The school of hard knocks proved otherwise, so he found himself back in the classroom during the heyday of Ottawa’s tech boom in the late 1990s, taking an information technology course at a private college.
Today, the president of Herzing College in Ottawa says the experience was for the best, as he learned right away the technical and soft skills he needed to succeed in the workforce. Further, the additional educational pain was over quickly as the program took only a year.
“You take the summers out, and you also strip away the electives. Nobody is forced to take philosophy or psychology,” says Mr. McAllister.
“You take the components of the program to work in that field, and that’s why you attract the students.”
The National Association of Career Colleges, which Mr. McAllister also heads, tracks 430 active member schools in Canada. More than a dozen of those are in Ottawa.
The schools, which receive no government funding, vary in structure and size. The mandate of a career college can be as broad as an entire sector, such as information technology or health care, or narrowed down to a very specialized field like cooking or makeup.
“We’ve decided as an institution that we are going to fine-tune the curriculum to find work skills,” says James Loder, the director of admissions at Academy Canada in St. John’s, Nfld.
When potential students arrive at the school, they are immediately asked where they plan to work after they finish their education.
“They’re asked to complete the sentence ‘When I finish, I’m going to be a “blank.”’ If you can’t decide what’s in that blank, you better re-evaluate very quickly,” he says.
Each college touts its workplace placement rate when recruiting potential attendees; nationally, the figure is around 79 per cent but on a college-by-college level can reach up to 100 per cent. In recent years, directors have turned to partnerships to drive this figure up.
Public-college international students are allowed to work during the school year and can also remain in Canada for up to two years after graduation, privileges not yet extended to private-school students due to visa requirements.
To address this, Ottawa’s Willis College of Business, Health and Technology began offering a joint program in tandem with Lambton College, a public institution, in Sarnia, Ont. to help those students out.
“We have a lot of international students looking to come to Canada,” says Rima Aristocrat, a Georgian immigrant herself who has worked at Willis College for 26 years. She’s now the college’s president and is working to broker agreements with Chinese institutions as well.
“You have to partner up with the community, you have to partner up with the employers and you have to partner up with the leading certification (authorities),” Ms. Aristocrat adds, citing her own school’s work with Cisco and Microsoft as examples.
At Herzing, the school has an eight-year partnership with Pharmacie Desjardins that has been so successful in terms of hiring that Desjardins rarely recruits outside of the school.
“We have co-ops or internships where the student has to (participate). It’s the last thing they do in their program – they have to go through a workplace,” Mr. McAllister says.
“They get to train you and look and see how you do. Needless to say, if they like what they see, then will they hire.”
NACC Members in Ottawa
- Algonquin Careers Academy
- Everest College of Business, Technology and Health Care
- Grade Learning
- Herzing Career College
- Ican College of Computer Business and Healthcare
- International Academy of Massage Inc.
- Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute
- Ottawa Academy
- Paramed Vocational School
- Versailles Academy of Make-Up Arts and Esthetics
- VHA Training & Education Centre
- WeCare Home Health Services
- Willis College of Business Health and Technology