Probe slams ‘second-class’ career school oversight

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

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.

Just Posted

Flames drop to eighth in PJHL

Ridge loses two games over the weekend

Man known to frequent Maple Ridge wanted by Langley RCMP

An arrest warrant is out for Bryce Telford for allegedly impersonating a police officer

New Maple Ridge council has old problem: Albion flats

Staff asking for politicians to decide direction

Thomas Haney team builds tiny house

Students spend two years building tiny house during shop class

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Surrey Pretrial inmate lodges human rights complaint for not being fed kosher food

Inmate claims denial of her request for kosher diet violates Section 8 of the Human Rights Code

Richmond businesses struggle to hire and keep staff because of high cost of housing

Chamber of commerce calls for diverse housing options, redevelopment of George Massey corridor

LETTER: Seniors home care, day programs expanding, Adrian Dix says

B.C. health minister responds to latest Seniors Advocate report

B.C. woman wins Instagram celebrity’s boob job contest

‘Kirill was here’ held a contest for women to win a boob job and a trip to Miami

Man pulls over to help injured owl, gets hit by SUV

Chase RCMP say owl flew away while they were on scene

New food guide addresses ‘elephant’ in the room – alcohol

Experts welcomed the tougher stance on an issue they say demands a co-ordinated strategy

Most Read