Whether you’re thinking of retraining for a new career in trades or getting trained in a new one, it’s likely you’ve looked into private colleges.

Royden Trainor, vice-president of the Vancouver Career College and CDI College in Vancouver, says private colleges pride themselves on their quick response to market needs in education because they have to stay relevant to survive.

“One of the strengths of the private side is that their programs have to be more relevant, more current and more responsive to what’s going on in the market today,” Trainor said.

Don Thibert, president of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges and director of academic affairs at Everest College, says the appeal of private colleges is their highly focused nature and hands-on approach.

“People who are looking to pick up skills quickly are attracted to private colleges. It’s a smaller environment and you get your hands into what you’re doing,” Thibert said.

Whereas traditional colleges provide a broader education and training in a job area, private colleges often provide targeted programs aimed to prepare students for a specific job position. Most private college training programs can be completed in 52 weeks or less and focus on giving students direct experience through apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training.

While the 1990s saw many private college classrooms filled with university graduates looking to focus their skills into a particular career, Thibert says recent years have seen more people going into private colleges straight out of high school. According to Thibert, out of approximately 80,000 people who graduated from colleges in Ontario alone, 35,000 were graduates of private colleges.

As for demand in a particular field, Thibert says interest is still high in fields that are considered a necessity, such as accounting and particularly health care.

“We’re seeing quite a bit of focus and interest in health-care programs, particularly in careers like personal support workers, since they’re in sectors that are not as dependent on the economy,” he said.

Thibert says networking and IT jobs, which suffered a slowdown during the dot-com bust at the turn of the millennium, are rising in demand as well. Skilled trades in fields such as construction and engineering are seeing an upswing in interest among enrolling students, according to Thibert.

If you do plan to pursue education at a private college, Thibert suggests doing your research. Ask for a tour of the classrooms and labs to make sure the facilities are up to standard. If possible, talk to potential employers to find out which schools they respect in the industry — you might even be able to secure a valuable contact for later.

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