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President McKerlie - Ontario colleges facing ongoing challenges that need to be addressed - In the News

In a contribution to the TorStar news network, Mohawk College President Ron McKerlie addressed some key priorities for sustaining a strong, vibrant college system in Ontario asking the next provincial government to support a strong, vibrant college system.

The text of that submission follows.

Ontario's colleges face ongoing challenges that need to be addressed by the provincial government

By Ron McKerlie

Mohawk President Ron McKerlie - Caroline Street Substation openingThe current election is taking place at a pivotal time in our province. The post-pandemic recovery is underway. Climate change demands that we redirect our collective energies. The labour shortage is an impediment to our growth. And Ontario colleges - established to train the workforce for tomorrow - face ongoing funding challenges.

The province’s 24 colleges have released a platform for the election, called Recharging Ontario. It features some key priorities for sustaining a strong, vibrant college system in Ontario.

We ask the next government to invest in new technology and equipment at Ontario’s colleges. We invite the province to work with colleges on improvements in flexible learning and to ensure students in every region have access to high-quality internet service. Providing students with cutting-edge technology and more flexible learning will help prepare them for success in a technology-driven workplace.

We are convinced that our economic recovery must be a green recovery. To that end, we need a comprehensive post-secondary action plan with new training programs for the electric vehicle industry, the nuclear industry, the construction industry, the renewable energy sector and others. With the government’s promotion of applied research partnerships, colleges can help companies develop new solutions to the emissions challenge. And, colleges need funding to further improve their own energy efficiency on campuses.

One of the most urgent priorities on campuses today is student wellness. We know students have been especially impacted during the pandemic, so we are seeking increased funding for campus-based services, such as front-line counselling and early-intervention services. Policy changes could also improve access to care for people studying far from their home communities.

Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk warned in December that the fiscal situation is "risky" for Ontario colleges. While we have survived with frozen tuition and grants, largely through increased international education, the current model is not healthy. We need a comprehensive strategy to promote the long-term fiscal sustainability of colleges and a distinct tuition policy that provides the necessary resources, while ensuring college programs remain affordable and accessible.

We will rely on a new generation of well-trained, well-prepared workers to drive our bright, sustainable and resilient future in this province. Ontario colleges are well-positioned to educate that new workforce.

With the support of the next government, we are confident Ontario colleges can play a key role in building our strong economic recovery.

- Ron J. McKerlie is the president and CEO of Mohawk College