Steinbach MLA and Education and Training Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced that the Manitoba government is introducing proposed changes to The Private Vocational Institutions Act that would increase protection for students.

“We want to modernize the rules for Manitoba’s system of private vocational institutions so students can make well-informed choices on where to study,” said Goertzen. “These changes would increase transparency and accountability and reduce red tape, so institutions can focus on students’ results instead of paperwork.”

The Private Vocational Institutions Amendment Act would require schools to post more information publicly, such as tuition fees and employment rates. It would reduce regulatory requirements by eliminating unnecessary forms and duplication, and allowing for processes such as multi-year renewals. It would establish a staged appeal process and provide government with a progressive compliance framework to ensure program quality and protect students.

“The integration of online learning in education is greatly altering how we approach training environments,” said Randy Ellingson, president, Wellington College, and president, Manitoba Association of Career Colleges (MACC). “Over the past 15 years, since the act was last reviewed, there have been many changes in education, and we are beginning to see a different type of student emerge. These updates to the act would ensure the existing process and expectation better match this evolving environment. As a private educator and president of MACC, I can say we look forward to these changes with great enthusiasm.”

Currently, more than 40 private vocational institutions operate in Manitoba and more than 2,800 students attend these schools each year. Consultations with institutions, employers, students and funders identified opportunities for change.

“Private vocational institutions in Manitoba have continually expressed a desire to improve protections for students, and enhance their reputation and integrity,” said Goertzen. “While many institutions provide quality education, we acknowledge that some have struggled with negative public perception that stem from instances of deception.”

Amendments would clarify the responsibilities of private vocational institutions and add key performance indicators so the province can better monitor value for money and ensure institutions are accountable for public funds. In 2016-17, the Manitoba government provided nearly $13 million to private vocational institutions through employment training funding and Manitoba Student Aid.

Goertzen said private vocational institutions play a critical role in the provincial labour market by offering students convenient and flexible career-focused training in fields such as health care, business administration and transportation. Employment training may be delivered in the classroom, through practicums, online or through a combination. As institutions are usually privately owned and operated as businesses, tuition may be higher than a public institution.

The Private Vocational Institutions Act has not been updated since 2002. The act governs Manitoba’s private vocational institutions, which register its programs with the province to ensure accountability and compliance.