As the advocacy body for the province’s engineers and engineering degree-holders, OSPE is an active member of various consortia, including the Construction & Design Alliance of Ontario (CDAO), the Residential & Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO), the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA), and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC).
These strategic partnerships help the Society extend its advocacy reach, ensuring that engineers’ economic interests and the technical, evidence-based perspectives they hold are included in broader policy discussions.
Given OSPE’s extensive work on the engineering labour market, the Society was pleased to provide policy expertise for the OCC’s latest report, Talent in Transition: Addressing the Skills Mismatch in Ontario. OSPE participated in the OCC’s Skills and Workforce Development Advisory Council, as well as a half-day consultation with representatives from government, industry, and various advocacy bodies to discuss critical issues affecting workforce development in Ontario.
Released on June 20, 2017, the OCC’s report focused on the skills mismatch, which the Conference Board of Canada estimates to cost the provincial economy $24 billion in forgone GDP. The report provides ten recommendations to better align the skills acquired by Ontarians with those required by employers.
However, the OCC’s latest report notes that the province will need to create significantly more WIL opportunities to meet the recommendation set by the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel, namely that every student in Ontario complete at least one experiential learning opportunity by the end of secondary school, and at least one by the time they graduate from their post-secondary program. As of 2015-2016, there were nearly 700,000 high school, college, and university students in Ontario.
In the report, the OCC concurs with OSPE’s view that WIL opportunities take many forms – ranging from co-ops to internships to work placements – and achieving the above target necessitates an inclusive definition of experiential learning.
The OCC also echoed OSPE’s recommendation to the Premier’s Expert Panel, specifically the importance of raising awareness amongst employers and the business community of existing incentives like the Government of Ontario’s Co-Operative Education Tax Credit, as well as wage subsidy programs available to employers through the federal government that off-set the costs of providing WIL opportunities. OCC’s consultations further confirmed OSPE’s view that employer awareness of these programs is limited, meaning resolving this issue could lead to greater employer participation within experiential learning programs. Raising awareness about the reputability of these funding programs could also foster a climate of greater certainty among industry employers that funding will be reliably matched, ultimately leading companies to hire more engineering students and graduates.
The OCC explains that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which comprise 98% of total businesses in Ontario, tend to have limited participation in experiential learning programs because of limited human resources capacity. “Policymakers and the provincial government need to break down the barriers facing employers when it comes to developing WIL opportunities for Ontario’s engineering students and graduates,” says OSPE President and Chair Jonathan Hack, P.Eng.
OSPE’s May 2017 Bi-Annual General Assembly “Classroom to Career” panel discussion, brought together representatives from government, industry and academia to discuss some of these very challenges facing engineering employers when it comes to providing WIL opportunities. The panelists (pictured below) explored specific action items for overcoming these barriers, as well as topics like the changing nature of work, jobs of the future and the skills engineering students need to succeed.
OSPE CEO Sandro Perruzza adds, “OSPE is widely recognized as a collaborator, relationship-builder, and thought leader on numerous policy files in Ontario. We will continue to work collaboratively with key stakeholders like the OCC and look forward to their upcoming analysis on how disruptive and transformative technology is impacting the workforce.”