Sabotage operation in professional training in the construction sector

Dear Premier Legault and Minister Drainville,

From the 1970s onwards, vocational training languished on the sidelines of the Quebec school system. This is why the plan to modernize professional training (FP) launched in 2021 was welcomed with enthusiasm by agents in the sector. The desire to promote and make VET attractive and to improve the training offer and the associated funding are a breath of fresh air for this neglected sector.

Of course, nothing is perfect, but the PF is used to irritants. However, the situation goes beyond discomfort, and the threat of a return to separation hangs over the FP.

The announcement of the creation of short training courses in construction trades is causing a tsunami in VET circles. On October 30, the Quebec government officially launched the construction training offensive. The shortened training offer aims to qualify between 4,000 and 5,000 workers in high-demand trades (carpentry-cabinetry, excavator operation, heavy machinery operation, tinsmithing, refrigeration, electrical and plumbing), with scholarships for students. If the reason is valid, the risk of slipping disqualifies the chosen medium.

Without a doubt, the need for skilled workers is evident in these professions. On the other hand, the strategy deployed runs the risk of giving catastrophic results and clearly goes in the opposite direction to that taken by the modernization of the PF. The process of convening vocational training centers (CFP) was already very problematic. In fact, at the end of September, CFPs received an invitation to express their interest in offering these training courses from January 2024. They had 24 hours to express their interest, in a file accessible to everyone, without take into account the distribution of training cards, teaching, knowledge and existing resources. A steak thrown into an enclosure of hungry lions!

Declining enrollments in various programs are forcing CFPs to use their imagination to recruit students, provide them with quality education, and maintain stable and competent teaching staffs. Creating this rat race from scratch is a denial of the local expertise and professionalism of teachers, and a threat to the quality of the trained workforce and the safety of skilled workers. A simple answer to a complex problem? Seductive, but counterproductive.

It is essential to reinvest the experience with the accelerated health programs established during the pandemic. Documentation of its effects is in its early stages, but in educational and health settings, the consequences are visible, as noted in the recent annual report of the Protector of Citizens. Cannibalism between training programs (faculty and potential students), mass recruitment of unqualified teachers, exhaustion of teams, integration difficulties and questionable level of competence of graduates, increased risks of professional injuries, but above all high risks for recipients of health care. In health as in construction, it is paradoxical to try to increase the versatility and skills of workers by reducing the duration of training!

There are certainly areas for improvement in terms of the length and training objectives of the programs, and it is logical to question decisions made decades ago. Providing short training programs, using dolls, for example, can be interesting (to the extent that financial incentives also favor longer programs and thus skill improvement is valued!). However, its creation process must be considered globally, in collaboration with CFP stakeholders and the workplace.

FP has progressed over the last 20 years, mainly thanks to significant improvement work by the Ministry of Education. The improvement of the qualification of the teaching staff, the development of research in this area, and the commitment and effort of the agents involved in the matter have also had a significant impact on this development. However, Law 23 sounds the death knell for the training of competent and professional teachers, and now this tendency is added to the establishment of short-term training cycles, which “produces” workers with less qualifications. The total collapse of a training sector that barely kept its head above water.

Officially, modernization is driving the VET sector, but the rush to offer short training courses is forcing a painful reverse. Before breaking the mechanics, let’s take some time to think, consult and make sure that the upgrade is not a regrettable step back into the ruts of the lining.

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