Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
 
ONGOING EMPLOYEE TRAINING A CHALLENGE
FOR THE PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM


Summary

For the past few years, ongoing employee training for businesses and other organizations has become increasingly important in Québec as it has elsewhere. Accelerated changes in the workplace necessitate the sustained development of employees’ skills through training. Organizations are faced with new realities such as the development of information and communications technologies; the impact of globalization, which forces businesses constantly to improve the quality of their products and services; successive changes resulting from developments in the sciences and their application to technology; and the profound transformation of the job market and the organization of work.

The development of human resources is as crucial a factor in increasing competitiveness and productivity as using up-to-date equipment and technologies. It is a major challenge.

The institutions in the public education sector—the school boards, colleges and universities—have a great responsibility and are being pressed to provide not only initial education, but also continuing education in the form of training for the work force. In fact, the public education sector should develop a culture of ongoing employee training in order to take account of the transformations in technology and the organization of work.

 

Guidelines for the Public Education Sector with respect to Ongoing Employee Training for Businesses and Other Organizations

By ongoing employee training for businesses and other organizations the Conseil supérieur de l’Éducation means work-related training activities, whether they are supported financially or by other means, by the business or organization and whether the employer or the employees initiate the training. Designed to develop various types of work-related skills, the training aims to enable the employees to do their work more effectively, to develop a greater ability to cope with change, and to be prepared to assume other tasks or responsibilities in the same business or organization, in the same sector of activity or in another sector, should the occasion arise as a result of technical or organizational modifications or of a career decision made by the employee.

Recognition of previous experience is an important element of ongoing employee training. It is required by employees who wish to improve their qualifications and transferable skills. The certification of learning involves all training organizations, especially the three levels of public education institutions, as well as the businesses and organizations where job mobility occurs. In the first chapter of its brief, the Conseil emphasizes that there are provisions for continuing education in the legislation that determine the mandate of school boards and colleges. The universities’ mandate with respect to ongoing employee training, however, is not prescribed by law. Nevertheless, within the existing structures, the universities have clarified their mandate with respect to professional development and the development of their milieu.

The Conseil observes, however, that ongoing employee training for businesses and other organizations is not yet a priority of public education institutions.

 

Employee Training Practices in Businesses in Québec and Canada

In Chapter 2, the Conseil examines practices in business with respect to ongoing education. It notes that the proportion of businesses claiming to provide formal training in Québec is lower than that in the rest of Canada. The larger the business, the more formal training is offered, and such training is more prevalent in the service sector. Finally, small- and medium-sized businesses are increasingly in favour of ongoing training; training for specific adaptation to tasks remains the predominant type of training.

The proportion of employees who claim to benefit from training that is entirely or partially paid by the employer is low in Canada and even lower in Québec; the larger the business, the more partially-paid training. People with more education and a higher income receive more employer-sponsored training. Consequently, employees who do not have secondary school diplomas are at a particular disadvantage. Finally, the greater the employee’s seniority, the greater the access to training.

The Conseil’s brief presents several other facts such as the following: in 1995, one Québec business out of five determined its employees’ training needs based on the business’s strategic plan; one out of two small- or medium-sized Québec businesses had no human resources development plan; there is a direct connection between the occupation or occupational category and access to formal training and to training that is partially paid by the employer; in Québec businesses, the commitment from both management and employees to organizing an ongoing training program based on a formal evaluation of needs is rare; management, professional, union and other associations have an important role to play in informing their members about ongoing training; training for specific tasks is usually given by employees of the business; the categories of needs to which employers attribute the least importance in ongoing training concern basic, social and second-language skills.

The Conseil’s review of the factors favouring success in ongoing training leads it, along with the organizations concerned, to conclude that there is still much work to be done to develop a culture of continuing education in Québec. This would make ongoing training a strategic tool enabling businesses and other organizations, as well as their employees, to adapt continuously to the changes in work and the economy. The success factors discussed are thus all the more challenging.

 

The Context for the Development of Ongoing Employee Training in Québec Businesses and Other Organizations

It is up to public education institutions to take advantage of recent government policies, all of which call for cooperation in developing strategic partnerships, first of all among the training institutions themselves, and subsequently with the businesses and the organizations that represent employees, and with employment organizations. The contribution of the public education sector is of the utmost importance. The challenge—and the institutions are not starting from scratch—consists in promoting greater understanding between schools and businesses through broad-based complementary training services’ closely linking training and work, training and career advancement and in making programs, teaching methods, training organization procedures, evaluation instruments and training certification available, as quickly as possible. Public institutions certainly have the mandate and the expertise, but they must also anticipate and keep pace with the changes. The role of public education institutions in meeting the training needs of businesses and other organizations must be reinforced. The competitiveness sometimes observed among public education institutions must give way to a policy of complementary services.

 

Orientations and Conclusion

The analysis of the issues involved in providing ongoing employee training for businesses and other organizations leads the Conseil to propose the following orientations and recommendations:

  1. It is important for each institution to determine its training parameters and strategies, and to promote the services both outside and within the institution. For this reason the Conseil recommends that the Minister of Education and the public education institutions give a clear statement in their orientations and plans of action of their willingness to exercise their responsibilities in offering ongoing training services to employees of businesses and other organizations; this mandate is, in fact, part of their education mission.

  2. Owing to the importance of ongoing employee training for businesses and other organizations to individuals and Québec society, the public education sector must confirm its responsibilities by establishing the orientations and actions to take in order to promote this training. In short, for Québec society, it is a question of a fair return on its investment in the education system. With this in mind the Conseil recommends that the Minister of Education pay particularly close attention to ongoing employee training for businesses and other organizations and that she exercise leadership in defining the educational orientations in this matter. Concretely, this attention should be manifested in the forthcoming policy on continuing education.

  3. The need for increasing employee awareness leads the Conseil to emphasize that the close partnership initiated between professional organizations and public education institutions must be sustained and that these institutions must not only take into account the needs and plans of action decided upon by sectoral labour committees, but they must also actively participate in these partnership structures for the development of the work force.

  4. Québec’s policy of local and regional development and the law that was enacted as a result of this policy clearly emphasize partnership. Faced with the importance of the challenges related to education in both initial education and ongoing training to promote local and regional economic development, the Conseil recommends that the Minister of Education remind her colleagues in government—especially the Minister of the Regions—of the importance of the ongoing participation of the education sector in local and regional development meetings. In return, the Conseil reiterates that school boards, colleges and universities must agree on ways to coordinate their respective activities in order to promote the attainment of development objectives that have been decided upon by all concerned.

  5. In order to maintain and develop their expertise, public education institutions need to invest in the ongoing training of their human resources. For this reason, the Conseil encourages the institutions to make available to their employees who provide services to businesses and other organizations ongoing training that goes beyond that related to the marketing of their services to organizations. The Conseil also recommends that the Minister of Education promote the creation of professional development activities for employees of the institutions working with businesses as well as the designing of tools for facilitating the ongoing development of expertise in the public education sector in its dealings with businesses.

  6. The constraint of self-financing the services to businesses leads each institution to seek the largest possible share of the market. Competition, which is often mentioned, certainly exists between public and private training organizations, but also among the levels of education and between teaching institutions within the same level. The Conseil reiterates that it is important for school boards, colleges and universities to commit firmly to offering complementary services to businesses and other organizations.

  7. While the public education sector is far from being the only one to offer services in ongoing employee training, the scope of its intervention provides an excellent opportunity for promoting regional socioeconomic development. In this regard, the Conseil recommends that each public education institution explain the contributions of its services to businesses in local and regional development, and also its role in the plans of action developed by the various partnerships.

  8. The range of employee training needs in businesses and other organizations is vast. For this reason the Conseil encourages public education institutions—in cooperation with their local and regional partners—to study the training services offered in their respective regions and to define the areas in which they could play a role, taking into account the fields in which they have developed an expertise, in technical or vocational training as well as in general education.

  9. The Conseil is of the opinion that the expansion necessary for customized training services makes it obligatory for the Ministère and the education institutions, whose mandate and responsibility are to certify training, to do their utmost to acquire the necessary instruments. Owing to the importance of this certification and the urgency of meeting the need to carry it out, the Conseil recommends that the Minister make some decisions on the follow-up she intends to give to the plan to create a database of skills in vocational and technical education or to any other system to ensure the complete fairness of certification and the recognition of experience.

  10. Given the real difficulties that businesses and organizations and their employees may have to face in order to initiate structured ongoing work-related training activities, the Conseil encourages the Ministère de l’Éducation and the public education institutions to explore innovative ways of making training available.

 

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