Federal Budget 2019 -- funding for innovations to support life-long learning for Canadians of all ages

April 16, 2019

The 2019 federal budget announcement delivered big wins for education, with funding available for innovations in both K12 and post-secondary education. The federal budget also provided funding for innovations to support life-long learning for Canadians of all ages. To help you digest this historic investment from the federal government, we have outlined a few important themes.

Expansion of Work Integrated Learning Programs

The budget announced an additional $631.2 million over five years (2019 - 2024) to expand the existing Student Work Placement Program to all students, regardless of discipline. This speaks volumes to the success of the Student Work Placement Program in the past year. It is clear that the federal government considers the accessibility of Work Integrated Learning (WIL)  to be critical in preparing Canadians for the future of work.

It is important that we recognize the need to provide these WIL opportunities across disciplines. The budget is accurate in highlighting that to date many of the placements have been in STEM-related fields. This program has been a great success, but leaves students in Liberal Arts and Sciences underserved. If we are truly focused on 100% accessibility, developing work placements outside of STEM is a big step in the right direction.

Focus on Innovation

The conversation around the importance of public-private partnerships (PPPs) as a way to drive innovation in all sectors is not new. Canada has seen some great examples of PPPs in education, healthcare, and housing. The 2019 budget allocates $150 million to Employment and Social Development Canada, with the purpose of creating partnerships with innovative businesses, and the provision of an additional 20,000 WIL opportunities per year. We view this as a positive signal that the federal government is actively supporting innovation in the delivery of WIL.

Innovation will lead to new models of WIL, and new approaches to delivery, enhancing the scalability and accessibility of WIL. In order to provide every student with an equal opportunity we will need to invest in developing greater diversity in the types of WIL opportunities available, and the way in which these can be accessed by students.

Highlighting the importance of Life-Long Learning

The Federal Budget 2019 proposes a new Canada Training Benefit—a personalized, portable training benefit to help people plan for and get the training they need. To deliver this new program, the budget proposes an investment of more than $1.7 billion over five years, and $586.5 million per year ongoing. This is a signal from the federal government that education is not just important for young Canadians.

As the economy evolves, Canadians of all ages will have to be prepared to up-skill and re-skill multiple times over the course of their careers. The new Canada Training Benefit encourages Canadians to view education as a life-long process and puts a structure in place to make this approach economically viable. Although a lot of questions remain unanswered in the implementation of the Canadian Training Benefit, particularly around how SMEs can cover 4-week leaves from employees, this investment by the Federal Government is exceptionally well timed.  

Creating an ecosystem of higher learning that includes all stakeholders

The federal budget announced $17 million to support the Business/Higher Education Roundtable to convene partners such as businesses, post-secondary institutions, not-for-profits and other levels of government. This is an investment in communication, collaboration, and a collective voice moving forward. It is great to see the federal government recognizing the importance of breaking down silos between these institutions.

In order to support the Canadian talent ecosystem, it is imperative that all of these parties work together. This investment is also a signal of the importance of convening parties and facilitating collaboration. It is important to note that there are many great organization across Canada engaged in this work. CEWIL, CACEE, CAUCE, Polytechnics Canada, Colleges and Institutes Canada, and Universities Canada, as well as BHER, are just a few examples. It is also important to note that this investment included funding for a platform to better connect students, schools and employers.

The focus on technology encourages us to think of structures that will scale across Canada and encourages our institutions to innovate in ways that can be replicated and augmented by technology. Budget 2019 has invested in a total of 84,000 per year in Work Integrated Learning of various forms, and signaled a strong commitment to innovation in WIL. Given the rapidly changing demands of the Canadian economy, this investment is well designed and well timed.

We look forward to seeing these new and expanded programs unfold, and collaborating with partners across Canada to support the growing WIL ecosystem.