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College-Employer Partnership Signals New Horizons for Ontario’s Workforce

The EvoLLLution | College-Employer Partnership Signals New Horizons for Ontario’s Workforce
While trying to improve postsecondary attainment for younger people is important, higher education institutions also need to create access pathways for adults already in the workforce.

Ontario’s 24 colleges recently announced an agreement with McDonald’s Canada to allow qualified managers to enter second-year business programs at any college in the province.

This is the first time that Ontario’s colleges have aligned themselves with a business partner in this way. It is a groundbreaking move that highlights the type of thinking that’s essential in today’s economy.

This agreement marks a fundamental step in delivering postsecondary education to people already in the workforce, helping them bolster their qualifications and professional skills. It will help many people find greater success in their careers.

It’s an example of the sort of innovations that will be essential if Ontario is going to successfully strengthen its workforce and help more people achieve long-term success.

The partnership was announced in August 2016 and the terms of the agreement mean that McDonald’s employees who have completed specific McDonald’s training offerings will be granted the equivalent of first-year credit for a business or business administration program at any one of Ontario’s 24 colleges.

McDonald’s Canada employees are eligible to enter the second year of the program, with a potential savings to each student of up to $4,500. Students will be able to pursue in-class studies, online studies and programs that are a blended combination of in-class and online delivery.

A great deal of work went into this agreement, which started with our fall 2016 term.

The agreement came about after we learned about a similar arrangement between McDonald’s and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Discussions with McDonald’s confirmed that the company was open to a province-wide arrangement in Ontario.

Mary Pierce, the chair of the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business at Fanshawe College in London, discussed a possible Ontario agreement with the vice-president of people management at McDonald’s.

The proposal was then reviewed extensively by the colleges’ heads of business and business faculty coordinators. Once the parameters were understood, the colleges selected a group of college representatives, including faculty, to conduct a detailed mapping of the McDonald’s Canada course content and outcomes required against the first-year outcomes for the college business administration diploma.

After examining the comprehensive nature of the McDonald’s program, we determined it was a close fit with our curriculum and that a partnership would be a great benefit to both. It would provide further education and training to managers who might not otherwise pursue such programs, and give the colleges a new opportunity to reach people who are already in the workforce.

We spent three years working on an agreement for Ontario, to ensure that all of the learning outcomes meet the high standards of a first-year college education in Ontario.

The due diligence was thorough and we are pleased that quality standards are being upheld. It is clear that the corporate training program for managers at McDonald’s is comprehensive and consistently delivered. McDonald’s provides excellent training to its managers.

To enter a program at one of the colleges, the McDonald’s employee applies through the Ontario College Application Service. The employee should also identify himself or herself to the college contact that can be found on the McDonald’s website. The McDonald’s employee will provide the college with documentation, signed off by the employee’s regional manager, that confirm they have completed the appropriate level of training.

Beyond the cost savings, the benefit for students is clear: They can build on their education and training, completing further studies without unnecessary duplication in a timely manner that will help them go further in their careers.

It’s important to remember that in-house training within a business or industry can provide employees with important skills and qualifications to advance within that organization. However, that recognition isn’t necessarily transferable to other organizations. Access to college programs allows the employee to earn credentials that are recognized everywhere.

The benefit to Ontario should also be clear. Helping more people enhance their education and professional skills will create a more competitive workforce—a move that is critical as Ontario works to produce a stronger economy.

Looking ahead, postsecondary educators and businesses will have to look at other innovations to bring higher education into today’s workplace.

To some extent, the need for such reforms is well-known. Earlier this year, Ontario’s provincial government established an expert panel led by former Ontario cabinet minister Sean Conway to consult on policy measures needed to strengthen the skills and talents of the workforce. In its June report to government, the panel stressed that educators and employers must work more closely together to ensure that people looking for good jobs have the advanced skills and knowledge that employers need.

Not surprisingly, this has led to discussion about reforms to help more college and university students get workplace experience as part of their education, including the provincial government’s newly announced pledge to help all students get some form of experiential learning. Workplace experience will be an important part of education in the years ahead.

However, as new innovations continue to transform our economy, we can’t forget the people already in the workforce. Today, lifelong learning is more than a catchy phrase. New approaches are needed to help more people with busy working lives find ways to build on their education.

It will be particularly important to help more people in the workforce get access to the career-specific programs at Ontario’s colleges.

The agreement with McDonald’s represents a fundamental change in how we view higher education. It breaks down the barriers between the classroom and the workplace. It is an important step in the long-overdue transformation of higher education in Ontario.

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