Program to help students plan for jobs, adulthood, falling short: report

By Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

Ontario schools are not doing enough to prepare students for jobs and adulthood, a new report from an education advocacy group suggests.

The report released Tuesday by People For Education says a policy to support career and life planning for students from kindergarten through Grade 12 is falling short, and recommends the government take action to remedy the situation.

“You can have policy on the books … but it’s been very difficult to implement in schools,” said Annie Kidder, the group’s executive director.

The report – called Roadmaps and Roadblocks – is based on survey results from 1,254 Ontario schools.

It found that a lack of resources to implement the policy, known as Creating Pathways to Success, and competing priorities in schools have held back progress. The policy was introduced by the former Liberal government in 2014.

In Ontario schools, its mandatory for students to have so-called Individual Pathways Plans that help them set life and career goals and outline what skills they need to achieve them.

The group found that just over half of high schools surveyed report that all of their students have one.

It also notes that the average ratio of students to guidance counsellors is 375 to one in the province’s high schools. In some parts of Ontario, the ratio is as high as 685 students to one guidance counsellor.

“We need to make sure we have a coherent strategy, we need to make sure there are sufficient guidance counsellors,” Kidder said.

The report makes several recommendations, including that the province improve resources to support career and life planning and clarify the role of guidance counsellors in schools.

Kidder said her group hopes the Progressive Conservative government, which has talked a lot about the importance of readying students for the labour force, will make the changes.

“We have to remember, we can’t prepare them for the jobs that we have right now because lots of them won’t exist,” she said. “We have to be preparing them with the skills that will allow them to do any job as they wind their way to adulthood.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Lisa Thompson said the government has just completed a province-wide consultation on the school system that included topics focused on life and job skills.

“Submissions shared within the scope of the consultation will help inform policy and program decisions of the ministry,” said Kayla Iafelice. “An update of the findings will be provided in winter 2019.”

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