Private Vocational Schools

Private vocational schools are privately owned institutions that deliver vocational training at the post-secondary level. Sometimes also referred to as career colleges, private vocational schools offer occupation-specific programs that provide an avenue for individuals to either enter the workforce or expediently update their current employment skills. The private vocational schools sector in Saskatchewan currently encompasses approximately fifty schools delivering a diverse array of almost 250 training programs to approximately 4,900 students in twelve communities across the province. Programs typically offered include career training in business and computer technology, cosmetology, medical office assisting, and massage therapy; more unique offerings include guitar construction, culinary arts, and radio/television broadcasting. Enrollments at private vocational schools range from one or two to hundreds of students. The majority of schools are located in Saskatoon and Regina; but there is a strong rural presence, with schools operating in all regions of the province.

Private vocational schools play an important role in the province's post-secondary education sector. They have the ability to respond relatively quickly to labour market needs and to provide timely training to meet emergent workforce demands. Their programming array provides Saskatchewan residents with access to a broad spectrum of training opportunities, and enhances training accessibility not only from a geographic perspective but also in terms of having flexible program entrance options and minimal waiting times.

In Saskatchewan, private vocational schools had their beginnings in the early 1900s, and the sector grew slowly for several decades. By 1981, there were fifteen private vocational schools in the province, with a total enrollment of approximately 1,700 students. The 1980s marked a period of substantial growth for the private training sector, as federal funding through the Canadian Jobs Strategy program became available and enhancements to student financial assistance were introduced. By 1989, there were fifty-nine schools registered in the province, with an enrollment of approximately 5,200 students.

As is common across Canada, private vocational schools in Saskatchewan are regulated by the provincial government. Typically, regulatory requirements have a consumer protection orientation and address matters related to educational quality standards, governance, accountability, dispute resolution, and financial security. The first Saskatchewan legislation governing private vocational schools was the Trade Schools Regulation Act, which came into force in 1939. It was eventually replaced in 1980 by the Private Vocational Schools Regulation Act. In turn, the 1980 legislation was replaced with the Private Vocational Schools Regulation Act, 1995, which remains in force in 2004.

The Saskatchewan Association of Career Colleges (SACC) is the industry association that represents many of the private vocational schools operating in the province. It serves as a voice for the private training sector, and works to strengthen the sector by facilitating communication amongst its membership, representing its membership on various provincial boards and committees, performing a liaison function with government, and acting as an advocate for its students. SACC members automatically become members of the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC), an umbrella organization that works to support the advancement of the private training sector at the national level.

Patrick Chopik