Ontario Career Colleges: The Good, the Bad & the Outstanding

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Louise Philbin - Education Director“When I grow up, I want to be teacher.” So in 1979 when I graduated from University I was excited to finally start my dream career as a teacher. I was proud to enter a profession where I could make a difference. I promised myself that I would be an “outstanding” teacher and not make the same mistakes as the “bad” teachers I had experienced. At the same time, I wanted to demonstrate the same qualities as the “good” ones I had the pleasure of knowing. But I didn’t realize that I was also going to be a student once again. I had a lot to learn on what constituted the Good, the Bad and the Outstanding!

After a few years of teaching, I became disillusioned with the way public education operated. I came to realize that it rewards conformity and encourages the status quo. Although I thoroughly enjoyed teaching, I felt trapped by its inflexibility and stuffiness. I was confused. I had a gift for teaching but I couldn’t stand its grinding routine. I didn’t believe I was being an effective teacher but I had no idea what else I could do.

I can pinpoint the day I decided that I wanted out. I was sitting in the staff room where teachers were complaining about students who were difficult and uncooperative. These were students from the General/Practical stream who just hated going to school. I said: “There are so many of them that are not getting it. Did it ever occur to you that maybe we are the problem and not them?” The teachers looked at me like I had two heads. They obviously believed that there was no way that “we/the system” could be responsible for their lack of interest. But in my gut, I knew we were not reaching them. I also knew that trying to change this culture was next to impossible. I wanted out! I wasn’t sure how I would earn a living but I knew that I could not spend my life doing this.

So I discovered that when you can’t work inside the current school system…you start your own training school! Thus began my career as an owner of an Ontario Career College which has become my life’s work. In partnership with others, we started a truck driving school in Ontario which mushroomed into an Ontario Career College that offers programs for construction, transportation, mechanic’s assistant and trainers.

At the time, it was almost unheard of to go to a school to learn to drive a truck or to operate equipment. But we had a vision that would lead us to establish standards, structure curriculum and tailor learning for the hands-on adult learner. From both my previous experience in a traditional educational system and from building an Ontario career college related to the trades, I am now in a better position to define the Good, the Bad and the Outstanding in education.

I believe these are the 3 most critical attributes of an Ontario Career College that is:Apple-resized-600

BAD: focused on getting your money, too many students for one instructor, student doesn’t get what was promised

The good, The bad and the outstanding

GOOD: teacher-focused programs, basic facilities and equipment, does not prepare you well enough for a job

OUTSTANDING: learner-focused programs, professional facilities and staff, program deliver the skills and knowledge required for a job in industry.



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