in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
In 1960 the Government of Canada passed the Technical and Vocational Training Assistance Act (TVTA Act), the last Act passed by the federal government to provide funds for investment in technical and vocational education. Over six years, the Act provided funding for projects valued at more than $1.5 billion. The program ended in 1966 as provincial and federal governments differed in their visions for the future of education. The reasons for the cessation of funding are manifold, but the Act was responsible for the placement of over 400,000 students and created 662 new schools.
Act is significant for four reasons. First, it created funding for
post-secondary technical institutions. Second, it built new secondary schools at
no cost to municipal governments. Third, it significantly changed the
composition of Ontario secondary schools. Last but not least, for the first time
since Confederation, federal money was made available to assist with secondary
schools in the provinces – specifically related to the promotion of technical
and vocational education.
In order to provide some context to the passage of the Act, it is important to know that in 1952, the government of Louis St. Laurent passed the Unemployment Insurance Act, providing a wage for those temporarily out of work. As the federal government in Canada was already responsible for Unemployment Insurance, it was a logical step that they would commit funds for the training of those citizens who had lost their jobs or for those who were about to become unemployed.
came about due to a number of issues. With
the exception of a brief period following the First World War, there had been
resistance to vocational education in Canada for the first half of the twentieth
century. However, there was another
factor at play in the thinking of the federal government during the 1950’s.
The rapid growth of the secondary school population following World War II, due
to the baby boom and the increased percentage of teenagers participating in
secondary education, pressured governments into funding capital expenditures to
construct new schools. At the same
time, there was economic stagnation and rising unemployment in the late
1950’s, and this caused the Conservative government of John Diefenbaker to
time, it was perceived that the best means of dealing with the burgeoning
student population in secondary schools was to build more schools.
At the same time, in order to address the continuing effects of economic
slowdown, it was deemed prudent to begin retraining the existing adult work
force for stable, long-term employment in technological fields.
The Technical and Vocational Training Assistance Act not only earmarked
substantial funding for adult vocational training, but also a significant
portion, $90 million, was set aside for secondary school capital projects.
This included the construction of new schools and the refurbishing of
existing structures. The codicil attached to this funding was that one half of
the space in the funded schools must be devoted to technical and vocational
six months of the passage of the TVTA
Act, Ontario had signed an agreement with the federal government. John Robarts,
the education minister of Ontario at the time, overhauled the secondary school
curriculum to permit the streaming of students into technical/vocational
programs. This curriculum
adjustment was referred to as the “Robarts Plan.”
In the six years following this agreement, the initial $90 million grew
to $805 million in Ontario alone. It
resulted in the construction of 335 new schools and additions to 83 existing
schools, all dedicated to technical/vocational education.
these new schools rapidly filled with students, as the baby boom “bulge”
moved through the educational system. Because
the schools were technical/vocational in nature, the percentage of secondary
school students in technical subjects exploded. Between 1961 and 1966, the
percentage of high school students enrolled in non-academic programs almost
doubled, from 24 to 46 percent of the total school population. In numerical
terms, the number of technical students more than tripled, from 72,000 to
232,000 students. Despite the overall increase in the secondary school
enrolment, the number of students in academic programs actually dropped!
are those who argue that the “Robarts Plan” was a failure.
The Ontario secondary school curriculum was re-jigged again in 1967, due
to the perception that the vocational streaming was providing a different
quality of education based on ethnicity and socio-economic status. In addition,
these programs suffered from an alarmingly high dropout rate. Nevertheless, the
federal funding provided by the TVTA Act was responsible for the construction of
numerous schools that would never have been built without it, and many of the
post-secondary technical institutions created were converted into community
colleges and have resulted in the successful education of thousands of adults.
further federal funds became available due to federal/provincial conflict over
roles, and differences between Quebec and other provinces.
When the federal government began funding educational initiatives,
clearly defined in the BNA Act as an area of provincial responsibility, there
was feuding and disagreement over how and where money should be spent.
The Technical and Vocational Assistance Act was necessary to respond to
the population increase of the post-war period and the reality of a changing
the first decade of the twenty-first century, Canadians again find that there is
a dearth of skilled technical persons in the labour force.
As Canada moves from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based
economy, there is an increasing need for a technically knowledgeable, highly
skilled workforce. The Ontario governments over the past decade have stressed
the importance of technological education, but the funding has not materialized
to adequately support the intended initiatives.
Canada needs to compete in a global economy, and workers in other
countries are more highly versed in robotics and the science of mechatronics
than Canadian workers. Following the example of the 1960 Act, it is time for
another act of Parliament to provide the financial impetus to provide the nature
and quality of education necessary for competitiveness in the twenty-first
Harry Vocational Training in
Ontario’s Secondary Schools: Past, Present - and Future? http://www.yorku.ca/crws/network/english/Smaller.pdf
of ABE/Literacy in Canada: A chronology
by Duncan Bell (OISE/UT), 2004
Prepared by Duncan Bell (OISE/UT), 2004
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