Mohawk suspends educational assistant program

As school boards across the province struggle to staff classrooms, Mohawk College has suspended its two-year educational support diploma program due to low enrollment.

With just nine students registered for fall 2023 — down from 59 in 2021 — the program was canceled for the 2023-24 year. For years, there has been a steady decline, spokesperson Bill Steinburg said in an email.

At the same time, enrolment in Mohawk’s continuing education courses in the sector have seen increases in recent years, reaching a four-year high of 505 students in winter 2023. But enrollment has fluctuated in recent years, showing no consistent increase.

An Ontario-wide labor shortage “may be contributing to this trend,” Steinburg said.

“The demand for these workers is very high at this time, so people are able to secure jobs without completing programs like the educational support program,” said Steinburg.

More people are choosing to study part-time while they work, he said, adding that a full complement of courses will continue to be available to register individually. Students who complete required courses and practical learning are eligible to graduate with the same diploma, he said.

The perceived preference for continuing education doesn’t seem to be a trend across other college programs, Steinburg said.

“This case may be an example of students’ desire for greater flexibility in offerings, the ability to learn while working or supporting a family,” he said.

Union executives suspect it could be in part due to the high cost of living. Many can’t afford to study full-time with limited income.

“You need to be able to work somewhere to survive these days, said Susan Lucek, president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 527.

COPE 527 mainly represents educational assistants at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

Lucek wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to current local working conditions. She said there aren’t “enough bodies to support” students in schools.

“The role isn’t what it used to be,” she said. “We are not educational assistants anymore, we are personal care, feeding, putting out fires for students who are having … meltdowns.”

It’s unclear what, if any, impact the suspension program could have on the sector, which is already under pressure.

“The college is committed to training people in this important role,” Steinburg said, adding that if the full-time program was “financially viable” it would not have been suspended.

The college has also suspended its first-year journalism program for 2023-24 after just 16 students enrolled. Meanwhile, new programs, such as game design and eSports management, have been launched.

Enrollment by year

Fall 2021—59

Winter 2022 — 20

Fall 2022 — 26

Winter 2023 — 11

Fall 2023 — 9


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