Performance in strategic sectors of the economy requires individuals equipped with the specialized skills to leverage new technologies and develop new applications that respond to emerging opportunities in the marketplace. Research shows that these specialized skills can best be conferred through experiential, hands-on learning that provides students with exposure to – and an opportunity to learn in – the business environment. The provincial government has an opportunity to propel Ontario to the forefront of innovation by adopting policies that specifically address the demand for experiential learning in Ontario society.
An innovation economy constantly produces new, highly skilled, knowledge-based jobs to support advancements in emerging sectors such as green energy, telecommunications, and digital media. These jobs require individuals with advanced education and specialized skills to leverage new technologies and develop new applications that respond to emerging opportunities in the marketplace. A labour force equipped with the skills and competencies to fill in-demand roles is a key pillar of innovation.
For several years, the OCC has advocated for renewed investment in post-secondary education (PSE) in order to bring per capita funding in line with the Canadian average and guarantee all Ontario students a top quality education. While achieving a more internationally competitive level of annual operating funding will continue to be a key measure of Ontario’s success in driving innovation and human capital formation, it is not simply the level of skills but the types of skills our society possesses that will be responsible for our future success.
Employers from both urban and rural parts of the province identify a deficit of technical, entrepreneurial, and management skills among recent graduates as a significant barrier to seizing new business opportunities.
Evidence suggests that the skills required to capitalize on new opportunities in the marketplace can best be acquired through applied learning opportunities which supplement classroom instruction with firsthand experience of the business environment and business culture. The Ontario Business Education Partnership has found that experiential learning programs deliver positive impacts for students, businesses and local economies, helping to address the ever-increasing demand for workers with higher levels of education, skills and experience. Ontario businesses view work-integrated learning as an important route to improved productivity and enhanced career choices in the 21st century
There is a need for greater opportunities for experiential learning within the provincial education system. In recent years, the Government of Ontario has taken steps to expand experiential learning opportunities across Ontario. The Ministry of Education now requires all school boards to offer school-work programs to interested high-school students, and high school students can now include up to two cooperative credits in their mandatory credits for their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The Ministry of Finance offers financial support to businesses that want to take part in co-operative education and apprenticeship programs in the form of tax credits. However, there is much more the government can do to increase participation in experiential learning by students and employers.
New paradigms and models are needed which emphasize the importance and relay the benefits of experiential learning to all stakeholders. A policy-framework that supports experiential learning recognizes that experiential learning begins with kindergarten and continues all the way through to post-secondary education. A full typology of experiential learning programs includes:
• Corporate Mentorship
• Field experience
• Mandatory professional practice
• Applied research projects
• Service learning
The Ontario government has an important role to play in integrating experiential learning into the fabric of the provincial education system. The government can support the growth of an experiential learning culture through:
• raising awareness of the benefits of experiential learning for students and employers
• enhancing the role of business education and employer mentorship at the elementary and high school levels
• more flexible financial incentives for experiential learning at the post-secondary level
• creating more opportunities for students to participate in experiential learning within the Ontario public service
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to:
1. Through the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, launch a province-wide education initiative to foster greater awareness of and participation in “experiential learning” at all levels, in order to equip students with the practical, business-related skills required to make a seamless transition from the classroom to the workplace.
2. Through the Ministry of Education, work with education professionals and the employer community to identify opportunities and determine funding requirements for further integrating business education and employer mentorship programs into curricula and extra-curricular activities at the elementary and secondary school levels.
3. Through the Ministry of Finance, encourage innovative industry-academia partnerships through more flexible financial incentives which recognize the full typology of experiential learning programs
4. Lead by example through the creation of inter-disciplinary experiential learning opportunities within the Ontario Public Service (MRI, MEDT, MOE, MOH, MOF, MCSS etc.).
- See more at: http://sudburychamber.ca/policy/driving-innovation-through-experiential-learning/?#sthash.0YVnEXno.dpuf