Languages Canada pushes for student work rights

Languages Canada wants to change that. “This is an antiquated and inappropriate policy,” Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of the organisation that represents more than 200 language programs, said.

Currently, the Canadian government allows study permit holders to work up to 20 hours per week. In addition, students can be employed full-time during school breaks. English- and French-language students are specifically excluded.

“Changing this policy is a big, big part of our advocacy work with the federal government in the coming months,” Peralta explained.

Not only will the opportunity to work help to attract more students to Canada’s language schools, it will fill a gap as employers struggle to find enough workers. Over the long term, educated international students are being encouraged to stay in Canada by applying to immigrate and obtain permanent residency status.

Peralta believes French-language instruction is a large potential market for the country. Currently, Canada has only about 10% share – despite the fact that it has decades of experience in teaching French to its own citizens.

“English has plateaued and we are just competing for market share”

The demand for French as a second language instruction is growing. “English has plateaued and we are just competing for market share with other countries like the United States, Australia and the UK,” he argued.

However, he said that the federal and provincial governments are not working together to tap the French market. “We could use Covid-19 to gain substantially in that market share but the vision from our governments is not there.”

Peralta credits the resilience of the public programs and private schools in the language sector for making it through the pandemic, with the help of government support programs. At the outset of the crisis, Languages Canada predicted that up to half of all language schools would close.

Thanks to government relief funding, the organisation only lost six member programs – three in Vancouver and one each in Montreal, Calgary and the Toronto area.

Languages Canada is planning to hold its annual conference in Ottawa from March 27-30, 2022, with the theme being resilience. The in-person meeting was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

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