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Partnership and wellbeing in focus at Languages Canada

Though staffing numbers are down, language student figures in Canada are increasing after falling by nearly 100,000 last year, from a 2018 high of nearly 160,000 students. The numbers for 2022 indicate almost double the number of students from 2021’s approximate 60,000 students.

Photo: The PIE News

Leaders also highlighted role of the language sector in combatting the skills shortage in Canada

These numbers give many in the sector a sense of hope for continued strength.

The 16th annual Languages Canada conference was held last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia and attended by nearly 200 delegates from the languages sector. In addition to the many institutional representatives and service providers who shared best practices and current research on hot topics that impact the field, numerous high-profile governmental representatives addressed the delegates.

“Our annual conference continues to deepen in impact as the threads of current issues are held in conversation,” executive director at Languages Canada Gonzalo Peralta told The PIE News.

“Nothing replaces in-person events to hold these conversations, and the presence of leaders in the sector exchanging with Canadian representatives from federal and provincial government, industry, and higher education, demonstrates the influence of the sector as the association continues to grow and is based on collaboration, partnership, and the desire to contribute to Canada’s and our students’ wellbeing,” he continued.

“What struck me most was federal and provincial engagement with Languages Canada and with the sector,” vice president at ILSC Education Group, Nadine Baladi told The PIE. “It was encouraging to hear that language schools are considered a crucial strategic partner to the government in its immigration efforts.”

Minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship of Canada, Sean Fraser offered the opening keynote address and responded to numerous questions from LC members regarding “access to work for language students, Canada’s visa backlog, and efforts to modernise Canada’s immigration system”.

Jean-Philippe Tachdjian, executive director of International Education at Global Affairs Canada spoke about the next iteration of Canada’s international education strategy, which he said will be a deeply collaborative process.

As part of the planning process, Tachdjian will facilitate a series of town hall sessions, during which he will gather feedback and input from stakeholders from every province.

Jill Balser, minister of Labour, Skills, and Immigration of Nova Scotia highlighted the role of language education in “shaping the future and prosperity of Nova Scotia” during a panel on regional perspectives on building community, diversity, and prosperity in Atlantic Canada.

And in addition governmental perspectives and insights, Peralta noted he was “so pleased with the calibre of thoughtful and engaging presentations brought forward from within our membership, sharing best practices in language education pedagogy, raising the bar on quality and the student experience, and supporting innovation in international recruitment.”

The student experience was showcased in Heartland International English School’s student concierge program. Its coordinator, Jasmin Geling, told The PIE the program was created as “a response to industry changes caused by the pandemic; an innovative attempt to dedicate staff and space to support and empower students throughout their entire journey”.

Geling said Heartland’s efforts centre around “curation, personalisation and one-to-one student support as a way to build and anchor students to a community”.

“A big thing we’re seeing is the issue of compensation. And now, with inflation, it’s becoming even more difficult”

Languages Canada’s Diego Sanchez, iCent’s Ganesh Neelanjanmath and Hugo Silva Franco of Air Canada discussed Canada’s Letter of Acceptance verification system as another method to support international students and to relieve some of the visa backlog in a way that is easily verifiable by the government and through which data can be encrypted and safely stored.

Thought leaders also highlighted roles and responsibilities of the language sector in combatting the labour and skills shortage in Canada. Hannah Pyo from the Toronto School of Management and Paul Denman from The Language Gallery addressed The Great Resignation and its impact on staffing woes.

Referencing the phenomenon of “quiet quitting”, Pyo implored, “With shifts in workplace attitudes, we have to adjust and adapt and make new decisions about how people work”. To which Denman added, “We’re seeing friction points. A big thing we’re seeing is the issue of compensation. And now, with inflation, it’s becoming even more difficult”.

Baladi concluded, “The conference was a reminder of the collegiality, the strength and the optimism of the various players of the sector: language programs and service providers alike”.

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