that such an approach, "would have to work against a background in which science and technology are undervalued".
The absence of high profile rewards for careers in science or technology masks the fact that rewarding careers are available. However, no particular effort is made to inform students at all levels of the school system about them.
The second fundamental cause of the decline in technology enrolments is poor quality marketing by the colleges. The problem of inadequate marketing was mentioned by many of the college interviewees, and has been commented on by others outside the college system. In a newspaper article, Margaret Polyanyi quotes Walter Pitman, director of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education as blaming the colleges for declining student numbers due to "failing to market themselves and offer the proper programs" (Globe and Mail, July 28, 1987, p. A4).
The college marketing effort appears to be equated with the high school liaison function. Few of the college marketing personnel have training in marketing, and most do not have the technical background that would allow them to effectively market the technology programs and promote technological careers.
It is not clear that adequate financial resources have been made available to launch an effective marketing program to overcome the misconceptions that students, parents, high school personnel, and the general public have about college technology programs. Limited marketing efforts have been made to attract mature or part-time students. According to senior officials at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, the percentage of mature students enroled in their technology programs exceeds 60%.
What college marketing programs have done has been to send out a mixed message about the academic background required to successfully complete a technology program. Calendars and some college administrators say one thing (i.e., general level students can do well) while instructors and statistics on general level student survival say another (i.e., advanced level courses are needed). The bulk of the college marketing effort, however, has been aimed at general level students, rather than at the bottom half of the advanced level stream of students, who are more likely to successfully complete the technology programs.
The technology programs have not been able to attract a large number of advanced level or mixed advanced/general level students who are interested in a career in technology due to a lack of a distinct positive image. Technology programs are not viewed as being any different from other college programs.
High school guidance counsellors and subject teachers, who know little about either technology programs or careers, are not encouraging advanced level students to consider college as an alternative to employment.
At some colleges, the image of the technology departments, is being tarnished by obsolete equipment and facilities, and a few out-of-date instructors.
Like image, the financial inducements to attend college (scholarships, etc.) are part of the marketing package. It appears that the Ontario Student Assistance Program does not fully take into account the financial needs of mature students.
While the lack of awareness of the importance of science and technology to a modern economy affects science or technology enrolment in both colleges and universities, the poor college marketing activities only affects enrolment in college technology programs.
Although the many reasons for the technology program enrolment decline have existed for some time, their effect has been growing since the start of the 1980s. The 1982 recession, and the resulting layoffs, reinforced the negative image of technology careers as being unstable. The establishment of OSIS in 1984 increased the rate of decline in the numbers of students taking technological studies courses in high school. The marketing programs of the colleges appear to have become more and more concentrated on general level students rather than advanced level or mature students. Fewer high school students are opting for the general program in the high schools with the result that most of the school population is in the advanced level stream. (Programs are underway by the Ministry of Education to reverse this trend so that by 1992, only 30% of the high school population will be in the advanced stream.)
Given this picture, it is unlikely that the decline in enrolment in either university engineering or college technology programs will turn around on its own, without intervention by government. Governments, at all levels, must act to educate the public to the importance of science and technology. The Ministry of Education must increase its efforts to improve math and science education in all disciplines, and at all levels of the school system. The Ministry of Education must improve the quality of career guidance received by students.
Colleges must realize that marketing is more than just selling courses. Marketing involves the overall image and reputation of the organization, as well as its products and services. To attract and maintain the technical people to supply Ontario industry with the skilled technicians and technologists it needs to remain competitive in the 21st century, the college marketing activities require personnel with formal marketing training. High school liaison activities should be only part of a college's marketing strategy. The development of courses and programs that meet the educational needs of mature and part-time students must also be an important part of a college's marketing strategy because the present workforce is a largely untapped source of potential students for college diploma programs.
CHAPTER THREE: IMPACT OF THE ENROLMENT DECLINE ON THE COLLEGES
"There is such a push for enrolment that they are letting anyone in; standards are down on entrance requirements to technology" - College Placement Officer
Summary of the Impact of the Enrolment Decline
All 22 colleges have felt some impact from the decline in enrolment on their technology programs. There is some difficulty, however, in separating the impact of the enrolment decline from the impact of the financial problems that many of the colleges are experiencing. The two are obviously linked, given the "enrolment-based" funding system used by the provincial government. In a recent article in The Algonquin Times, reporter Gordon Brown quotes Algonquin President Phil Killeen as saying, "community college funding has been inadequate for years" (Brown, 1989). Mr. Brown goes on to report that as of 1987, 18 of Ontario's 22 colleges were in debt, and this resulted in the cancellation of programs.
Adding to the problems of the enrolment decline because of declining numbers of students in the high school system, has been the 1984/85 cutback in federal government expenditures for places in the technology programs. This has had a direct impact on both enrolment figures and college budgets. Algonquin President, Phil Killeen, is quoted in The Algonquin Times as saying that, "when the [Conservative Government's Canadian Jobs Strategy] program was introduced, college budgets plummeted - some colleges lost millions of dollars in funding" (Brown, 1989). Interviewees at one college described the situation as follows, "The declining enrolment in the technology program has compounded another problem, that being the reduction in the federal government support for students in the skills program. These cutbacks have resulted in teachers being surplus to requirement". Up to now, only one full-time staff member has been released at this college as a direct result of the decline in technology enrolment, but 20 people in the trades and skill development area were let go due to the federal cutbacks.
The most overwhelmingly perceived negative impact of the technology enrolment declines on the colleges has been the apparent lowering of standards. Students who are not capable of handling the course work in the time prescribed are being admitted. Extending the time a student takes to complete a program only masks the problem of low quality students. Extending the time for part-time students who are holding down a job at the same time is, however, legitimate.
It is clear from interviews with college personnel that a vast majority of them would like to see a marked increase in the quality of student admitted to the technology programs.
The question that must be faced is whether the entrance standards of the technology programs should be raised. In particular, should the entrance standards be set so that only high school students who have taken mainly advanced level courses in math, English and science be admitted to the three year technology programs.
This question was posed to high school guidance counsellors and industrial program advisory committee members. In general, they favoured setting the entrance standards for the three year technology programs as requiring advanced level courses in math and science.
The response from several high school guidance counsellors appears to indicate the message that advanced level courses in math and science are needed for technology programs is already getting back to the high schools:
- Students who have gone to those programs say the math and science are difficult and they recommend students take advanced level courses before applying to college.
- You are much better off having advanced level math, physics and chemistry for most technology programs; your success rate is better.
- Most general level students do not have the math skills, or the work habits necessary for success in the technician/technology programs.
- I believe that these courses are more and more for the Grade 12 and 13 advanced level student. I think its time the colleges reevaluate the true requirements of courses for the Grade 12 general and Grade 12 and 13 advanced level student and publicize them as such.
A majority of the high school counsellors surveyed believed that students taking all or some advanced level courses were legitimate candidates for a college education.
A majority of the industrial program advisory committee members who responded to our survey also agreed that entrance standards for three year technology programs should be set at the advanced level. Some of the responses were:
- Let's start with a student who has demonstrated capability, and reduce the time teaching basics.
- Let's not allow technology programs to be a consolation prize for limited academic achievement but rather an option for post-secondary education.
- Yes, improve the quality of incoming students, and thereby improve the quality of graduates, and the image of the programs. Technology is for those who choose it, not for those who have no other choice.
- Yes, students at these levels can usually think, and have better problem solving skills. They are also more willing to put a lot more into a project than just the minimum required.
- Ironically, low standards decrease the marketability of graduates and creates the impression that an easy program is not worth taking; value = effort.
A minority of technology program advisors disagreed with raising the entrance standards for technology programs. In general, they felt that this would deny students the opportunity to attend college. "No, if we set this requirement, we may not allow some good potential students on the course; also late developers and mature students".
While concern about accessibility is admirable, the major concern must be about the quality of graduates. Technology departments have limited resources to dedicate to keeping weak students academically alive. The option of taking a pre-tech program or semester should be available to the weak students, and mature students returning to the educational system.
In Canada, a call to raise standards usually brings forth the accusation of "elitism". Raising entrance standards is not elitism. Colleges must provide an education that enables Canadians to compete in world markets. Technology is not the private reserve of Canada. The rate of change of sophistication of technology is not in our hands, it is in the hands of our foreign competitors. Our educational institutions must produce graduates who are capable of handling anything our competitors throw at us. This sets the standards of technical training that institutions, colleges or universities must, at least match, if not better. As stated in the Premier's Council Report, "Investing in people is a matter of aiming for excellence in all stages of education" (Ontario, 1988, p. 216).
Students must be able to handle the program material that is needed to produce well-educated workers that are required by Canadian industry.
Improvement of the retention programs is a positive step only if they are used to help fundamentally well qualified students, or to assist mature students to reenter the education system. They should not be used to keep poor performing students in the system.
The increased involvement of technology faculty in the marketing of their programs has at least two positive benefits; it reduces the isolation of the instructors from the high school system, and it forces them to keep abreast of the careers of former college students in order to use that information as a marketing tool. The latter will provide the instructors with information that will help them keep their courses up-to-date.
Rationalization and consolidation of technology programs will allow the college system to provide adequate resources to the remaining programs and will reduce the pressure on technology departments to keep programs alive by lowering either entrance or marking standards. Few programs will be competing for top quality students.
Clarification of the future of technology departments and technology programs would go a long way in reducing the concerns of the deans about their departments. Eliminating the uncertainty about individual programs will also be a major step in improving the morale among technology instructors.
CHAPTER FOUR: IMPACT OF THE ENROLMENT
DECLINE ON ONTARIO INDUSTRY
"From an industrial point of view, with more and advanced technical automation, more technicians and technologists are needed, but better educated" - Ontario industrialist.
Summary of the Impact of the Enrolment Decline
All of the previous human resources studies examined predate the Free Trade Agreement, and all are based on the premise that the Ontario economy will continue to grow in the 1990s. As the Science Council of Canada (October, 1988) states in their report, Gearing Up For Global Markets, "... this country's industry faces testing times. Ahead is a new era of intense international competition that will be heavily technology-driven". Technicians and technologists will be key players, along with scientists and engineers, in determining Canada's ability to meet the challenge of increased global competition.
Although no serious shortages of technicians or technologists were mentioned by industrial interviewees, comments of most interviewees support the views expressed in other studies of human resource requirements - if the Ontario economy continues to expand, there will be shortages in the 1990s in some areas. Some of the shortages are beginning to be felt now.
Major areas of potential serious shortage are:
Advanced manufacturing technologies (robotics and CAD/CAM)
Geographic information systems and digital mapping
Manufacturing engineering (quality control)
Mechanical engineering (tool and die, machinist)
Mining (metallurgy and rock mechanics)
In some areas, technicians or technologists with computer skills appear to be in short supply now.
Large industries respond to shortages of people with the skills they require by either recruiting people from outside Canada, or by setting up their own training programs. Some firms or industries set up training programs in conjunction with colleges as in the case of some firms in the automotive industry. By using their own facilities, companies are able to train people on more modern equipment than is found at many colleges.
Some interviewees mentioned that the "technician" category in some unionized firms was reserved for workers who had worked their way up in the organization, and was not open to new college graduates. This would limit a company's requirement for college graduates.
A major point that came out of industry discussions was their enthusiasm for the co-operative education programs. Through such programs, students gain experience that smaller companies look for in a new employee, have an opportunity to work with equipment the college may not have, and also learn the type of work habits and attitudes needed in industry.Organizations, such as the Science Council of Canada, are calling on Canada to increase its level of scientific and technological effort in three main areas of "enabling" technologies: Information Technologies; Advanced Materials; and Biotechnology, if Canada is to be competitive in world markets (SCC, February, 1988).
Other organizations, such as the Canadian Advanced Technology Association, are calling for Canada to double its effort in research and development, and technological innovation. If Canada is to increase its technological efforts, colleges will need to produce more, and better trained technicians and technologists in the disciplines that support the three primary technologies.
Although Canadian companies, in general, have not adopted the newer manufacturing technologies at the same pace as our competitors, this situation will have to change if Canada is to retain manufacturing as an economic base. When this occurs, the need for technicians and technologists familiar with the installation, maintenance and operation of automated manufacturing systems will be considerable.
It should be noted, however, that the advent of new technologies, while providing new jobs for technicians or technologists, will provide far more jobs for other occupations such as engineers, and tradespeople (Bezdek, 1987).
The rate of growth in the technician or technologist occupational category may be less than the rate in other occupations. Some studies suggest that traditional middle class employment, which includes technician's jobs, may be shrinking (Kuttner, 1983). As Dennison and Gallagher (1986) note in their book on "Canada's Community Colleges", "the work prospects for those 'in the middle' - technicians, etc., are even more bleak and less numerous because technological advances and the processing of information will reduce the number of work opportunities of this kind significantly" (p. 138). For example, Computer Aided Design (CAD) systems replacing drafting technicians, more user friendly computers reducing the need for programmers, and new "smart" instrumentation taking over many of the tedious, but essential work in quality control traditionally done by technicians will contribute to the decline in demand for some technical occupations. Several industrial respondents in this study also said that, in some cases, technicians and technologists will be replaced by sophisticated equipment.
That few of the industrial interviewees reported any negative impacts because of shortages of technicians or technologists may reflect the fact that, in large firms, vacancies can be filled by other workers on a temporary, or permanent basis. For example, where there is a shortage of technologists, firms can under employ an engineer or use a person with a bachelors degree in science to cover off the position. Some companies in the chemical industry mentioned their preference for people with bachelor of science degrees as technologists.
Although large Ontario employers appear to be satisfied with the quality of graduates they hire from the college system, there is some concern among industrial respondents that there are too many graduates of only mediocre quality. It should be of considerable concern to the colleges, and to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, that some major employers consider only the top 10 or 20% of the graduating class to be worth consideration for employment. The perceived wide variation in the quality of the technology program graduates may indicate a more deep rooted problem of quality control within the college system.
Only one or two industrial interviewees mentioned having any on-going contact with college technology instructors. Most interviewees indicated that they would welcome more interaction with the instructors so that they can show the colleges what they are doing. The human resources study conducted for the Electrical and Electronics Manufacturing Industry also stated that greater interaction between academic staff from community colleges and universities needs to be encouraged as "Academics need regular interaction with the industry in order to stay current with the changing needs of the industry" (EIC, 1987, p. 86).
It is also clear, that Ontario employers want graduates who are not only proficient in the technical area, but are also proficient in interpersonal relations and have good communications skills. Employers want graduates who know something about the world of business and industry in addition to their technical specialty. Other studies of the training of technical personnel have also called for the incorporation of business topics in the curriculum. The Report of the National Technology Policy Roundtable stated, "There is also a need to broaden the educational experience of scientists, engineers and technologists by giving them a deeper appreciation of the marketing and business aspects of their chosen fields" (CATA, 1986, p. 18).
Narrow technical training, especially for technologists, is not adequate. Some employers even want graduates with entrepreneurial skills so that they can help in opening up new markets for new products or services.
The evidence of shortages of technicians, and especially technologists, in some areas is documented by rising salaries and colleges unable to provide industry with the graduates they require. The colleges must produce more qualified graduates to meet the needs of Ontario industry. Any plan to increase the number of graduates, however, must be done in consultation with industry, especially smaller employers, in order to produced graduates in the numbers, and in the disciplines, and at the quality level, required by Ontario employers.
CHAPTER FIVE: LACK OF WOMEN IN TECHNOLOGY
Summary of the Enrolment of Women in Technology Programs
Female students are a minority in those programs that require a substantial math and physics base. The reasons, unique to women, for the low enrolment appear to have their roots in the sex role stereotyping of occupations and the resulting pre-school and after-school leisure time experiences of girls. They do not get the same encouragement or opportunity to spend their play time in activities that will help them to obtain the investigative skills that will assist them in acquiring knowledge in the physical sciences. In Ontario, the present focus of primary school science programs on biology does nothing to overcome girls' lack of experience in the physical sciences or engineering. It also equates science with biology in the minds of boys.
There are still guidance counsellors who believe that girls are unable to do well in math and science with the result that they encourage girls to drop these subjects too quickly.
In general, the women interviewed, who were enrolled in technology programs, reported that they received little encouragement from teachers or guidance counsellors to select a college education, or specifically, a technology program. In many cases guidance counsellors played no role in their decision to attend college. This finding is similar to that of other studies.
It appears that while most of the colleges, and most of the instructors are supportive of women in technology, there is still room for a change in attitudes among both male students and some instructors.
Greater marketing efforts can be made by the colleges to attract women, especially 'mature' women. Few colleges, for example, mentioned building any links with women's organizations. The number of women technology instructors, excluding math instructors, is quite low and does not help in demonstrating women in technology roles.
The exclusion, for whatever reasons, of half the population from technology careers is a waste of human talent that Canada cannot afford.
CHAPTER SIX: RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM ENROLMENT
"... there is a basic fallacy in suggesting that all high-level technical and technological training can be carried on in universities ..." - Walter Pitman, 1988
Organizations such as the Economic Council of Canada in their statement "Making Technology Work" (ECC, 1987) have tried to determine the effects of new technologies in the workplace on employment. They proposed some policy objectives to improve Canada's economic competitiveness. The first is that Canadians must "openly embrace new technologies" in order to remain competitive". The second states that "The new technologies are vitally necessary, but, alone, they are not sufficient to generate the improvements we seek. A well-trained, flexible, and committed workforce is equally important". They emphasize the need for training to ensure that Canadians will be able to work with new technologies.
The Premier's Council Report, Competing in the New Global Economy, states, "Ontario must focus its economic policies on 'traded businesses' - that is, those industries which are exposed to world trade and competition". The traded sectors in Ontario include most manufactured products (Ontario, 1988, p. 40). The Report goes on to state, "the traded sectors must be viewed as the fundamental drivers of our future wealth and prosperity". Job creation in the service sector which is mainly the non-traded sector, of the Ontario economy "will depend on increasing competitiveness and high value-added per employee in our traded [mainly manufacturing] industries". The Report also states, "Ontario should build a strong science and technology infrastructure which can support the technological needs of our industries (p. 13).
Even one of our fiercest economic competitors is willing to point out that if Canada allows its manufacturing base to erode, the economic future of the country is in jeopardy. Akio Morita, Chairman and Chief Executive of Sony Corporation, stated that the trend in the United States, Canada and Europe away from goods-producing businesses to services "is not the natural growth pattern of a maturing economy and far from something to be encouraged" (Globe and Mail, May 5, 1989, pp. B1-B2). He believes that, "Such a trend is destructive, for in the long run an economy which has lost its manufacturing base has lost its vital centre. A service-based economy has no engine to drive it". Mr. Morita warns, "If Canadians ignore manufacturing while thinking of themselves as information technicians in a service-based economy, they might find themselves on the sidelines of international businesses".
As noted earlier in this report, the pace of change of technology, and the subsequent need to adopt new technologies in both manufacturing and service industries is dictated by events outside of Canada. To compete in a global economy, Ontario employers must make use of the latest technologies. This requires people trained in both its development, and its application and maintenance. Well-trained technicians and technologists play an important role in determining the rate of application, and level of maintenance of new technologies. In the final report of "The Ontario Task Force on Employment and New Technology" (Ontario, 1985), it is noted that "lack of skills and know how to implement" has been, and will be an impediment to the adoption of new technology, in the years 1985-95, in both manufacturing and service industries. Among the industries mentioned as suffering from a lack of skills and know how to implement new technology were iron and steel, communications equipment, trust companies, and computer services (Table 4.12, page 111).
The decline in enrolment in the technology programs of the colleges already has resulted in a shortage of trained technicians and technologists in some of the areas required by employers in Ontario. Fear was expressed by many interviewees that if the decline continues, and the Ontario economy continues to grow, shortages of technicians and technologists will result in serious problems for Ontario's industries in the next few years.
Thus, in order for Ontario's 'traded businesses' to remain internationally competitive, the decline in enrolment in the technology programs must be stemmed, and the enrolment levels and the subsequent graduation levels increased, although not so much as to produce unemployable graduates. It is also clear, however, that this is not simply a numbers game; the quality of the graduates must be maintained and, in some cases, improved so that Ontario can compete in national and international markets.
This study has identified a number of reasons for the decline in enrolment in the college technology programs. The following recommendations are designed to improve both quality and quantity of technicians and technologists required by Ontario industry. However, not all of these recommendations can be acted upon by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities alone. The Ministry of Education has a major role to play, as does the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology as well as Ontario industry. Without joint action, the decline in quantity and, more importantly, quality, will continue to the detriment of Ontario, and of Canada.
The recommendations are grouped into two categories:
- Improving the Marketing of the College Technology Programs
- Increasing the Number of Qualified High School Students Interested In Careersin Science and Technology
IMPROVING THE MARKETING OF COLLEGE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS
Colleges, like many other organizations, are selling educational services. One of their services is to provide a person interested in a job or career in a particular field with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in that field. Whether someone buys a college's service depends on many factors including:
- reputation and image of the organization
- quality of the training provided
- the format in which the training is provided (i.e. program delivery)
- accurate knowledge about the careers and career opportunities available after taking college programs
- experience of former "customers" in finding rewarding employment
If the organization receives high ratings on these criteria, prospective customers are more likely to see the services offered by the organization as a viable route to achieving their career objectives.
Marketing is the tool by which colleges can provide prospective students with accurate information upon which they can base their decisions. However, marketing involves not only providing information, but also listening to what the prospective customer wants, and modifying the service to meet customer career needs more closely.
Ontario employers, as part of their strategy to remain competitive in national and international markets, establish the types of skills and the knowledge they require of a good employee. Market forces also determine the skill and knowledge requirements of entrepreneurs. Colleges must use this information to develop a saleable educational service.
As noted earlier, the present marketing approach of the colleges has not been effective in reversing the enrolment decline of the colleges. [The 1988/89 total enrolment in the college system was down 1.2% from 1987/88, and the technology component was down 4.7%]. New approaches to marketing are needed.
The following recommendations deal with marketing issues that the colleges and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, and Ontario industry, must address in order to stem the decline in enrolment in the technology programs of the colleges and to increase the number of qualified graduates.
The marketing recommendations are arranged in three categories:
- Improve the reputation and image of the colleges and their technology programs
- Improve technology program delivery and content
- Improve the flow of accurate and timely information about technology programs, and subsequent careers
Improve the Reputation And Imageof the Colleges and their Technology Programs
The reputation and image of any organization is an important factor in determining the success of the organization. Organizations with poor reputations do not generally last long, or if they do, they become ineffective or irrelevant to society.
The college system does not enjoy the same positive image among the general population that universities enjoy. This is the result of both specific actions and inactions on the part of the colleges.
Unless, and until, the technology departments of the colleges highlight and improve their image in the eyes of prospective students, parents, the general public and high school personnel, their enrolment decline will continue, as will the pressure to lower both entrance and marking standards.
Establish Some of the College Technology Departments as Institutes of Applied Science and Technology
As noted earlier, the technology departments of the colleges do not have a distinctive image that could attract better qualified students (or industrial support).
When the original institutes of technology were absorbed into the college system, they lost their high profile image and, possibly, their single minded commitment to turn out high quality technicians and technologists. Several instructors who were in the old institutes commented that in those days they had a higher quality of student. However, they have had to slow down and modify their course delivery in order not to lose the students who are now coming to the colleges.
The only way to raise the profile of the technology departments above the trades and continuing education image is to allow some of the technology departments to separate, to some degree, from the college system. The separation could be as little as to allow some technology departments to adopt a new name that reflects their applied science and technology orientation; for example, the Mohawk Institute of Applied Science and Technology. A greater, and for some, better separation, would be administrative separation of the institutes from the college system so that the institutes control their own budgets, admission standards, and marketing. The institutes would offer only diploma and post-diploma programs, not trades or certificate programs.
In his call for the creation of polytechnics, Walter Pitman states, "Community colleges have served business and industry well, but their courses are too restrictive. The high level work of polytechnics and institutes of technology is not possible within the strictures of colleges devoted to a lower level of training for work" (Pitman, 1988). Institutes of Applied Science and Technology could be a first step towards the creation of polytechnics.
The creation of institutes of applied science and technology does not necessarily require the physical movement of any technical facilities. However, the students would be the students of, for example, the Seneca Institute of Applied Science and Technology, and their college diplomas would reflect the name change.
The new title of the institutes should contain the words "Applied Science" in order to distinguish the college programs from the technology studies programs in the high schools, and to emphasize the applied science aspects of many of the technology programs. Following the model of the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, it is recommended that the health sciences programs be incorporated in the new institute structure.
It is not recommended that all colleges should spin-off institutes of applied science and technology. Only those colleges that have developed strong technology programs that are needed by Ontario industry should be established as institutes of applied science and technology. One technology advisory committee member made the following comment in support of institutes, "Colleges dedicated to technology, with external standards, can create the same image as the old 'institutes of technology' or Ryerson; they would be places that one would be proud to graduate from and where the graduate can be seen to be credible".
Single discipline institutes should also be considered in certain technology areas such as mining, computer aided manufacturing or marine engineering. Other college technology programs may be restricted to teaching up to the technician level, may only provide the first year of a technology program, or may be eliminated altogether. The feeder school approach will require the institutes to build residences to accommodate out-of-town students. It may be necessary, because of location, to allow some colleges to continue to offer three year programs (e.g., in northern Ontario).
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ESTABLISH INSTITUTES OF APPLIED SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DRAWN FROM SOME OF THE EXISTING TECHNOLOGY DEPARTMENTS OF THE COLLEGES.
Standardize and Raise Admission Requirements
One of the valid complaints made by guidance counsellors is the many different admission requirements for programs with the same name, or for different technology programs in the same college. At one college, during an open house for guidance counsellors, the dean of the business department made it quite clear that the general level "Math for Business" was not acceptable for admission to the business department, and that he preferred advanced level math or Math for Technology. A few minutes later the dean of technology, who had been out of the room when the business dean made his statement about the unacceptability of Math for Business, surprised the counsellors, and some of his own faculty, by announcing that they would accept Math for Business as a substitute for Math for Technology for some of their technology programs.
A few colleges require advance level courses for admission to three year technology programs but most do not. Some ask for advance level courses, in at least math, for some technology programs, but again most do not.
It is apparent that the college administration really do not understand which categories of students are capable of surviving a technology program. Most of the third year college students interviewed during this study were advanced level or equivalent when they were in high school.
A student entering a program of study with the minimum published entrance requirements should have a reasonable chance of successfully completing the program. Setting entrance standards for technologist programs at general level is, in most cases, a fraud. The use of the words "recommended", or "suggested" in connection with advanced level courses does not convey strongly enough the need for these courses. It also ties the hands of conscientious high school guidance counsellors when they try to persuade a student that advanced level courses in math or science are really necessary for success in the college technology program. As one of the few general level students interviewed during this study said, "I was told that I didn't need advanced level math, but I really did need it". She felt that colleges should be more up front about the math prerequisite. Another college student complained that the colleges did not spell out precisely what courses the students should have, as she noted was done in the college calendars of other provinces. This student didn't realize that she needed more science courses such as physics. Her college's calendar said physics was optional.
It is strongly recommended that, on a system-wide basis, the entrance requirements for three year technology programs be set in terms of advanced level high school courses in English, math and science, with the science course requirement being appropriate to the college program selected (e.g. advanced level chemistry for entrance into a chemical technology program). These requirements must be system-wide in order to avoid the temptation of colleges or institutes to accept marginal students just to keep up numbers. This would also avoid the temptation to reduce internal standards so that general level students can pass and graduate.Through-way programs must maintain high standards in order that graduates of the third year are of the same calibre as graduates of dedicated three year programs. Those students who enter through-way programs with the stated intention of obtaining a technologists diploma should meet the same entrance requirements (advanced level courses in English, math and science) as students entering dedicated technology programs.
Advanced level courses in English, as well as math and science are necessary in order to produce students who are literate, and can benefit from courses in communications. Many industrial interviewees and college placement officers expressed disappointment over the poor communications skills of college graduates.
For two year technician programs, entrance requirements should be set so that students entering the program have all the necessary academic and technical skills required to do well in the first semester. If that also requires advanced level courses in some areas, then advanced level courses should be clearly stated as an entrance requirement. Math for Business should not be allowed as a substitute for Math for Technology or advanced level math.
Major efforts should not be necessary to keep students in the system. Peer tutoring and counselling have a place in assisting a good student through some weak spots, but these mechanisms should not be used to shore up poorly prepared students across a broad front of academic topics. At the high school level, teachers and guidance counsellors should ensure that general level students know of the need to keep up their math and science courses if they wish to enter a college technology program or an institute of applied science and technology.
THE ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR ADMISSION TO THREE YEAR TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS BE SET IN TERMS OF SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF ADVANCED LEVEL COURSES IN ENGLISH, MATH AND SCIENCE AT THE GRADE 12 OR ONTARIO ACADEMIC CREDIT LEVELS.
THE ENTRANCE STANDARDS FOR TWO YEAR TECHNICIAN PROGRAMS SHOULD BE SET AT A LEVEL THAT ENSURES THAT CANDIDATES HAVE ALL THE BASIC ACADEMIC SKILLS TO SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE THE PROGRAM AND BECOME FULLY QUALIFIED GRADUATES.
Establish Up-grading Courses for Prospective College Students
The question of access to the college technology programs should not be solved through reducing entrance standards. Students who, for whatever reasons, do not meet the required standards should have the option of enroling in either a pre-tech semester or year, or a General Arts and Science Program. Only after they have acquired the missing academic courses, at a suitable level of comprehension, should they be allowed to enrol in a technician or technologist program. This would also be the entrance route for mature students who have been out of the education system for some time and require refresher or upgrading courses.
Several college interviewees said that they had been unsuccessful in offering this option to prospective students because the students would not enrol in pre-tech programs. If the students cannot be persuaded of the need for a pre-tech program or enroling in needed upgrading courses, they would most likely not make good technicians or technologists because of their inability to accept direction and advice. The pre-tech upgrading requirement should be system-wide to avoid the temptation for some colleges to accept technology students that do not meet technology program entrance requirements.
In some cases, the existing General Arts and Science Program may offer sufficient pre-tech courses to bring prospective technology students up to an acceptable academic level. However, to enable students, and especially mature students who are working, to take a pre-tech program or specific courses, these courses should be delivered in the evenings or on weekends.
COLLEGES OFFER PRE-TECH PROGRAMS OR COURSES FOR THOSE WHO REQUIRE UPGRADING IN ACADEMIC SUBJECTS, PRIOR TO THEIR ADMISSION TO A TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM, AND THAT SOME, IF NOT ALL, OF THESE COURSES BE OFFERED IN THE EVENINGS AND ON WEEKENDS TO FACILITATE THE ENROLMENT OF MATURE STUDENTS.
Technology Program Standards/Accreditation
Although not an official part of the study, college personnel were asked about their views on province-wide accreditation. A considerable number of respondents were in favour of an accreditation system. There was no consensus on which body should do the accreditation, although many felt that the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT) must have some part in it.
A majority of the technology program advisory committee members contacted during this study were in favour of some form of accreditation. Most considered that OACETT should undertake the accreditation. For other technology areas, such as chemical technology, other associations were suggested. Some programs concerned with aviation already are accredited through the Federal Government. One respondent said that accreditation standards will ensure the quality of graduates throughout the province and enable the graduates to be marketed as a known quantity. Another thought that the Ontario government should become more involved in accrediting the quality of the technology programs in the colleges.
One college student complained that colleges are lowering their standards because of the lower enrolment, and that the lower entrance standards reflect on the quality of the graduates. This student wanted stricter entrance standards.
One of the marketing advantages that technology institutes in B.C. and Alberta have over Ontario colleges is the ability to advertise in their calendars that their programs have been accredited, for example, by the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C. Accreditation also provides their graduates with greater freedom to move from province to province.
Province-wide accreditation or standards would also give employers some feeling of security that students coming out of the Ontario college or institute system have met some minimum standards set by an external agency. One industrial interviewee said that they had no sense of the level of quality of programs because it varied from college to college.
One college placement officer who felt that his college was not maintaining its standards said, "Colleges are building their own gallows when they pass poor students".
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES CONSIDER THE ESTABLISHMENT OF PROGRAM STANDARDS THAT ENSURE THE QUALITY OF THE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS. ESTABLISHMENT OF STANDARDS SHOULD BE DONE IN CONSULTATION WITH ONTARIO EMPLOYERS AND APPROPRIATE ASSOCIATIONS.
Fighting Technological Obsolescence
Two of the critical factors on which the reputation of a technology program rests are the competence of the instructors, and the quality of the facilities and equipment. The problem of obsolete equipment and facilities will be discussed in the section on program consolidation.
Most of the college respondents and the industrial advisory committee members surveyed considered that the technology instructors were reasonably up-to-date in their fields. However, many commented that there were a few out-of-date instructors in the system that were spoiling the reputation of the technology departments.
The technical obsolescence problem of some of the instructors can be solved in several ways, although money is involved in all of them. Among the possible solutions:
- greater encouragement to take sabbaticals
- early retirement program, allowing for the hiring of new technology instructors
- increased resources for technology instructor retraining
- requirement that instructors upgrade through workshops or courses offered by equipment manufacturers, and through visits to industry
- increased interaction between instructors and industry
In the interviews with Ontario employers only one or two mentioned having been visited by technology instructors to learn something about how they were using technology. It appears that most technology faculty rely on the technology program advisory committees as their sole contact with industry. This is not adequate.
Group visits to specific industries should be organized and instructors from related disciplines from several colleges should tour facilities together. In this way instructors would obtain a first hand view of what their graduates are working on, and they would have an opportunity to meet with fellow instructors from other colleges/institutes and compare notes on courses.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES PROVIDE THE RESOURCES TO ENABLE TECHNOLOGY INSTRUCTORS TO KEEP ABREAST OF THEIR FIELDS, AND TO INCREASE THE LEVEL OF INTERACTION BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY INSTRUCTORS AND THE INDUSTRIES THAT EMPLOY THEIR GRADUATES.
Reduce the Terminal Image of College Education
Many people commented on the terminal nature of a college education. This perception occurs because, with the exception of Lakehead University, college graduates cannot make a easy transition to Ontario universities to obtain a degree.
Several colleges have arrangements with U.S. universities so that their students can enter these institutions and obtain a university degree after only one or two years of study. At some, the Canadians pay the same fees as U.S. citizens.
It should be possible for Ontario students to stay in Ontario and obtain a degree without having to start at square one in the Ontario university system.
Two possible solutions to this degree dilemma are to develop a more effective transfer mechanism between colleges and universities, or to allow a few colleges to add an additional year to their technologist programs and award the degree "Bachelor of Technology". At the moment, Ryerson is the only educational institution in Ontario that offers the Bachelor of Technology Program.
Before either solution can be adopted more study is required to determine what courses the colleges must offer so that the objections to college graduates by Ontario universities can be overcome. More study is also required to determine the requirements of Ontario employers for Bachelor of Technology graduates.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ENCOURAGE THE RECOGNITION OF COLLEGE DIPLOMAS BY UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS OFFICES THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF AN EFFECTIVE TRANSFER MECHANISM THAT WILL ALLOW COLLEGE TECHNOLOGY GRADUATES TO ATTEND UNIVERSITY IN ONTARIO, IF THEY WISH TO DO SO.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES CONDUCT A SURVEY OF ONTARIO EMPLOYERS TO DETERMINE THEIR REQUIREMENTS FOR HIGHER LEVEL TECHNOLOGY GRADUATES.
If the survey of employers indicates that they can effectively
employ more bachelor of technology graduates than Ryerson can produce, some
of the institutes of applied science and technology should add an additional
year and offer the Bachelor of Technology degree in specific areas.
Consolidation and Rationalization of Programs
Two major factors contributing to the enrolment problems of the technology departments are too many colleges competing for too few qualified students, and poor equipment and facilities.
The Ministry of Colleges and Universities must consider reducing the number of colleges that offer technology programs. In this way colleges will not be competing for a limited number of students, and class sizes and sections can be operated more economically.
Several industrial advisory committee members pointed out, however, that some colleges, especially those in northern Ontario, should continue to offer a broad range of technology programs because of the cost to students of living away from home.
Most of the college respondents and many of the industrial advisory committee members considered that there was room for improvement in the quality of facilities and equipment. Many of the colleges have not had any major equipment funds since the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development (BILD) program. Even then, the BILD program only provided funds for high technology equipment and not medium technology such as oscilloscopes and other test equipment. Many instructors complained about working with equipment that was really beyond repair, but they had to keep repairing it because there was no money for replacement. The problem of obsolete equipment and facilities can only be solved in one way; more money.A survey by the deans of technology a few years ago indicated that many millions of dollars would be needed to upgrade the equipment and facilities of the technology departments. Many college instructors interviewed believed that the poor quality of the equipment they were forced to use was affecting the quality of their graduates.
If the funds are not available to bring the technical equipment and facilities of 22 colleges up-to-date, then consideration must be given to reducing the number of technology programs offered in the college system so that the remaining programs are adequately supported.
The building of residences for out-of-town students, and the availability of substantial scholarships to cover the expenses of qualified students living away from home must be an integral part of any technology program rationalization.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES CONSIDER CONSOLIDATION AND RATIONALIZATION OF TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS.
Improve Technology Program Delivery and Content
This set of recommendations deals with the re-targeting of technology program delivery to a different group of high school students, and to mature or part-time students. It also deals with strengthening the delivery of the co-operative education programs, and the issue of broadening the subject content of the technology programs to include more non-technical subjects. Questions regarding the technical content of the technology programs are beyond the mandate of this study and were, therefore, not addressed. Comments from employers and industrial association interviewees did not, on the whole, indicate any significant problems with technical content. A few, however, commented on the problems of keeping course content up-to-date in fields where the technology is changing rapidly.
Development of a Two Year Technologist Program
One of the advantages that private technology schools offer to prospective students, that the colleges at present do not, is shorter technology programs.
The institutes in B.C. and Alberta offer two year technologist programs. They can do this by requiring higher entrance standards than Ontario, and by having longer school terms in a calendar year.
Not one industry interviewee that had hired a graduate from the British Columbia Institute of Technology, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology or the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology said that two year technologists from these institutions were inferior to graduates from Ontario's three year programs.The colleges have not modified their entrance requirements to take into account that under the new Ontario Schools: Intermediate and Senior Divisions (OSIS) plan, there will be Grade 12 students graduating from the high schools with final year courses (e.g. Ontario Academic Credits (OAC)).
Technology departments should set up parallel systems that offer both two and three year technologist programs. The two year programs would have extended years (i.e., a ten month teaching year) so that all the required material can be covered.
The two year programs would have greater appeal to qualified high school students (who have their OACs) who want to graduate from college as quickly as they can. A two year program avoids the danger of boring good students with unnecessary duplication of high school work.
THE COLLEGES SHOULD CONSIDER MODIFYING THEIR PROGRAM DELIVERY IN ORDER TO ACCOMMODATE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WITH ONTARIO ACADEMIC CREDITS AND PROVIDE THESE STUDENTS WITH THE OPTION OF TAKING A TWO YEAR TECHNOLOGIST PROGRAM.
Market to the Mature and Part-time Student
Up to now, most college marketing efforts have been aimed at full-time, high school students. Administrative procedures that have been developed are based on full-time enrolment. The way in which colleges are funded does not encourage the marketing of college programs to part-time students (i.e., more student contact hours are required in part-time courses to equal a full-time equivalent student than in full-time programs)
The technology institutes in B.C. and Alberta claim that the percentage of mature students enroled in their technology programs exceeds 60%. The comparative Ontario statistics indicate less than 10% of the students enroled in technology programs are mature (i.e. enroled in the programs after being out of high school for a few years). It appears that the Ontario colleges are missing a major market; people already in the workforce.
In order to reach mature students, greater use must be made of television and radio advertising. Bus stop and bus advertising must also be used along with newspaper and magazine advertisements.
During the course of this study it was clear that, until sex stereotyping of job occupations is eliminated in the primary grades and in the media, college technology departments would be better spending their limited marketing resources on attracting mature female students from the workforce rather than female students directly from the high school system.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES COMMISSION A PROFESSIONAL MARKETING FIRM TO DEVELOP A RECRUITMENT CAMPAIGN TARGETED AT MATURE STUDENTS, AND IN PARTICULAR, AT WOMEN.
Eliminate Barriers for Mature Students
Many of the college students interviewed during this study, especially the single parents, or those who were trying to contribute financially to their own families, indicated dissatisfaction with the existing student financial assistance programs. The lack of an adequate student assistant program that addresses the special financial needs of mature students may be a considerable barrier to mature students attending college.
A recent study of part-time undergraduate students at Canadian universities reveals that financial assistance programs are not meeting the needs of mature, part-time students. (Potter and Stapleton, 1988). Potter and Stapleton also found that in some provinces, universities receive less provincial money for part-time students than for full-time students. Thus it appears that mature college students encounter the same type of financial problems as mature and part-time university students.
Attracting and keeping mature students, especially single parents, would require careful examination of student support programs (e.g., Ontario Student Assistance Program (O.S.A.P.)) to make sure that they address the needs of mature college students going back as either full-time, or part-time students.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES EXAMINE ALL STUDENT SUPPORT PROGRAMS AND ELIMINATE ALL FINANCIAL DISINCENTIVES FOR COLLEGES TO MARKET TO MATURE STUDENTS, EITHER PART-TIME OR FULL-TIME, AND FOR MATURE STUDENTS TO ATTEND COLLEGE.
More Technology Courses in the Evenings and on Weekends
A key aspect of effective marketing is providing a service to a customer when and how the customer wants the service. Another is to match or exceed the services offered by competitors.
As noted earlier in the report, the number of students in the high school system is declining. College marketing personnel must therefore look to other groups as potential sources of students. Adults in the workforce are such a group, but the delivery of the technology programs to them must take into account their concerns about timing, and their needs for financial security.Courses should be offered in the evenings or on weekends for three reasons. First, it allows students who are not quite sure of their interest in a particular technology program to attend some of the courses without having to make a major commitment, such as give up a job. Second, it would allow some of the students to hold part-time jobs that may be a financial necessity. Third, evening or weekend courses would also be more easily accessible to mature students who wish to upgrade their credentials, but are working and cannot obtain release time from employers to attend regular day courses.
COLLEGES SHOULD OFFER MORE OF THEIR TECHNOLOGY COURSES IN THE EVENING OR ON WEEKENDS IN ORDER TO ACCOMMODATE MATURE STUDENTS WISHING TO UPGRADE THEIR CREDENTIALS.
Maintain the Co-operative Education Programs
Co-operative education is a joint undertaking that requires that employers actively participate in the education of the students. The good-will of the employers is of great importance if a co-op program is to succeed.
During the course of this study, several industrial interviewees stated that they were considering stopping hiring co-op college students because the colleges could not provide the students year round. Some employers thought that some colleges such as Mohawk had dropped co-operative education altogether because they were not providing students on a year round basis. They said that they would switch over to hiring University of Waterloo engineering co-op students.
Apparently, disagreements with instructors over summer holidays is at the root of the problem some colleges are having in providing co-op students on a year round basis.
In order to maintain viable co-op programs, the technology departments must be able to offer students on a year round basis or on a basis agreeable to industry.
TECHNOLOGY DEPARTMENTS OR INSTITUTES SHOULD ENSURE THAT CO-OPERATIVE EDUCATION STUDENTS CAN BE PROVIDED TO ONTARIO EMPLOYERS WHEN THEY REQUIRE THEM.
More Adequately Finance Co-op Programs
It is much more expensive to operate co-operative educational programs than regular programs. A major additional expense is the hiring of co-op placement officers to find employment for co-op students during their work cycle. This is a full-time activity if co-op is to be successful.
Some colleges have had to drop co-op programs because of the additional expense, which is not covered by the government operating grants.
Everyone contacted during this study spoke highly of both the co-operative form of education, and the college co-op students. A major benefit of co-operative education is that it provides the graduate with some of the experience that many employers, especially small firms, require of a new employee. Co-operative education should be encouraged as much as possible.
Colleges should not be financially penalized for offering a service that all concerned agree is to the advantage of both Ontario employers and college students.
The Ministry of Colleges and Universities should examine its funding policies, determine the additional costs of operating a co-operative educational program, and eliminate any disincentives to colleges or institutes in establishing and operating co-operative educational programs.
It is important, however, that the ability of employers to hire the co-op students during their work cycles be assessed before new co-op programs are established in order to ensure the viability of the co-op program.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES SHOULD MODIFY ITS FUNDING OF COLLEGES AND COVER THE ADDITIONAL COSTS OF ESTABLISHING AND OPERATING VIABLE CO-OPERATIVE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS.
Broaden the Technology Program Education
Many of the industrial interviewees mentioned the poor communications and interpersonal skills of the technology graduates. This same criticism has also been made of university science and engineering graduates. In addition, several industrial interviewees complained that the graduates knew little about the business world.
The non-technical courses that make up the technology programs should be oriented towards increasing the communication skills and interpersonal skills of the graduates and should provide them with some basic understanding of the technological innovation process and technical entrepreneurship (i.e., how an idea can be developed into a new technological process or product).
THE COLLEGES MODIFY THEIR NON-TECHNICAL COURSES IN THEIR TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS SO THAT THE COURSES EMPHASIZE THE DEVELOPMENT OF SKILLS IN COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS, AND PROVIDE GRADUATES WITH A BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP.
Improve the Flow of Information About Technology Programs
The recommendations in this section are concerned with providing information to prospective college students about the technology programs, and in collecting and disseminating information about the successful and rewarding careers that technicians and technologists can have upon graduation. These recommendations deal with the "selling" aspect of the marketing of the technology programs.
Convey Accurate Information About TechnologyPrograms and Careers to Prospective Students
Many college personnel and high school counsellors said that one of the major barriers to encouraging students to enrol in technology programs is that most prospective students and the general public do not know what technicians or technologists are, or what they do in the normal course of a day, week, or month.
It is very difficult, if not impossible to attract someone to an occupation if that person has little knowledge about the occupation. Students may be reluctant to sign up for talks on an occupational area if the occupational title is meaningless. They will tend, instead, to sign up for talks on occupations that they have heard about on television or from their parents, teachers, or friends.
Improving the flow of accurate and timely information on technology careers and technology programs can be accomplished in a number of ways. The following approaches should be considered complementary to each other, and not an either/ or proposition.
Dedicated Technical Marketers
The colleges' central marketing groups are very limited in their ability to promote any one college program. In most cases, the college high school liaison people do not have the necessary training or background in science or technology, and most liaison staff are university rather than college graduates.
Some college technology departments have already assigned some marketing activities to a member of their faculty. Although this is a good strategy in the short term, it relies on the availability of a faculty member with spare time and with public relations and marketing skills.A much better approach would be for the technology department to have a full-time, dedicated technical marketing consultant. In order to be effective, this person should have the following qualifications:
- a technical background
- be a college technology program graduate
- industrial work experience
- the necessary marketing training and skills
In short, this person should be a role model of what he or she is selling.
It is important that the technical marketer have formal marketing training, as part of the job must include examining the offerings of the technology department and make recommendations on new ways to attract qualified students. This might include changing the delivery of some existing programs in order to attract increased numbers of mature students.
The technical marketer is not a substitute for increased contact between the technology department instructors and high school subject teachers. He or she should facilitate such contacts.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES PROVIDE THE TECHNOLOGY DEPARTMENTS WITH THE FUNDS TO EMPLOY DEDICATED TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM MARKETERS.
Increased Networking between Technical Faculty and High
School Math, Science and Technology Teachers
In order for prospective students to have a better appreciation of technology programs, it is important that contacts between college faculty and local high school subject teachers be facilitated and encouraged.
In this way subject teachers would be able to better advise prospective college students about what to expect when they go to college and the technical faculty would have a better appreciation of the topics being presented to the students in high school.
In some cases, it may be possible to develop in the high school system course paths that a student could follow if he or she is interested in a particular college technology program.
Many college personnel mentioned that they had moved away from dealing with high school guidance counsellors and were dealing directly with subject teachers. A technology program advisory committee member who felt that the contact between college instructors and high school subject teachers was not adequate said that technology program instructors, "need direct access [to subject teachers] to promote technology programs directly to high school students without being filtered through counsellors".
Some college faculty have found math and science teachers very receptive to them going into classrooms to talk to advanced level students primarily about the applications of math or science to the scientific/business/manufacturing world. At the same time the college faculty have an opportunity to talk about college and university entrance requirements, and the career opportunities for either college or university graduates. These efforts should be encouraged by the college. Because of the large number of students they must serve, guidance counsellors only spend minutes with students compared to subject teachers who spend months. A subject teacher can be a powerful influence on the career selection decision of students. A subject teacher who is knowledgeable about the college system and the career opportunities awaiting college technology program graduates can be a positive force in encouraging students to consider college.
Colleges should continue to develop and present special college demonstration days for math, science and technological studies teachers, and should assist these teachers in learning about local industry by arranging tours of local businesses. Colleges should also work to dispel the belief that only university graduates have successful careers by arranging meetings between successful college graduates and teachers. College technology departments should increase their contacts with organizations such as the Science Teachers Association of Ontario and the Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators.
TECHNOLOGY DEPARTMENT LIAISON PERSONNEL AND TECHNOLOGY INSTRUCTORS SHOULD TARGET THEIR HIGH SCHOOL BRIDGE BUILDING ACTIVITIES ON MATH, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGICAL SUBJECT TEACHERS AND ASSIST THESE TEACHERS IN LEARNING ABOUT LOCAL BUSINESSES AND SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE GRADUATES
Piggyback Technology Program Promotion
At the present time the main proactive marketing efforts of the colleges consist of the College Information Fairs, information days for guidance counsellors at the colleges, college personnel giving talks at high schools, mall displays and special tours or technology department open house days for special groups or the general public.
While all these activities have some value, they reach only a very limited number of prospective mature or high school students. The College Information Fairs, for example, simply do not attract enough technology-oriented students and are not considered by the high school liaison personnel as effective in recruiting technology students.
Colleges should piggyback their promotional activities for the technology programs on top of other events, such as science fairs, or at science or technology oriented displays that attract a large number of people interested in science and technology.
For example, the colleges should have information booths (either with computerized displays or with people) at major science centres or science museums in the province. These organizations attract thousands of people (adults and children) who can be assumed to have at least some interest in science and technology. Personnel at the college information booths could provide people with information about technology related careers and specific technology programs offered by the colleges.
In this way the colleges would not only reach children of all ages, but also adults who may be interested in college information from either the point of view of a prospective mature student, or as a parent of a student interested in a career in science or technology.
This approach to disseminating technology program information has been discussed with the head of the Ontario Science Centre and with officials at the aviation and science museums in Ottawa who indicated that they would give serious consideration to any initiatives to set up college information booths/displays.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, IN COOPERATION WITH THE TECHNOLOGY DEPARTMENTS OF THE COLLEGES, SHOULD OPEN NEGOTIATIONS WITH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY MUSEUMS AND DISPLAYS IN ONTARIO TO PLACE COLLEGE INFORMATION BOOTHS WITHIN THOSE ORGANIZATIONS.
Use of Interactive Computer-Integrated Laser Disk Technology
[This recommendation would now be modified to make use of the colleges' web-sites rather than laser disk technology - T.E. Clarke, 2002]
To overcome the information gap about technology careers and programs, it is proposed that the Ontario government consider purchasing commercially available, computer-interactive laser disk video systems for the technology departments. [Government should support the development of attractive and informative web-sites at each college].
These units would enable a person to ask questions about a particular career; for example, civil engineering technician, and the laser disk side of the system would provide the viewer with a 2-3 minute colour video showing the work life of a civil engineering technician. Information about starting salaries, average salaries, names of typical employers etc. would be provided by the computer side of the system. This approach has a number of advantages over video tape. It allows a person to obtain required information in a short time and permits the person to zero in on exactly what he or she wants to know about the potential career. The statistical data in the system can be easily kept up to date by loading in new information programs on the computer.
Two or three units of this type at each college would enable the technology departments to use the systems for external and internal exhibitions, mall or conference displays to reach prospective mature students. The units can also be circulated through the schools in the college's catchment area, spending several weeks at each school. In this way, every school could have a unit several times each school year. Circulation of the units should not be confined to high schools but should also include intermediate, and possibly elementary schools. These could also be used in conjunction with displays aimed at mature students. Career mini videos, especially those directed at elementary and intermediate school students should show women in technology roles.
These units would enable guidance counsellors and subject teachers to become knowledgeable about technology related careers and, in addition, provide them with a tool to provide up to date career information and visual material. A unit in a school library for example, would enable students to by-pass poor counsellors and access the information by themselves. This type of equipment could also be used during parent-teacher interview days to educate parents about technology careers. [Counsellors and school libraries should have the URL addresses of each college book marked on their computer's search engines].
The availability of laser disc systems would also assist in reducing college (and university) attrition. Many respondents pointed out that some of the attrition in the college technology programs is due to students realizing that the programs they had entered were leading to careers or jobs in which they had little interest. [Information on the web-sites should tell the whole story about the career, both the good side and the "warts".]
Video Tapes(now DVDs or Flash Drives) of Science and Technology Careers
The use of computer-interactive information systems should complement the professional production of video tapes that describe various scientific/technological careers.
Individual tapes should be developed for each scientific/technological discipline and should cover both the professional level occupations held by university graduates and the technician/technologists level occupations held by college graduates. In this way, prospective students and parents could make more realistic comparisons of the occupations and careers.
In addition to providing more detail on the day to day activities of a particular occupation, the video could provide information on the education requirements in terms of high school courses and marks that students would need to successfully complete a program of study in either college or university.
These videos should display people describing their own educational background and present careers. Special attention should be paid to ensure that women in scientific and technical occupations are well represented.
Several industrial association interviewees stated that they would be interested in taking part in the production of such video tapes.
These tapes should be available for borrowing through several channels including, high school libraries and guidance counsellors, Canada Manpower Offices, women's information networks, and even chains of video rental stores.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES WITH THE COOPERATION OF THE MINISTRY OF INDUSTRY , TRADE AND TECHNOLOGY, AND ONTARIO INDUSTRY, DEVELOP INFORMATION PACKAGES ON TECHNOLOGY CAREERS FOR BOTH COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY GRADUATES.
Marketing videos by individual colleges can be used in conjunction with or separate from career videos to provide additional information on where training for careers can be obtained.
Identify and Publicize the CareerSuccesses of Technology
Many current college promotional activities are focussed on selling college programs, rather than on showing how people can have interesting and rewarding careers after completion of the programs. College should be seen as simply a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Other than collecting data for Graduate Placement Reports, colleges, in general, do not follow the careers of their graduates. Several colleges reported attempts to establish alumni associations but for a variety of reasons most reported failure.
The only way to break the "failure" image of college graduates in the minds of parents, students and high school personnel is to make them aware of the many successful people with college diplomas. [This information should be included in the colleges' web-site].
Colleges cannot solve the enrolment problem by themselves. Industry must be actively involved in encouraging students to enrol. Industry must play a greater role in advertising the careers that a technician and technologist can have after graduation. Industry should be encouraged to talk about technician/technology career opportunities to high school students on career days. Talks should not be limited to the managerial or professional level jobs.
Colleges should make greater use of their network of industrial program advisors, not only to talk about technology careers, but also to contact other employers to encourage them to speak up about the contribution technicians and technologists make to their organization's success. The technology departments should also request their advisory committee members to develop a list of senior people in their organizations who are college graduates so that their careers can be publicized.
College graduates and students should also be encouraged to talk about the careers of technology program graduates. A few colleges have conducted surveys of first year students to determine why they decided to attend college. Although these studies are of an ad hoc nature, the one finding that appears to be common is that prospective students were heavily influenced by advice from college students or graduates. High school guidance counsellors also mentioned that college students or graduates were an important source of information for high school students considering the college option.
Some of the colleges such as Durham and Loyalist are making use of testimonial advertising already. This needs to be expanded and done on a system-wide basis.
On a college system-wide basis, the career success stories of women and men should be gathered and put into a form that would be available to all concerned.(e.g., short life histories, video testimonials, etc.) Successful role models are a vital part of any marketing strategy. They are also an important factor in building the reputation of a college.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ENCOURAGE THE COLLEGES TO MAKE GREATER USE OF THEIR INDUSTRIAL PROGRAM ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBERS AND GRADUATES OR STUDENTS IN PUBLICIZING THE CAREERS OF TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM GRADUATES, AND FUND A SURVEY TO IDENTIFY GRADUATES OF COLLEGE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS WHOSE WORKING CAREERS CAN BE USED AS ROLE MODELS FOR FUTURE TECHNOLOGY STUDENTS.
Publicize the Importance of the Colleges in Ontario's Economy
Several college interviewees said that they had never heard any senior minister in the Ontario Government say anything positive about the colleges, and in particular, the technology area of the colleges.
In addition, papers, conference proceedings or reports dealing with science and technology issues in Canada rarely mention college technology programs and their graduates. It is as if, in the minds of many people, they don't "exist", or are not considered important.
If technicians and technologists are important to Ontario industries' ability to adopt and develop new technologies, then the Ontario Government should make the public aware of the important role that colleges play in training technicians and technologists and how this supports the economic performance of Ontario industry. Industry should also join in this public acknowledgement of the valuable role that the technicians and technologists play in the Ontario economy.
An underlying theme in such a promotion should be that the technology departments require good male and female students, ready for challenging and rewarding careers.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES COMMISSION A PROFESSIONAL MARKETING FIRM TO DEVELOP AN INFORMATION PACKAGE TELLING OF THE IMPORTANCE OF TECHNOLOGY GRADUATES TO THE ONTARIO ECONOMY, AND THAT MINISTERS ACKNOWLEDGE THE IMPORTANT ROLE THAT COLLEGE GRADUATES PLAY IN THE ECONOMY OF ONTARIO.
INCREASING THE NUMBER OF QUALIFIED HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
INTERESTED IN CAREERS IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Although the recommendations in this category are somewhat outside the mandate of this study, action at the school level is necessary in order that any marketing or other activities taken by the colleges are effective in improving technology program enrolment. The high school system is still the major supplier, directly or indirectly, of prospective college students and cannot be ignored in any review of enrolment in the college system.
Improve the Quality of Science/MathEducation in the School System in Ontario
As noted in Chapter Two, there is a general decline in the number of students opting for math and physical science courses in the high school system. Ontario cannot take much comfort in the fact that this decline appears in other provinces and in other countries.
It is important that the quality of math and science, especially physics and engineering subjects, be improved and that they be taught by dedicated professionals who understand the importance to the provincial and national economy of graduating students who are competent and interested in careers in science and technology.
Science and math teachers at all grade levels in the school system should have training suitable to the science or math topics they are teaching. They should also be provided with the equipment and facilities to teach to the best of their abilities.
Science is not a static discipline. Teachers at all grade levels must have the opportunity and be encouraged to take courses to upgrade their qualifications and to keep up to date.
In the primary grades, science courses should not focus on biology or botany to the exclusion of physics, chemistry or engineering topics.
EFFORTS TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF SCIENCE AND MATH EDUCATION IN PRIMARY, INTERMEDIATE AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS SHOULD BE INCREASED, AND MORE EMPHASIS BE PLACED ON THE ENGINEERING AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES ASPECTS OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION, RATHER THAN JUST ON THE BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES.
Improve the Career Selection Process
Another factor that influences a student's decision to choose a career in science or technology is the perceived rewards of such a career. Numerous interviewees said that many students base their career selection on what they see on television. Walsh (1988), in his study of career selection as it affects the skilled trades area, reported that 61.8% of the students he surveyed felt that they knew little about jobs in sciences and engineering. Added to this, as noted in Chapter Five, is the widely held perception that many careers in science and technology are "male careers".
While there is little, if anything, any government agency can do to significantly improve the rewards of a science/technology career, it should be possible to bring to the attention of students in the school system the very successful careers that people have in science and technology. This is especially important for female high school students. Many respondents in our study thought that an educational campaign dealing with women who have successful careers in science and technology must start around Grades 5 or 6 if it is to have any effect on encouraging girls to think about a career in science or technology. After that, sex stereotyping of occupations and the image that all girls do not do well in math and science will be too hard to dispel.
It is clear from the research reported in Chapter Five that role models, though essential, are not sufficient to encourage and assist girls in acquiring skill and proficiency in subjects such as physics. Programs must be developed for the early primary grades to provide girls with the 'tinkering' experiences that boys appear to engage in routinely outside of school.
THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION PUT INCREASED EFFORT INTO FIGHTING SEX ROLE STEREOTYPING OF OCCUPATIONS AND OVERCOMING THE LACK OF PHYSICS-RELATED EXPERIENCES FOR GIRLS THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPECIAL SCIENCE PROGRAMS AIMED AT GIRLS IN GRADES ONE THROUGH SIX. THE MINISTRY SHOULD ALSO PUT GREATER EFFORT INTO ENCOURAGING GIRLS TO ENROL IN TECHNOLOGICAL STUDIES COURSES IN THE INTERMEDIATE AND SENIOR GRADES.
Career Exploration Course
All programs designed to encourage both male or female students to consider a career in science and technology should be expanded. It is, however, not enough that career selection information be provided in one- or two-day workshops or seminars. It is also not enough that popular television programs be the major source of information on careers. Students must be given more time to investigate possible careers and be provided with the maximum amount of accurate and realistic information about careers. During this study, one college interviewee mentioned that during a trip to Germany, he was impressed with the fact that in German schools, students must take a compulsory course on "career selection".
If a similar type of course were put in place, it would force students to take a much harder look at potential occupations than is done at present. It would also allow parents to become more involved through assisting their children in obtaining information about careers and discussing options with them.
A career selection or exploration course should be developed in cooperation with Ontario employers, and employers should be involved in the delivery of the course. As many respondents emphasized, most intermediate and high school teachers know little about the world of work outside the educational system. Guest speakers, male and female, should be drawn from all occupational types including trades, technicians, technologists and professionals. Care should be taken that sex stereotyping of occupations is avoided.
A career exploration course could also include information on the high school courses that are necessary to the various occupations. Several interviewees mentioned that parents seem to have little input into their children's course selection decisions. A career course would provide them with the opportunity to discuss course selection in the context of career selection. This course should complement special programs aimed at encouraging girls to stay in math and science courses.
THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, IN COOPERATION WITH ONTARIO EMPLOYERS, DEVELOP A CAREER EXPLORATION COURSE TO BE COMPULSORY FOR STUDENTS IN GRADE NINE OR TEN.
Allow Access to Advanced Level High School Students
There appears to be a major problem with the attitudes of high school personnel towards college education in general, and technology programs, in particular.
The two myths of college education must be eradicated from the high school system in order that the colleges can more effectively market their technology programs to students who can benefit from the education. For technology programs, colleges need students who have good academic skills in English, math and science, not just technological studies.
The Ministry of Education must make it clear, by whatever means at its disposal, that high school personnel should not discourage, in any way, the access of the colleges to advanced level students. Students must be given the opportunity to learn about many different career options, not just those preferred by the high school teaching staff.
THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES SHOULD RE-QUEST THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION TO ENCOURAGE SCHOOL BOARDS TO GIVE COLLEGE REPRESENTATIVES ACCESS TO ALL LEVELS OF STUDENTS IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS, INCLUDING ADVANCED LEVEL STUDENTS.
Improve Career Counselling
Career counselling in the school system is cause for great concern. Most of the college and industrial respondents in this study had little positive to say about high school guidance counsellors. Only about 10% of the college students interviewed said that their counsellors had been helpful in providing information about college. This is not surprising given that the ratio of students to counsellors is approximately 300:1. (King, Warren and Peart, 1988).
The major difficulty facing high school guidance counsellors is that, given their backgrounds, they have been given an almost impossible job to do. Most of them have no experience outside the educational system, they are involved with other duties besides career counselling, and they are not given much in the way of extra resources to provide anything more than minimal or superficial counselling. In their review of Ontario guidance counsellors, King, Warren and Peart (1988) found that the counsellors spent less than 20% of their time on career counselling. Career counselling is too important to be left in the hands of "part-time" people who have too few resources, and little or no first hand understanding of the world of industry and business.
The career counselling function should be a separate activity from psychological counselling, and counsellors should be trained career counsellors with work experience gained from non-educational sectors of the economy; career counsellors should not be drawn from the ranks of teachers. The career counsellors should build up contacts with, and make extensive use of, people in industry, business, government etc. in order to provide accurate and timely advice. They must be an important conduit through which students learn about the world of work outside the educational system.
Career counsellors should be provided with the resources needed to do their job effectively. They should be proactive in learning about the job skill requirements of Ontario employers. They should not be limited to just dispensing pamphlets. Counsellors should have the time to learn about both the college and university systems and their requirements for student admissions.
In areas where the cost of a dedicated career counsellor in a school cannot be justified, career counsellors should cover several schools in the district. It is better to have a dedicated, knowledgeable career counsellor one day per week, than an incompetent counsellor five days per week.
THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION MAKE CAREER COUNSELLING A SEPARATE ACTIVITY AND FILL THE CAREER COUNSELLOR POSITIONS WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCE IN THE WORLD OUTSIDE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM, RATHER THAN WITH TEACHERS.
Technicians and technologists play an important role in the development and application of new technology to Ontario industry. This new technology will be vital if Ontario industries are to successfully compete in national and global markets.
All the colleges in Ontario have suffered some enrolment decline in the past five years. Enrolment decline appears to be greater in colleges in northern and eastern Ontario. This enrolment decline has put many technology programs in peril, and has resulted in a decline in the number of graduates coming out of the programs. These declines are having a deleterious impact on both the colleges and Ontario industry.
The major reasons for the enrolment decline in the technology programs is that the school system is not graduating enough qualified students interested in careers in science and technology, and colleges have not been effective in marketing their technology programs.
The main negative impact on the colleges is the apparent reduction in the quality of students entering the technology programs and a resultant spread in the quality of the graduates.
Even though the rate of growth of technician and technologist employment in some areas, such as research and development, is not increasing at the same rate as other occupational areas, the shortage of qualified graduates has resulted in job vacancies going unfilled, starting salaries increasing, and in some cases firms unable to expand for lack of trained personnel.
The solution to the problem of a shortage of qualified graduates is not simple. It will require action on a number of issues simultaneously. These include raising the profile and image of institutes of applied science and technology, raising the entrance requirements of the programs in order to attract qualified students and reduce attrition, maintaining marking standards, raising the profile of successful college graduates, making students, parents and high school personnel aware that a college or institute education is a road to success, not failure, and highlighting the positive role that college graduates play in the economy of Ontario in ministerial speeches and ministry information releases. Increased special efforts will have to be made to overcome the sex stereotyping of technology occupations as a male preserve, and to improve the teaching of math and science in schools.
Improvements will also have to be made in the quality of science and math education offered in the school system so that more students are turned on to the possibility of a career in science and technology.
If nothing is done, the decline is enrolment of qualified students will increase, the pressure to lower educational standards will also increase, and Ontario will lose a valuable vehicle for providing its population with needed training for the industries of the 21st century.
The situation Ontario faces was aptly described by the participants in the Roundtable Report of the Canadian Advanced Technology Association. The following quote represents the views of people in Canadian industry, especially those in the 'traded businesses'. Unless it is understood, accepted, and acted upon by Canadians in the educational sector of our economy, Ontario's future will be bleak.
"Canada is involved in a war for national economic survival. It is a war in which technological leadership is, more than ever before, the strategic factor in determining national economic performance. It is a war we are losing. We are losing because we have neglected to develop the scientific and technological base on which industrial competitiveness depends". (CATA, 1986)
Highly qualified technicians and technologists form an important part of that base.
[Since this report was written in 1989, Canada has experienced a continuous drop in the value of the Canadian dollar, a steady flow of its best and brightest citizens to other more technologically encouraging nations, and an overall drop in the standard of living of Canadians to a point below that of the poorest state in the U.S. - T.E. Clarke, 2002]
1. AIP, "Physics in the High Schools: Findings From the 1986-87 Nationwide Survey of Secondary School Teachers of Physics", Report No. R-340, American Institute of Physics, Division of Education and Employment Statistics, 335 East 45 Street, New York, NY, 10017
2. Bezdek, R.H. "Manpower Requirements of Scientists and Engineers in High Technology Industries", OMEGA, Vol. 15, No. 1, 1987, pp 59-71
3. Brown, Gordon, "Community Colleges: Victims of Underfunding", The Algonquin Times, January 25, 1989, p. 10
4. Casella, Emilia, "Mohawk Wants Provincial Funding For Remedial Courses", The [Hamilton] Spectator, December 17, 1988, p. C2
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MYTH OF THE COLLEGE MANDATE
From conversations with high school guidance counsellors, it is clear that many of them subscribe to the view that the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT) were set up to serve the educational needs of general level high school students. Dr. Graham Collins in his review of general level students going to college (Collins, 1987), also observed that, "A majority of secondary school staff, at the Ministry, regional office and school board levels perceive the primary role of the CAATs to be provision of post-secondary programs/courses for students studying at the general level".
It is also clear from our interviews with college staff that many of them, especially those in the administrative areas, also believed that their "mandate" was primarily to serve general level students. Variations in difficulty of programs offered and, therefore, of educational requirements to successfully complete programs, do not appear to be taken into consideration.
In fact the colleges have no mandate to serve only general level students.
In his speech to the Third Session of the Twenty-Seventh Legislature of Ontario announcing the Bill to establish the CAATs (Bill 153), the Hon. William G. Davis outlined his view of the role of the colleges:
"As for the programs, our plans are not yet advanced enough to the point where I can be specific and definite. In general, however, one may recognize three major responsibilities of every such college:
- to provide courses of types and levels beyond, or not suited to, the secondary school setting;
- to meet the needs of graduates from any secondary school program, apart from those wishing to attend university; and
- to meet the educational needs of adults and out-of school youth, whetheror not they are secondary school graduates."
The following is taken from Dr. Collin's report of December, 1987 entitled, "General Level Students Going to College: A Reexamination of the Issues".
Bill 153 authorizing the creation of the colleges in 1965 was followed by Bill 98 of the 28th Legislature passed in July, 1971 and Bill 189 passed in 1972 and regulation 169 which set up the new Ministry of Colleges and Universities separate from the Ministry of Education. The pertinent clauses in regulation 169 are as follows:
6.(4) A board of governors shall have printed annually publications of programs of instruction, admission requirements and fees, approved by the Minister upon recommendation of the Council of Regents.
10.(1) Subject to the conditions outlined in the publications of the Board of Governors, referred to in subsection 4 of section 6, any person who is the holder, (a) of an Ontario Secondary School graduation diploma obtained at the end of Grade 12 from any Branch or Program; or (b) of the Ontario Secondary School Honour graduation diploma obtained upon completion of Grade 13 shall be admitted to an appropriate program of instruction upon payment of the fee required.
In April 1987, Regulation 196/87 was approved by the Cabinet and an updated policy regarding college admissions was implemented in numbered memorandum 86-A-3 (Policy Respecting Admission to Programs of Instruction of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology). According to Dr. Collins, the pertinent sections of Regulation 196/87 are:
10(1) A person who applies for admission to a program of instruction and who (a) is the holder of an Ontario Secondary School Diploma; (b) is nineteen years of age or older on or before the commencement of the program in which the students intends to enroll; or (c) does not meet the criteria set out in clauses (a) or (b) but is the holder of an admission requirement established by the board of governors for a specific program of instruction, shall be considered for admission to an appropriate program of instruction.
10(2) states that the requirement set out in subsection (1) may be subject to the criteria set out in the college's central admission publication with respect to a particular program of instruction.
10(3) states that for the purposes of clause 10(1)(a), an Ontario Secondary School Diploma includes an Ontario Secondary School Graduation Diploma or an Ontario Secondary School Honours Graduation Diploma.
Dr. Collins concludes, and we agree, that, "the colleges' mandate is NOT limited to catering to 'general level' students".
The community college is a viable alternative to those advanced level students who are unable or uninterested in attending university.
Some publications of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) acknowledge that advanced level students go to college. For example, a brochure designed to be handed out to new high school students on their first day at school describes the three levels of course difficulty as:
- Basic level courses which prepare students for employment while enhancing their development of personal skills and social understanding;
- General level courses which advance the same skills but provide a more academic approach to the subject matter;
- Advanced level courses which are intended to prepare students for admission to university or to certain courses in colleges of applied arts and technology.
This brochure makes no mention of general level students going to college, although the official publication of the Ministry of Education "Ontario Schools: Intermediate and Senior Divisions" does make mention of general level students attending certain programs in the colleges.
In their studies of where high school students end up, King and Hughes (1985) notes that 25% of an incoming Grade 9 population of students who are taking mainly advanced level courses go to colleges (30% go to university). In the case of General level Grade 9 students, only 11% will go on to college. Few of the general level students will actually graduate from college. Other studies by King (1983) provide the same information.
For an update on progress since this report was written see: