The Privatization of Training: Women Pay the Cost

Terry Dance and Susan Witter

Terry Dance and Susan Witter
Mark Rubin, Courtesy George Brown College

     "Employers feel that on-the-job training should principally be used to enhance competitiveness, not to reorganize and equalize the distribution of men and women in occupations and the corporate hierarchy... they do not feel it to be their responsibility to commit resources to removing barriers women may face disproportionately."

"Training Women in the Workplace"
Ontario Ministry of Skills Development

     Many educational, community, and women's organizations are critical of the privatization of training promoted under the Canadian Jobs Strategy, the federal government training policies. The C.J.S. represents a dramatic departure from previous policies because it explicitly promotes non-institutional training by the private and voluntary sector. Canadian women have benefited from the positive features of C.J.S., including the increased involvement of employers in training, but we question both the quantity and quality of training offered by the for-profit sector and its effect on programming for women in the not-for-profit and public sectors.

    We argue that the privatization of training as a systemic trend is detrimental to women. A radical shift to funding the immediate training needs of businesses using taxpayer's money will not overcome the occupational segregation of women. It may well reinforce it. Social and economic equality for women can best be promoted by the public and non-profit sectors which are concerned with the needs of the trainees and of society, not simply with tomorrow's balance sheet. (We have confined ourselves here to a critique of the federal government's training policy; provincial policies also merit analysis. We have drawn primarily from our personal experiences with women's education and training in the community and not-for-profit sectors in Ontario and British Columbia).

Positive Features of C.J.S.

    We do not believe that all employer-based training is bad. In some situations, it is most appropriate. Employer-sponsored training tends to be job-specific and results-oriented, and it is useful for improving job performance. Women have benefited from the new training policy in several significant ways: C.J.S. has increased access to training by disadvantaged women; it encourages an integrated approach to training; many C.J.S. projects are decentralized and community-based; on-the-job training, monitored by a non-profit sponsor, gives women practical work experience particularly valuable for immigrant women; C.J.S. projects offer an opportunity to experiment with new programs which may then be incorporated into the mainstream educational system; cooperative ventures between college and private or voluntary sector sponsors ensure college accreditation as well as sharing of expertise. (1&2)

    Recent, welcome policy changes to the C.J.S. include emphasis on bridging programs for women, training in non-traditional or newly emerging occupations, loosening of the much criticized eligibility criteria, and a seat reservation policy which encourages women to enroll in non-traditional programs.

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