STEM colleges pen open letter asking to be included in coronavirus relief

Apr 27 2020, 6:00 am

Two of the largest software development Private Career Colleges in the country, Lighthouse Labs and Juno College of Technology, have penned an open letter to the Government of Canada, urging them to include those attending private career colleges (PCCs) in the new COVID-19 student relief measures.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, a new financial program for post-secondary students. The new benefit will give students $1,250 a month from May to August and $1,750 each month if the student takes care of someone else or has a disability.

This money can be used to help with a broad range of costs, including living expenses, food, travel, portable computers, and other supports for students who are not already able to study remotely.

The benefit currently omits Canada’s PCC students to apply, most of whom are STEM graduates who will play an important role in reshaping the country’s economy following the pandemic, according to the letter.

According to the Government of Ontario’s website, PCCs offer certificate and diploma programs and are regulated by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities. Prospective students should check to make sure their PCC is approved and regulated.

Trudeau also announced the creation of 76,000 jobs for young people in addition to the Canada Summer Jobs program, whose funding will be mostly funnelled through the Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) program, which limits eligibility to students of publicly funded Canadian post-secondary institutions.

Here is the letter from Lighthouse Labs and Juno College of Technology:

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Mr. Morneau, Mr. Bains, Ms. Freeland, Mr. Duclos, Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Qualtrough:

Like all Canadians, we at Lighthouse Labs and Juno College of Technology have been following your government’s actions related to the COVID-19 crisis and would like to applaud the swift and decisive action taken to support Canadians, and the way in which announced policy has been continually adapted to best serve Canada’s interests.

In this vein, we want to commend your government for recent support measures for students. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) fills a much needed gap left by CERB for Canada’s future leaders, and we were pleased to hear about the 76,000 jobs being created for young people. However, we are concerned that Private Career College (PCC) students will be exempted from these new measures. It is for this reason that Lighthouse Labs and Juno College of Technology have joined together to urge you not to leave Private Career College students behind.

Historically, students of Private Career Colleges have been excluded from government funds benefiting those attending public universities or colleges. In addition, much of the funding for the 76,000 new jobs will be funnelled through the promising Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) program. Unfortunately, when the program was created, eligibility was limited to students at publicly funded Canadian post-secondary institutions, meaning this support will not be available to our market-ready graduates.

As a result, more than 175,000 students from Canadian private colleges across the country may be left behind by these new student measures. Private Career Colleges deliver career-specific, outcome-based programs in hundreds of essential skilled fields in a manner that is characteristically responsive to employer demand. Canada’s PCCs inject into the job market an especially high number of graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. These industries are catalysts for development, and will play an especially important role in reshaping our economy over the coming years. As two of the largest software development private career colleges in the country, Lighthouse Labs and Juno College of Technology have personally taught over 50,000 Canadians to code and graduated over 3,000 developers into high-paying technology jobs.

The fact that our programs and courses prepare Canadians for today’s most in-demand jobs through training that is, above all else, flexible, are reasons Private Career Colleges will be critical to our country’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. But for PCCs to play this role, our students need to be supported with the same programs available to other students. A two-tier and unequal system where only College and University students receive benefits would be unfair and unjust.

We urge the government to:

  • Ensure CESB is available to all students
  • Expand eligibility for Student Work Placement Program to include private career colleges

We deeply appreciate your work during this unprecedented time, and we look forward to working together to ensure that Canada’s students can continue to build their futures.