Organizational changes in all three learning ministries were made last spring, a few months after Premier Wynne mandated the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) to
lead the development of an integrated, learner-focused Adult Education System, working with the ministers of Education, and Citizenship and Immigration.
After a decade, EDU no longer has an Adult Education Policy Unit, a key policy response to the previous reform effort. The manager Pauline McNaughton and staff associated with the unit remain responsible for components of adult education and special projects involving Adult Credit, such as the adult education strategy, dual credit and liaising with TVO in relation to the GED and the Independent Learning Centre. MCI no longer has a Language Training Unit. Its manager Mourad Mardikian is now manager of special projects related to language training.
Getting a handle on MAESD’s organizational structure is a challenge for an outsider. They have what is called a functional structure, in which responsibility for one program, like Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS), is fragmented and spread across various units, branches and work groups that are focused on particular activities, such as research, or information management or strategic policy or program delivery.
I have developed a chart to highlight the organizational groups directly involved in adult education, at least the ones I can figure out at this point—there may be more. I’ve named the staff who engage directly with the field or whose names may appear on various documents and policy updates for the field
MAESD recently created a new branch called Adult Education – Lifelong Learning and Essential Skills. It is overseen by Monica Neitzert, an experienced public servant with a PhD in economics. According to her LinkedIn profile, she is “Leading the development, engagement and fulfillment of the mandate commitment of a seamless, learner-centred adult education system.”
Adult Education – Lifelong Learning and Essential Skills sits with four other branches within the Workforce Policy and Innovation Division, led by Assistant Deputy Minister Erin McGinn. She was seconded in the summer of 2016 for a two year term from her executive position at Ryerson University.
Sitting beneath the Adult Education – Lifelong Learning and Essential Skills Branch is another newly created group called the Adult Education Unit. It is managed by Taryn Pimento who has some experience in adult learning programs along with a MA in adult education. Both Neitzert and Pimento are in acting positions.
Neitzert is the only employee listed in the Adult Education, Lifelong Learning and Essential Skills Branch. More staff members are listed with Pimento in the Adult Education Unit. I’m assuming that most (all?) of the work related to current reform activities such as the Adult Education Consultation and the LBS engagement process is being coordinated by these newly created adult education groups within MAESD.
What isn’t apparent is how MAESD is working with EDU and MCI. How have they involved the staff in the two other ministries who have years of expertise?
Not only are the adult education groups new but so is the Workforce Policy and Innovation Division. It was created to enact the government’s vision and stated goals for developing Ontario’s workforce, encouraging and/or mandating various reforms into all aspects of the education system, not just adult education, but also K-12, college and universities.
The vision and goals documented in the report Building the Workforce of Tomorrow: A Shared Responsibility include more experiential learning opportunities and more collaboration and partnerships with employers through various mechanisms in order to better connect Ontario’s education systems with the labour market. Other goals, the ones aligned with my own work and the focus of this blog, are the development of core competencies and the measurement of literacy and numeracy rates, likely using spin-off tools and components of the OECD’s international adult assessments.
The newly created adult education groups are not in the same division as LBS. This may change. I don’t know. As illustrated in the chart below, LBS currently sits deep within the Employment and Training Division, beneath the Program Delivery Support Branch and a Program Delivery Support Unit. Responsibility for LBS also sits in regional offices and in the Strategic Workforce Policy and Programs Branch in the Workforce Policy and Innovation Division (shown in the first chart).
While those in LBS have gained some sense—a sense of its complexity perhaps, not necessarily an understanding—of this siloed organizational structure over the past few years, it will be a major change for colleagues in ESL/FSL and Adult Credit who have worked with a much smaller and far more accessible policy structure. It remains to be seen if responsibility for adult education, including LBS, will be more integrated, and how or even if MCI and EDU policy staff will be connected.
It’s important to gain some insights into the policy structures of MAESD in order to prepare for changes as the ministry enacts its vision for a “seamless learner-centred system.” At this point, I wonder just how seamless the changes will be, considering the current organizational structure. These are early days and changes may occur.
As this reform unfolds, it’s also important to question whether MAESD’s version of seamlessness will be shared by programs and learners.
- Will MAESD alter its organizational structures to facilitate seamlessness—that means putting mechanisms in place to consistently involve their colleagues in MCI and EDU, and better integrate responsibility and oversight for adult education, including LBS?
- Will MAESD value and capitalize on field expertise and current partnerships in order to develop mechanisms and initiatives to support real integration, transition and referral?
- Or, will MAESD develop a mere appearance of seamlessness, a virtual system and structure that is overlaid onto the existing system, likely resulting in more time being taken up by reporting and accountability without any real impact on program structures and learners’ experiences?