What are Access and Outreach Programs?

Access and Outreach Programs are initiatives that focus on educational attainment for people who do not traditionally pursue apprenticeship, college or university. These programs are run by universities, colleges and school boards, often in partnership with community organizations. They support people of various ages in gaining exposure to possible careers, literacy and numeracy skills, academic credits or credentials – with the goal of enabling students to take part in apprenticeship, college or university (post secondary education).

These programs provide opportunities for admission to post secondary education for students with educational gaps and/or those lacking the formal admission requirements. They are often for students who have been out of school for a period of time and are considered “mature students.” They include:

  • Academic Bridging Programs, typically part-time programs that prepare learners and create a direct pathway to a particular college or university.
  • Transitional Year Programs, typically full-time programs that prepare learners and create a direct pathway typically to a particular college or university.
  • Academic and College Entrance (ACE) certificate, provided tuition free by all Ontario colleges. ACE programs provide grade 12 equivalency, which allows for application to many apprenticeship programs, colleges and some universities.
  • Job Training & Pre-Apprenticeship Programs that offer practical, hands-on training in particular fields that prepare learners for trade apprenticeships and specific jobs.
  • Pre-College programs that build skills to help students qualify for desired college programs.

There are a variety of Adult Education programs, some of which enable adults to earn, complete or upgrade the Ontario Secondary High School Diploma (OSSD). Others provide the foundation for further education.

  • Adults working on their OSSD are eligible for "Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition for Mature Students" (PLAR), which can result in getting up to 26 of the 30 secondary school credits required to graduate.
  • Adult Dual Credit Programs allow adults working on their OSSD to take college or apprenticeship courses that count towards both the OSSD and a post secondary certificate, diploma, degree, or an apprenticeship certification.
  • The General Education Development (GED) certificate provides evidence that the learner has high school-level knowledge and skills, without having completed a formal secondary school program. It can be used as proof of high school equivalency and can also provide a foundation for programs leading to apprenticeships, college or university (sometimes directly, but often by way of the access programs listed above).
  • Literacy & Basic Skills Programs allow adult learners to improve their literacy, numeracy and basic computing skills, and in many cases provide the foundation for programs leading to post secondary possibilities.

These programs are for students who may not see themselves ever participating in apprenticeships, college or university. This may be because they do not see themselves “belonging” in these environments, think they cannot qualify or be successful, think it would be too expensive, or not be of any real value for them. The programs aim to change this “culture of expectation” about educational possibilities and opportunities.

The programs are run by school boards, colleges, universities, and community organizations, often in partnership with one another. They provide information, experiences and opportunities that can lead to seeing the possibilities and opportunities for post secondary education. They are typically for students under 18, or still in high school. Some programs are for parents, younger students or community members. They include:

  • Dual Credit Programs that allow students, while they are still in high school, to take college or apprenticeship courses that count towards both an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and a post secondary certificate, diploma, degree, or apprenticeship certification.
  • Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs that allows students to gain credits toward their OSSD, focus their learning on a specific career or trade that interests them, and earn industry certifications at the same time.
  • Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) which lets students explore and work in apprenticeships starting in Grade 11 or Grade 12 through co-operative education.
  • Tutoring & Mentorship Programs that provide direct one-on-one homework and/or one-on-one mentorship supports, often provided by older students already in college or university.
  • Early Awareness Programs that encourage children and youth to consider post secondary education through early exposure to various fields of study, post secondary students, and/or academic institutions.
  • Career Exploration Programs that enable learners to explore different career pathways.
  • Retention, Ability and Life Skills programs that reinforce learning and prevent early school leaving; increase and/or support the access, participation and retention of learners with various physical, cognitive and learning abilities; foster independence, self-confidence, leadership and interpersonal skills for greater success in school, work.

There are Language Programs that increase the language skills of learners. These include:

  • English as a Second Language
  • French as a Second Language
  • Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC)
  • American Sign Language

Some of the programs listed above are specifically targeted to learners from marginalized populations. In some cases, programs are for a particular target group only. In other cases, particular groups are encouraged to apply/participate. Marginalized populations include:

  • Indigenous
  • Black
  • First Generation: students who are the first in their family to attend post secondary education
  • People of Colour
  • Crown Wards
  • Mature Student: 18-20 years old for the high school (secondary; 19- 21 years old plus for post secondary
  • Women/ women-identified
  • Newcomers to Canada (definitions of newcomer defined by program)

Many community agencies have programs that help build “educational attainment” or can provide informational on educational possibilities and opportunities. Some of them are connected to employment programs or income support programs, for youth or for adults.