Retraining scheme tops expectations

Sue Hawkins could not help but burst out laughing when she was reminded about the first few months at Durham College after Second Career, an Ontario government skills-retraining  program, was introduced in June 2008.

Hawkins, the college’s Second Career adviser, said only 17 people had enrolled in the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ program, which offers those who qualify up to $28,000 in funding.

Second Career helps to cover the cost of retraining towards careers spanning the occupational spectrum, from flight engineer and pilot, to legal secretary or baker or butcher.

“A lot of the programs were already full or wait-listed. I think that was one thing that contributed to the numbers being a little low last year,” Hawkins said.

“Since the program was announced in June 2008, most publicly-funded colleges are already three quarters of the way through their admissions cycle and their ready to start sending out invoices.”

This school year has been dramatically different, with more than 300 students enrolled through Second Career at the Oshawa-based college. Oshawa is listed in the top 10 communities that have the most students registered for the program, most of whom come from the automotive and manufacturing industry.

The provincial government claims that since it was introduced 16 months ago, Second Career has helped over 20,000 people retrain. The province’s original expectation was to help that same amount of people in three years and has now committed an additional $78 million of funding to the program.

“As far as I’m aware, the extra $78 million being invested into the program will be used to help process existing applications that are still in the system,” Hawkins said.

Second Career often funds tuition fees according to Hawkins but any expenses after that would have to be negotiated with a counsellor at the college.

Some of the most popular programs include the school of applied sciences, skilled trades, apprenticeships and technology. Two new programs, energy auditor and renewable energy technician, were introduced this year and have proved to be very attractive to Second Career students, said Hawkins.

“”It’s allowing people to retrain and giving them to opportunity to do something they have always dreamed about doing and also retraining people for more viable and emerging careers like the renewable energy technician program,” she said.