Emsi Case Study (See Full Archive)
Summary: As a partner in the Northern Colleges Collaborative Programming (NCCP) project, Sault College used industry data from Emsi to generate an environmental and labour market scan of each region in northern Ontario. NCCP is using the report to select key programs that the six northern colleges can offer in conjunction—providing northern students with better access to education and training that will prepare them for competitive careers.
- The northern Ontario colleges identified a key issue: dwindling enrolment by students’ third years
- The colleges took the initiative to collaborate on offering technology-enabled classes (via online and video conferencing platforms)
- Emsi data is helping to identify competitive industries and careers
Last spring, Ontario announced its investment in the Northern Colleges Collaborative Programming (NCCP) project—a student-focused initiative that draws the six community colleges of northern Ontario together for joint academic programming.
NCCP’s goal is threefold: streamline resources, drive enrolment, and—most importantly—provide students with better, more flexible access to competitive programs. The key is to allow students to earn credentials without leaving their home communities, instead taking technology-enabled courses via online and video-conferencing platforms delivered by one of the partner institutions.
Challenge: A Vast, Sparsely Populated Region
It is a solid solution to a unique problem. The six northern colleges—Collège Boréal, Cambrian College, Canadore College, Confederation College, Northern College, and Sault College—serve a region that is both geographically immense and sparsely populated. While northern Ontario makes up 87% of Ontario’s landmass, its population accounts for only 6% of the provincial total, leaving the colleges relatively isolated from Ontario’s main metropolitan areas. In this setting, enrolment dwindles easily, especially by students’ third years.
“When we compare ourselves to southern Ontario, we have lower enrolment numbers at each of the six colleges,” explained Sherri Smith, manager of academic development at Sault College. “By the time you get to third year, your enrolment numbers start to decline. One college may have five students sitting in a class room and seven in another.”
The answer: “Combine that third year so that you have a cohort of 20—but those 20 are sitting in six different communities in the north.”
Using Data to Conduct Environmental Scan
Smith was brought onto the NCCP project as a researcher to provide labour market and demographic data for an initial environmental and labour market scan of northern Ontario. In the 40-page report, she drew heavily on Emsi industry data from Analyst, Emsi’s labour market research software—data that is helping NCCP explore potential programs to offer in conjunction.
“We’re examining academic programming that is similar at each of the colleges, making decisions regarding the areas where we could share resources,” Smith said. “I’m digging into the data to provide answers to questions like ‘Where is northern Ontario going?’ and ‘What will each community look like five years from now, ten years from now?’”
Within the report, Smith used Emsi data to analyze labour force characteristics and project both industry and occupational demands at the regional and district levels. “It was incredibly easy,” she said. “I was really grateful for the geographical breakdown within Analyst. As a researcher, to be able to provide data from the Timmins area versus the Thunder Bay area—data that is specific to them—that was extremely beneficial. If I had analyzed data from only northern Ontario as a whole, the report wouldn’t have recognized the unique characteristics of each region in the north.”
Maximizing Enrolment and Helping Colleges
The range of potential programs is wide (Sault College alone offers 70 programs; Cambrian College in Sudbury offers 80-plus) and NCCP is still in the midst of data analysis. “We’re trying to find out which programs will really maximize our enrolment and help each college,” Smith said. “We don’t want students to be forced to relocate. We’re trying to keep northern students in the north by offering the programs they want.”
The current plan is to launch a common business program in fall 2016. “What this means is that whether you take business at Sault College or Northern College, you know that the same program and learning concepts are covered at both colleges in the same sequence. By the third year, all the colleges know that each student is well qualified to take that third year.”
What comes after that? “It could be a third-year mechanical program—or it could be something else,” Smith said. “We’re still in the project management stage, bringing everybody together and having thoughtful discussions.”
The Northern Colleges Collaborative Programming project is a fine example of how colleges can take the initiative to, in Smith’s words, “contribute towards their future” and ensure that students have ready access to programs that will help them compete for superior employment opportunities. And Sault College has helped offer up a fantastic model for identifying a chief hurdle in the way—and using labour market data to clear it.
ABOUT SAULT COLLEGE
Sault College opened its doors in 1965 as the Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Vocational Centre, or OVC, and later became the Sault Campus of the newly established Cambrian College of Applied Arts & Technology. Its main campus was located in Sudbury and a second satellite campus opened in North Bay. Cambrian’s enrolment growth was so rapid that within only five years the satellites became independent colleges. The independent Sault College of Applied Arts & Technology emerged in 1973. Sault College has grown tremendously over the years, adding programs in all disciplines, and now responds to the postsecondary educational needs of more than 4,500 part-time and full-time students each year.
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