Ontario to prioritize skilled trades student permits at publicly assisted institutions

96% of permit applications will be allocated to publicly assisted colleges and universities while career colleges will receive none.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ontario will prioritize permits for students pursuing programs in high-demand areas, including skilled trades, health human resources, STEM, hospitality and child care. 
  • Officials say the change is in response to the federal governments cap on international student study permits.
  • 96% of permit applications will go to publicly assisted colleges and universities while career colleges will receive none.
  • The province said it intents to assist schools by helping them transition to programming that is aligned with labour market needs.

The Whole Story:

In response to the federal government’s cap on the number of international student study permit applications over the next two years, Ontario announced plans to prioritize public postsecondary programs for in-demand careers, including the skilled trades.

“We are protecting the integrity of our province’s postsecondary education system by attracting the best and brightest international students to Ontario to study in areas that are critical to our economy,” said Jill Dunlop, minister of colleges and universities. “We have been working with postsecondary institutions to ensure international students are enrolled in the programs to support a pipeline of graduates for in-demand jobs.”

Ontario says it will allocate 96% of permit applications to publicly assisted colleges and universities, with the remaining 4% allotted to Ontario’s language schools, private universities and other institutions. Career colleges will not receive any applications.

Applications will be allocated to institutions based on the following criteria:

  • Prioritize programs in the following high-demand areas, including skilled trades, health human resources, STEM, hospitality and child care.
  • Cannot exceed the institution’s 2023 permit levels.
  • As a final backstop, the ratio of international permits cannot exceed 55% (exclusive of high-demand areas) of the institution’s 2023 first-year domestic enrolment.

French-language enrolment will also be prioritized as employers compete for workers with French-language skills. The government says it will work with colleges and universities to support them in standing up and transitioning to programming that is aligned with labour market needs and support Ontario’s economic growth.

To protect international postsecondary students and ensure they have a positive and rewarding experience when studying in Ontario, the government:

  • Is taking action requiring all publicly assisted colleges and universities to have a guarantee that housing options are available for incoming international students.
  • Invested over $32 million in 2023-24 to support the mental health of all postsecondary students. This includes funding provided directly to postsecondary institutions through multiple grants.
  • Introduced the Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act, 2024that would, if passed, aim to enhance the student experience by putting in place additional measures to support mental health, safe and inclusive campuses and allow for increased transparency of fees, benefiting all students including international students.

International students may apply for a post-graduation work permit after graduating from an eligible designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada. Ontario approves DLIs under the joint provincial-federal International Student Program. DLIs are eligible to enrol international students in programs of study six months in duration or longer on a study permit issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

As part of the changes announced by the federal government in January 2024, international students who begin a program at a publicly assisted college that is delivered through a private partner will not be eligible for a post-graduation work permit starting on May 15, 2024.


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