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Post-Covid: How will Quebec vocational programs emerge even stronger?

Ouf! What a year it was! I do not have to go into the extent the impact of this pandemic has been on institutions that welcome international students. All students – domestic and international – are suffering because of it. Plans have been disrupted, classes do not look the same, the excitement of meeting new people was dashed. I could go on.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board is one of the largest school boards on the island of Montreal in Canada. Photo: Unsplash

"Graduating students are in an optimal position to achieve their life goals"

Before the pandemic, Quebec had experienced a sustained increase in international registrations thanks to the work that institutions and agents did to promote the multiple advantages of studying in our beautiful province… la belle province! Thankfully, that momentum has not slowed down despite the many obstacles Covid has put in front of us.

“It is our vocational programs that have put us on the map”

Public English School Boards have been very active in the last 10 years promoting both K-11 programs as well as vocational diploma programs. It has not always been easy because the Quebec Education system is quite unique. Not only do we graduate our high school students in grade 11, we have a pre-university system called CEGEP and public school boards or districts are also responsible for dispensing vocational diploma programs. Vive la difference!

Indeed, Quebec has a lot to offer: beautiful scenery, spectacular architecture, four distinct seasons, our cuisine, the lower cost of living, the diversity of the population and career opportunities are also factors that have made Quebec so attractive.  Where else in North America can you study in English and be fully immersed in the French culture and language? However it is our vocational programs that, in my opinion, have put us on the map.

But what will Quebec’s sector look like post-covid?

Key factors to getting through this unprecedented challenge are flexibility, dependability, and relevance.

Flexibility: As public school boards, we have the resources and the capacity to respond to the changes that public health imposed. At Lester B. Pearson, our campuses were safe and compliant within days which allowed us to reopen quickly once the government permitted it.

While many post-secondary institutions were obliged to suspend in class learning, our vocational campuses were authorised to welcome students in class as part of a hybrid model due to the practical nature of the programs.

Dependability: Because our campuses integrate international students with the local population, our programs were never compromised. Post pandemic, international students will be able to depend on our public institutions to offer viable program options.

Relevance:  Public School Boards that welcome international students offer vocational diploma programs developed and sanctioned by our Ministry of Education, programs that are directly linked to labour needs.

International students who invest so much time, money and energy in accessing a Canadian education deserve to get a diploma that is relevant and that offers them the best chances at attaining their goals. Because of the practical nature of the programs, the diversity of options and the required internship, graduating students are in an optimal position to achieve their life goals.

The final ingredient needed to survive and emerge stronger is resilience.

“[English public school boards] are anchored in rigorous processes and are accountable to their students and to the government”

English public school boards have the ability to recover quickly from difficulties or challenges because they are anchored in rigorous processes and are accountable to their students and to the government which oversees their proper functioning.

Our teams and campuses have adapted and will continue to offer world renowned vocational programs. Our international students will continue to thrive whether they choose to stay in Canada or return to their countries.

I am proud to be a part of this incredible network and I know that the future is bright. We just have to continue to be strong. Ca va bien aller!

About the author:

Veronique Marin is a Senior Administrator with the Lester B. Pearson School Board in Montreal, one of the largest English school boards in Québec. Prior to entering the education field, Veronique worked in sales and promotion in various industries, and is now completing her 4thyear as Director of International Programs with the Lester B Person School Board. Having occupied several positions within the Lester B Pearson School board; including Regional Director, Director of Continuing Education, school principal and teacher, Veronique’s extensive knowledge of the Quebec education system and her experience in sales makes her uniquely qualified to promote her district to the international student market. LBPSB has been active in the international student market for over 10 years promoting both High School and Vocational Diploma programs.

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