Realizing youth potential through education - Outcomes #7, #8, #9

The current and future generations of young people in Ontario present great promise. Whether they can lead happy and productive lives as adults depends largely on what they experience in their school years and their first jobs.

Education, training and apprenticeships matter to young Ontarians:

A strong education can help young people to become successful, confident, creative, active and informed citizens. Education also promotes positive development and builds self-sufficiency. We know that supportive learning environments are linked to student achievement, better paying jobs, and enhanced wellbeing.

And they're important for Ontario:

When young people have a strong education, they have an increased chance of getting a job, succeeding in the workplace, and becoming community leaders. Providing young Ontarians with access to a range of training opportunities to pursue their interests and skills enables them to contribute to their communities.

Snapshot of youth education and training in Ontario

Ontario is making top grades: Ontario's 15-year-old students are among the best readers in the world. In fact, Ontario's education system was ranked as one of the best in the worldfootnote 119. More and more of Ontario's youth are succeeding, graduating and moving on to postsecondary education. Ontario's high-school graduation rate has risen in each of the last seven years, going from 68% in 2003-04 to 82% in 2010-11footnote 120. We recognize that lifelong learning is as important as graduating to ensure that youth have the skills they need.

Some youth face challenges: While many of Ontario's youth are succeeding in school, we also know that racialized youth, Aboriginal youth, youth in and leaving care and some other marginalized groups of young people in Ontario have persistently poorer outcomes in education than their peers.

Closing the achievement gap for students with special education needs: Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) achievement results for Grades 3, 6 and 9 students with special education needs have seen significant increases since 2002–03. Ontario schools have made great gains in increasing student achievement and closing the gap for students with special education needs.

The job market is shifting: Shifts in Ontario's job market include a rise in service-oriented industries, and a greater need for young people in skilled trades. 70% of future jobs in Ontario are expected to require postsecondary credentials or be in managementfootnote 123. We know it is important to ensure young people are prepared with the skills to meet this demand.

Education is evolving: Technology-enabled learning is on the rise in our classrooms, bringing with it new ways for students and teachers to access information (Internet resources, online learning, electronic periodical indices, eBooks). Cooperative education and other forms of experiential learning (job shadowing, field trips, work experience, internships) have also become essential and commonplace in Ontario's education system.

#7 Ensure young people get the skills they need

Young people growing up in Ontario today need to develop a diverse set of skills to help them respond to the modern workplace and be prepared to adapt to future economic and social changes.

Supporting young people to get the skills they need includes:

Continuing to invest in world-leading education: Primary, secondary and postsecondary education is the most important aspect of skills building for Ontario youth. The skills, talents and ambitions young people develop through education and training will shape their path as adults and enhance the contributions they make to Ontario's future workforce and society as a whole. By continuing to support meaningful school-based learning, we can encourage youth to learn and develop a diverse set of skills and the competencies they need to succeed.

Building 21st century skills: Recent research has identified the following "Six Cs" as skills youth need in order to thrive and be leaders in the modern world: character, citizenship, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and teamwork, and creativity and imaginationfootnote 125. Supporting young people to develop these key qualities can ensure they are prepared to excel and lead – this requires innovative thinking and an entrepreneurial approach to learningfootnote 126.

Providing opportunities for hands-on learning: Experiential learning, mentoring and entrepreneurial education are becoming more common in education globallyfootnote 128. Experiential learning opportunities can help young people appreciate the relevance of what they are learning in school. By participating in activities such as job shadowing or taking field trips where they can engage in hands-on learning, young people have the opportunity to connect with issues and ideas outside the classroom and build self-efficacy as they learn more about what they enjoy doing.

Outcome we want:

#7 Ontario youth achieve academic success.

How we can tell:

  • ▲Proportion of English-speaking and French-speaking students enrolled in academic math who meet the provincial standard
  • ▲Proportion of English-speaking and French-speaking students enrolled in applied math who meet the provincial standard
  • ▲Proportion of high school students who graduate
  • ▲Ontario ranking on the Program for International Student Assessment Score Reading Achievement

#8 Reflect diverse learning needs in education and program pathways

Enhancing Ontario's strong education system includes focusing on increasing student achievement, closing achievement gaps among students and increasing public confidence. By embracing a culture of collaborative inquiry we can seek more effective ways of teaching and learning and support transitions for students.

Some important aspects of education that responds to young people's needs include:

Accommodating different learning styles: All students require support from educators, peers, families, and communities to achieve their full potential in learning. Research demonstrates that young people can have different learning styles and preferences, and that they are most engaged in learning when their particular interests, level of readiness and preferences are addressedfootnote 129. By using differentiated learning strategies, educators can adapt to individual styles, strengths, goals and interests. Embracing the diversity of cultural learning styles through inclusive discussions, teaching, and accommodation for religious backgrounds supports all youth to succeed.

Responding to unique needs: Students with special education requirements – such as young people with disabilities or special needs and young people who speak English as a second language (ESL) – may require accommodations or specialized educational services to meet their learning needs. Individual Education Plans are created to describe students' individual strengths and needs and the special education programs and services they require.

Harnessing technology-enabled learning: Advances in technology have created new ways to access information and new opportunities for students to learn and interact with teachers and peersfootnote 131. Technology-enabled learning can support youth to complete high school and enter postsecondary education or trainingfootnote 132. For youth with disabilities, tools such as screen readers and speech-to-text software improve access, participation and outcomesfootnote 133. Technology can also increase access for learners facing financial, personal or geographic barriers to schoolfootnote 134.

Ontario's E-Learning Strategy is a digital educational platform that offers high-quality online courses for all students regardless of their location, learning ability or circumstances. Young learners have the flexibility to access class resources anywhere and anytimefootnote 135.

Re-engaging youth at-risk: Students who drop out of school generally lack employable skills. Evidence suggests that at-risk youth who graduate also exhibit a similar learning gap when compared to dropoutsfootnote 136. School dropouts and at-risk youth require extra supports to re-engage them in learning. When youth face setbacks in their education and training, we know that they benefit from having access to flexible options to re-engage, recover credits and complete their schooling. Providing a range of options for training in apprenticeships, college, university or on-the-job training helps to keep doors open for youth to pursue their interests and talents. Instilling a sense of ownership and a lifelong commitment to learning is just as important to future success as academic accomplishments.

Outcome we want:

#8 Ontario youth have educational experiences that respond to their needs and prepare them to lead.

How we can tell:

  • ▲Proportion of youth in the Specialist High Skills Major program
  • ▲Number of students who have Individual Education Plans
  • ▲Proportion of high school course credits that are available through e-learning

#9 Increase success in postsecondary education and apprenticeships

In today's labour market, more jobs require young people to have postsecondary credentials. Meanwhile, some sector councils that explore labour needs have identified skills gaps in occupations with an adequate supply of credentialed workers.

Supporting young people's participation in postsecondary education and skilled trades includes:

Supporting participation in apprenticeships and training: With many of our skilled tradespeople – such as chefs, educational assistants, electricians and plumbers – approaching retirement, Ontario's apprenticeship system is a critical part of building a well-educated and highly skilled provincial workforcefootnote 138. Apprenticeships provide youth with the opportunity to learn a skilled occupation by combining in-school training courses with paid on-the-job trainingfootnote 139. Recent reports have identified a shortage of workers in skilled trades and noted that although opportunities for training and apprenticeships exist, parents and students may not fully appreciate the opportunities that these credentials can offerfootnote 140, footnote 141 Supporting participation in apprenticeships and training includes improving access to apprenticeships for key groups, including newcomer youth, Aboriginal people and women. It also means supporting apprentices to complete their training and find the right jobsfootnote 142.

Broadening postsecondary success for at-risk youth: At 65%, Ontario's postsecondary education (including apprenticeship, college and university education) attainment rate is above the Canadian average of 64%. The province has the second highest postsecondary education attainment rate among Canadian jurisdictions, trailing only Quebec for three consecutive years. Ontario also has the highest rate of college and university education among the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)footnote 144. However, we know that some young people have challenges accessing and attaining postsecondary education, for example, Aboriginal youth, youth with disabilities or special needs, youth from low-income families and youth who are the first in their family to obtain postsecondary education. These youth have relatively low rates of participation in postsecondary educationfootnote 145 and may need extra support to reach their full potential.

Outcome we want:

#9 Ontario youth access diverse training and apprenticeship opportunities.

How we can tell:

  • ▲Proportion of adults who have completed postsecondary education
  • ▲Number of youth served through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program

What is Ontario doing to support these outcomes?

The Government of Ontario has a number of initiatives that support education, training and apprenticeships:

Stepping Up: Jobs for youth

Case study

Rising football star and former Jobs for Youth participant from Windsor, Ontario

In 2008, Tyrone Crawford was supported by the Ontario government's Jobs for Youth Program, which provided 4,300 Ontario youth with summer jobs in summer 2012. Started in 2006, Jobs for Youth provides young people with job readiness training and support, paid employment placements for July and August, and post-employment support.

Tyrone Crawford's story...

After graduating from high school in Windsor, Tyrone went on to become a defensive lineman while studying at Boise State University in Idaho. In 2012, Tyrone was drafted to the NFL as a third-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys - and it's his work ethic that is garnering his coaches' and fans' attention.

When I went to work at The Border City Boxing Club as part of the Jobs for Youth Program, I found out that boxers work REALLY hard. I also realized that kids in my neighbourhood were looking up to me as a role model. Working hard and giving back to my community are just some things I take pride in, and have carried on to my career in football.

I'm from Windsor, Ontario. Like so many kids around my neighbourhood, my brother and I had to provide for ourselves the little things we wanted. That's why we joined the Jobs for Youth Program. I got a job at The Border City Boxing Club. I cleaned and vacuumed a lot. I would put the bag on sometimes and let the boxers take body shots at me. Seeing what they could do was an eye-opener and it made me work a lot harder when it came to football.

The Jobs for Youth Program gave me an opportunity to develop my organizational skills, work in a team, learn how to be on time - and all the other life skills that are necessary to become successful in life.

Tyrone Crawford