At CASA's 2018 Advocacy Week, students from across the country headed to Ottawa with the goal of making students’ needs known and making sure they are a priority for the federal government. They met with 145 Ministers, Members of Parliament, Senators, post-secondary stakeholders, and the Prime Minister himself to advocate for students.
CASA’s members, made up of 280,000 students at colleges, universities, and polytechnics across Canada, identified areas where the federal government can step up and create positive change in post-secondary education. One such change is that students want to have more opportunities to gain practical work experience in their field of study before graduating. In fact, CASA’s goal is to get to a place where 100% of students in Canada have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a practical workplace setting.
In their meetings, students asked government representatives to recognize the value of having a diverse workforce, and to expand an existing government program that currently only provide employment opportunities to students in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), to also cater to students in other fields of study.
Students also informed the federal government of the challenges that international students face, including difficulties navigating the immigration system and getting workplace experience. Canada needs people from abroad to fill its skilled worker shortages, and international students who have studied in Canada are the perfect candidates. However, many cannot stay here because of post-secondary staff’s restricted ability to help students with immigration matters, and the additional permits required for international students to participate in co-ops or internships off campus.
Graduate students are facing challenges too. As the importance of graduate studies grows, so does the importance of making sure students from all financial backgrounds can pursue it. The federal government provides grants to students with financial need at the undergraduate and college levels, but has so far not extended this to those at Master’s and PhD levels. Students who want to keep their debt levels under control are often deterred from graduate studies for this reason, despite being ambitious and well qualified. Students stressed to government the need to have financial aid for those at graduate levels of study.
Students are also deeply concerned about sexual violence on post-secondary campuses. Students communicated that they want to see the government play a leadership role on addressing this issue, by developing a standard that would tell colleges, universities, and polytechnics across Canada what minimum services they are expected to provide to help prevent and properly handle cases of sexual violence on their campuses. This would provide clear direction to as well as put pressure on post-secondary institutions to invest in protecting their students.
Finally, student-led research was a topic of discussion in each advocacy meeting. While recent investments have been made to support Canadian research, student research programs remain underfunded. Students want the autonomy to pursue their own innovative research ideas, and would like to see funding increase to match higher past levels.
For more details on the recommendations that student brought to the federal government during their Advocacy Week this year, read the full document: Students Bring Fresh Ideas to Improve Post-Secondary Education.