Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the provincial government is moving in the wrong direction by pumping public money into private colleges to train new personal support workers (PSWs).

“Our public colleges are the best way to provide the kind of education and training for PSWs and other professions,” said Thomas. “We must keep a laser focus on public colleges, and today’s announcement putting tens of millions of dollars toward private facilities is a real step back.”

As chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s College Faculty Division, RM Kennedy expressed grave concerns around the government’s announcement of $86 million in public funding for private career colleges and public school boards to train PSWs.

“There is a critical and urgent need for more PSWs in Ontario,” said Kennedy. “The pandemic, low pay and poor working conditions have contributed to the crisis in personal support work we are now experiencing. Many years of government underfunding at the college level have exacerbated the situation.

“The obvious response is to invest in public colleges to immediately increase their capacity to educate more PSWs. The wrong reaction is to give public money to private colleges.

“When you give public money to a private college, a portion of that investment is immediately siphoned off for profit. In other words, right from the start less money goes to the classroom. That means fewer resources for students. It means less-qualified, less-experienced instructors. Together, that means inferior education, a less marketable diploma and poorer service to Ontarians.

“In sharp contrast, every single taxpayer dollar invested in our public college system goes to the classroom – not to private shareholders. For-profit care homes have had significantly higher death rates during the pandemic, and that’s because not enough resources are poured into front-line services. The same goes for PSW education.

“I urge the government to reverse course on this highly flawed funding announcement. Put those funds into public colleges, just as was done in February, when the government allotted $115 million to colleges for accelerated PSW instruction. That will create the best-trained PSWs we need, within the timelines we need them. And that gives our graduates the public-college diploma that employers are looking for – and the high-quality PSW services Ontarians deserve and rely on.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; RM Kennedy, 416-346-8382