Colleges from Oshawa to Niagara-on-the-Lake can now offer three-year degree programs

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Published April 14, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Ontario’s public colleges can now offer three-year degree programs on top of the four-year degree programs they now provide, bringing true equity to the post-secondary system and giving Ontario colleges a huge leg-up on their counterparts in the rest of Canada.

The change was made to address gaps in the province’s labour needs, said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities.

“Ontario colleges play a key role in providing students with career-focused education and in addressing the labour needs of key sectors driving the province’s economy,” Dunlop said. “Expanding college degrees aligns with our government’s priority of investing in critical infrastructure and positioning Ontario as a North American leader in the auto sector while helping learners gain the skills necessary to support this sector of the economy. This expansion will also provide students more opportunities to access high-quality education and ensure they graduate with the skills, expertise and credentials that meet the demands of today’s job market.”

Three-year applied degrees will provide an opportunity for colleges to develop programs to address workforce shortages, such as highly skilled technology workers in the health care, digital, data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and process automation sectors. To support the growth and transformation of Ontario’s auto sector, the government will also be looking for programs that help to prepare the talent needed to build electric, autonomous and connected vehicles, as well as programs to support the development of workers who will help build the province’s infrastructure, roads and transit.

Durham College currently offers four different four-year degree programs. A spokesperson for the college said they are still “working out the details” of what three-year programs will be on offer this fall.

Linda Franklin, the President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, called it a “truly historic day” for postsecondary education in Ontario.

“Expanding the degree programs at colleges will open the door to more career opportunities for graduates and produce a more highly qualified workforce. This is a major policy improvement that will ensure Ontario remains an economic powerhouse.”

Three-year applied degrees will provide an opportunity for colleges to develop programs to address workforce shortages, such as highly skilled technology workers in the health care, digital, data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and process automation sectors. To support the growth and transformation of Ontario’s auto sector, the government will also be looking for programs that help to prepare the talent needed to build electric, autonomous and connected vehicles, as well as programs to support the development of workers who will help build the province’s infrastructure, roads and transit.

“Ontario is facing a historic labour shortage, and we need all hands-on deck to tackle it,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, who added that the goal is to ensure young people are graduating “with the skills they need to earn bigger paycheques that are waiting for them.”

Colleges will be allowed to develop new three-year degree programs that are in an applied area of study, career-oriented, distinct from university degrees and are reviewed by the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board and approved by the minister. The cap on degree programs that colleges can offer will be raised by five per cent for all publicly assisted colleges.

Calling it a historic breakthrough that ensures more students will acquire the professional expertise to succeed in their careers, Niagara College President Sean Kennedy said he was happy college educations were getting their due.

“This is great news for students, employers, and the community that recognizes the important role that colleges play in providing high-quality academic programs that respond to labour-market needs in key sectors of our economy,” said Kennedy.

With files from Don Redmond

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