After a hard year of unemployment and job uncertainty some people flocked to colleges that offered the promise of a new career path, but worry over the possibility of a strike across college campuses in Ontario has some mature students comparing the situation to another layoff.

“A lot of us, after getting laid off and going through all that uncertainty, looked to the education system as a place of safety,” said Don DeSchutter, 44, who is in his final year of a human resources program at Fanshawe College in London.

“People who are getting ready to get into second careers may not be able to do that now, their life is in the balance,” he added, painting the desperate situation mature students are in as whispers of “strike” emanate through college classrooms and corridors.

Students in 24 community colleges provincewide are worried about a possible strike after talks between Colleges Ontario and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents 9,000 teachers, counsellors and librarians, broke down on Tuesday. The union has set a strike vote for Jan. 13.

Last year’s strike at York University by teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants, affected about 50,000 students and lasted 12 weeks. The faculty were legislated back to work by the province. In 2006, OPSEU led a strike that shut down colleges for 21 days.

A strike this time around would be especially challenging to students relying on a college program to jump-start a new career after a tough recession.

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