Language Skills for the Workplace: Developing a Framework for College Delivery of Occupation-specific Language Training in Ontario

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Org: Colleges Ontario
Date: 2007

This report presents the results of a project undertaken by Colleges Ontario and funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to examine existing occupation-specific language training (OSLT) in Ontario colleges. It identifies gaps and opportunities for occupation-specific language training and provides input on guidelines for moving toward a province-wide framework for college delivery of occupation-specific language training.


Colleges Ontario determined that there is an unmet demand for occupation-specific language training for newcomers in Ontario. Although there is some existing OSLT development and delivery in terms of ELT, bridging and college-developed programs in south-western, central and eastern Ontario, colleges reported increasing demand from immigrants and employers.

Significant gaps in addressing the occupation-specific language training needs of newcomers were reported in five industry sectors: Business, Health Sciences, Human Services, Technology, and Apprenticeship and Skilled Trades. 15 occupational priority areas where no college-developed occupation-specific language curriculum exists.

Colleges identified a lack of standard curriculum guidelines and a lack of adaptable curriculum as barriers to curriculum development. Gaps in delivery alternatives and in employer engagement province-wide contribute to the difficulty that immigrants face in accessing occupation-specific language training.

Colleges need to involve employers, develop appropriate programs and link to related immigrant initiatives in the community. Colleges need to deliver language training that meets the needs of immigrants - whether full-time, part-time, online, in the workplace or in a classroom - and demonstrate that they are effective in reaching out to immigrants and helping them acquire the language skills they need for employment.


  • Ready-to-go delivery pilot projects provide an opportunity to quickly deliver OSLT to immigrants in suggested priority occupations or industry sectors, and to gather data on delivery issues. To date, Colleges Ontario has identified 10 potential ready-to-go projects from the college consultations that cover the five priority industry sectors: three in Business, two in Health Sciences, one in Human Services, two in Technology, and two in Apprenticeship and Skilled Trades.
  • Curriculum design and development pilot projects will fill gaps in OSLT curriculum by adapting existing or developing new curriculum within a framework of consistent outcomes.
  • Evaluation measures should be defined at the outset and should include the demonstrated link between labour market need and the profile of potential participants
  • Mechanisms to facilitate the sharing of OSLT curriculum among colleges should be developed and implemented. Funding agreements for OSLT pilot projects should specify expectations about the form, content and parameters of curriculum materials that should be shared between colleges.
  • Colleges should be encouraged to consider adapting discrete components of OSLT curriculum for online delivery where appropriate. A needs analysis should be undertaken to determine how to create a secure, collaborative, sustainable digital repository for OSLT that will meet the needs of users.
  • Adequate and appropriate resources should be assigned to marketing OSLT programs to attract eligible participants. OSLT pilot projects with eight or more eligible participants could be considered for funding. Issues of program sustainability and the impact of eligibility requirements should be investigated in the context of the pilot projects. Discussions should include MTCU and CIC.
  • As part of the pilot projects, colleges should explore the feasibility of creating an appropriate college credential that all colleges would grant when participants have achieved agreed-upon OSLT outcomes.
  • Pilot projects should include workplace-based initiatives in cases where a college has an established relationship with an employer who has identified a need for language training in the workplace
  • CIC could consider make transportation and child-minding supports available to participants in the OSLT pilot projects.

The authors recommend that Ontario colleges should continue to deliver occupation-specific language training to newcomers.

Download a copy of this report in PDF format (350KB, 91 pages)