Opinion Column

College a great fit for people of all ages

Jamie Bramburger

By Jamie Bramburger, Special to The Daily Observer

Who attends college? If you asked that question to someone on the street, I suspect most respondents would say young people who have just completed their high school education. In fact, college programs attract people of all ages and varied backgrounds.

Recent statistics released by Colleges Ontario, an advocacy group that promotes college education for the province's 24 publicly funded colleges, paints a diverse picture of today's student population.

A 2013 survey of applicants indicates that 29 per cent of them came to college directly from high school, 25 per cent had already completed a post-secondary credential, 18 per cent had studied at a college or university but did not complete their studies, and 26 per cent had taken some time off after leaving high school before enrolling in college.

The data also indicates 16 per cent of the applicants were not born in Canada, 12 per cent had completed a university degree, 59 per cent had a high school diploma or less before enrolling in a college program, and 14 per cent of applicants required support through the Centre for Students with Disabilities.

All of these numbers demonstrate why colleges play such a critical role in providing access to post-secondary education and helping communities meet labour market challenges. Colleges are welcoming, supportive learning environments that focus on applied learning opportunities for students.

Applied learning speaks to the college system's strength. Colleges are really good at connecting with employers and developing partnerships that allow students to gain invaluable work place experiences through applied research, co-operative education, clinical or volunteer placements.

Colleges also trumpet collaborative learning where students can work on group based projects to enhance their understanding of the course material that is taught by the faculty. Whether it's a business class building a marketing plan for a local organization or environmental technician students taking water samples from a local waterway, colleges excel at offering practical learning opportunities.

Immigration, an aging population, and labour market shortages will only further diversify the collection of students that are choosing to attend colleges in the future. With hundreds of programs available, colleges are well positioned to help individuals prepare for a career.

Algonquin College's Waterfront Campus in Pembroke offers 20 full-time programs, plus several apprenticeship trades programs. Most programs have seats available for September of 2015. Applications for college can be made by applying on line through the Ontario College Application Service at www.ontariocolleges.ca.

Jamie Bramburger is the manager of community and student affairs at Algonquin College in the Ottawa Valley. Jamie can be reached at 613-735-4700, ext. 2756.

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