Probe slams ‘second-class’ career school oversight

Gaps leave private career training students vulnerable, B.C. Ombudsperson concludes

B.C. Ombudsperson Kim Carter.

B.C. Ombudsperson Kim Carter.

Private career training schools need beefed up oversight and enforcement to better protect students, according to the results of an investigation by B.C. Ombudsperson Kim Carter.

She’s recommending a student bill or rights and an expanded complaint process after releasing a 180-page report that outlines numerous deficiencies in how private training schools are regulated.

“Gaps in the oversight of private career training institutions leave students vulnerable in a number of ways,” she stated in her report.

The report said the career students to date have had “second class protection” that should be equivalent to what public post-secondary students get.

More than 300 private training institutions sell at least 48,000 students a year on the hope of becoming a pipefitter, commercial diver, hypnotherapist, health care assistant or naturopathic doctor – among numerous other programs that Carter said form a “significant part of our education system.”

About a quarter of courses charge more than $11,000. Most students are women, many are low income and about a fifth of students are international.

The systemic investigation of the industry came in response to repeated criticism about the quality of career training, misleading advertising and an inadequate complaints process, as well as reports of fly-by-night schools that took students money then shut down or went bankrupt.

Carter’s findings back up many allegations.

One complaint probed involved a student who enrolled in a traditional Chinese medicine program and later complained the school misled her into believing it would be recognized.

A since-disbanded oversight agency initially refused to hear her demand for a refund because she didn’t file the complaint within a six-month window, but after Carter’s office began investigating it relented and ordered the school repay her $43,600.

Carter said other otherwise valid complaints were dismissed based on strictly imposed time limits.

Another career school expelled a student on the basis of a complaint made by another student without giving the accused any chance to respond to the allegations.

Carter said students can be left in the dark about problems with a school or program and have few options for redress if they’re affected.

The previous industry-led oversight body – the Private Career Training Institutions Agency – was eliminated a year ago by the provincial government, which promised a new regulatory model run by the advanced education ministry.

The government has introduced legislation and detailed regulations are expected by fall.

“It will create higher quality standards for the sector and establish broader enforcement mechanisms to better protect students,” Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson said in an emailed statement.

Carter said in her report the new legislation “unfortunately” appears to address only one of six key recommendations.

NDP advanced education critic Kathy Corrigan said while the new legislation provides power to fine, suspend or close schools, it leaves major holes.

She said there’s no regulation of overseas agents who recruit international students.

“Language schools do not have to register under the act,” Corrigan added. “So there’s going to be no way of managing bad apples in that group that choose not to register.”

The province has placed a heavy emphasis on expanding career training to prepare the labour force for expected growth in resource sectors, such as liquefied natural gas.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police officers were one group of dozens that submitted dance clips to the Greater Victoria Festival Society, to help create the Dance Across Victoria video montage. (Youtube/Screenshot)
WATCH: Saanich police, Victoria mayor bust some moves in new Dance Across Victoria video

Montage features submitted dance clips from across Greater Victoria

Former Oak Bay High Grade 12 student Brandon Kip plays the $100,000 Steinway piano in the Dave Dunnet Theatre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay High Alumni Association passes torch to new president

The association has given back more than $70,000 in its 16 years

Saanich’s Malia Brodie competed in the Vancouver qualifiers for the 2020 National Championships. (Photo by BC Sport Karate Snaps)
PHOTOS: Saanich teen awarded $1,800 Karate Canada bursary to pursue officiant certification

Malia Brodie, 18, has black belt, nearly 15 years experience in karate

This photo courtesy of Leanne Grover shows the immediate aftermath of the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents. (Leanne Grover/Submitted)
Residents of a Central Saanich duplex ‘fortunate’ to escape Sunday morning fire

Damage to the duplex extensive with one resident said to be ‘catatonic’ after escaping building

After more than a year, open forums will resume at a Saanich committee of the whole meeting on April 19 with up to five residents having the chance to speak for three minutes each about any district-related matter. (Black Press Media file photo)
Public input resumes at Saanich council following lengthy suspension due to pandemic

Up to five residents can present by phone for up to three minutes starting April 19

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Most Read