School retention and labour: discussion with Quebec’s Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge

On February 19, Quebec’s Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, made a virtual appearance at the Chamber to discuss school retention and labour requalification. Here is a summary of the discussion, which took place as part of Hooked on School Days. 

Respond quickly to the impact of the pandemic

For his fourth visit to the Chamber since his appointment, Minister Roberge took the opportunity to offer an update on the measures that were rapidly deployed to enable schools to continue their activities despite health restrictions.

“We mobilized quickly so that our students would have the technology tools they needed to continue learning remotely,” Jean-François Roberge said. “In just a few weeks, we tripled the number of computers provided to students.”

He applauded the incredible agility and work of the teaching and support staff, without whom classes could never have gone on. He also pointed to the government’s responsiveness when putting in place solutions to adapt teaching to the new reality of students, in particular the number of report cards given out during the year, the elimination of official year-end exams, and a review in how evaluations were weighted.

Encourage school retention despite the challenges facing students

Taking advantage of the forum offered to him as part of Hooked on School Days, Minister Roberge noted how much more important success in school is in the current context in which students are isolated at home and have to manage a drop in their motivation. He said he was proud to see so many of them persevere despite suboptimal conditions.

He added that the coming months will offer greater stability. He said he was prepared to work to support young people who live with mental health problems and find ways to hang onto students who have decided to leave school.

“I encourage everyone to take a moment to congratulate and encourage young people,” Jean-François Roberge said. “Despite their atypical path, they are facing major challenges, particularly right now. It’s even more important to talk to them about school retention.”

Bring training available in line with the needs of the job market

Regarding professional training programs, Minister Roberge reiterated the need to develop a shared vision between the job market and the school network.

“We cannot forget adults in training centres,” Jean-François Roberge added. “We need to offer them new prospects, and we need to do it quickly. We also have to enable a better fit between the needs of the job market and the training available in schools.”

 He also added that the pandemic has shed even more light on the need to train active labour ready to adapt to the digital and economic transformation. He noted the thousands of vacant jobs in Quebec businesses and the equally high number of unemployed, as well as the need to develop pairing between businesses and workers who want to return to the job market.

Encourage requalification and skills upgrades among workers

To do this, Minister Roberge noted the Government of Quebec’s most recent announcement about upgrading skills and requalifying labour, meant to maximize return to employment for people affected by the pandemic. The main objective is to improve the intake process in training services to better support adults in their choice of training, including short, flexible programs alternating between businesses and schools.

“Education and the job market must work in step with each other,” Jean-François Roberge said. “The skills acquired in schools must be useful, transferrable, and applied in a professional context.”

To increase the graduation rate and the qualification of people in a broad sense, $91.5 million will be invested over two years to institute the following six concrete measures:

  1. Deploying a web platform for career changes and skills upgrading;
  2. Increasing the visibility of and knowledge about the training offer and ensuing occupations;
  3. Recognizing knowledge acquisition;
  4. Improving the short-term training offer;
  5. Improving educational orientation services;
  6. Increasing the pace of review of programs of study to better meet labour needs.
The talk is available on the Chamber’s YouTube channel (in French only)

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