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2023 Learn and Stay Grant - Issue Report

Report To: Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board

From: Paul Myre, Chief of Paramedic Services
                Lori Clark, Director of Integrated Human Services

Date: February 16, 2023

Re: Learn and Stay Grant: Recruitment and Retention Strategy


Paramedic Services across Ontario have been experiencing a severe staffing shortage due to the expansion of Community Paramedicine and a lack of available recruits entering the workforce.

Manitoulin-Sudbury DSB Paramedic Services have been particularly impacted by the shortage in that the service has been experiencing a high number of unanticipated departures as well as a high number of leaves of absence. Our annual recruitment process has seen a significant decline in applications as many of the larger urban services are hiring hundreds of new graduates right out of school with some even offering Full-Time positions to new recruits. Our large geographical service area requires extensive travel; this paired with rising fuel costs and housing shortages present a very real challenge in our ability to attract candidates from other areas of the province.

In addition to staff shortages in Paramedic Services, Ontario is faced with recruitment and retention challenges in licenced Child Care. Earlier this year YMCA Ontario released Workforce Solutions in Child Care, A YMCA Ontario White Paper. The paper highlights the large transformational shift that the Canada Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) agreement represents in the approach to child care and early learning.

Historic workforce shortages in licensed child care continue to grow and are becoming too large to ignore. The report emphasizes the need for the province, together with sector partners, to move quickly to develop a comprehensive workforce strategy. There are very real concerns with respect to the upcoming fee reductions and the resulting increased demands for child care, there are not enough educators to keep up with the anticipated demand.

Child care providers are struggling to employ enough educators to keep their programs running, in our district programs are operating on average at 60% of capacity due to staffing shortages.

Current State

To meet this challenge, staff have been working diligently on a recruitment and retention strategy that focuses on active recruitment of potential future candidates in our local high schools and even primary schools. The purpose of this active recruitment is to hopefully produce “home grown” Paramedics with established roots in our communities by educating them on all of the benefits of pursuing a career as a Paramedic. Staff believe that this strategy on its own could not only ease our recruitment challenges but also strengthen our retention of Paramedics as they are less likely to leave “home” to work elsewhere.

Fortunately, the Ford Government announced in January 2023 that it was expanding the Learn and Stay Grant to include Paramedic Students who study at Northern Ontario colleges. The Grant was initially announced in March of 2022 for students enrolled in nursing programs as a measure to attract more nurses in underserved and growing communities.

This Grant provides funding for students studying in priority programs and in priority communities in Ontario. In addition to providing free tuition, the funding will cover the cost of books, compulsory fees and other direct educational costs such as supplies and equipment. To be eligible for this Grant, a student must:

          1. Successfully apply to and enroll in a Paramedic Program at one of eight (8) eligible Northern Ontario Community College;

          2. Be an Ontario resident who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or protected person;

          3. Commit to work in Northern Ontario when they graduate.

To receive this funding, eligible students need to fulfill a service commitment. Paramedic Students who receive the Grant are required to work in Northern Ontario for a minimum of six months for every year of study funded by this grant. If eligible students do not satisfy the service commitment, the funding gets converted to a repayable loan like the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

To ensure the aims of CWELCC can be fully realized, supports provided through the Ontario Learn and Stay Grant need to be expanded to include the Early Childhood Education program.

There are programs available providing support to those pursuing a career in Early Childhood Education, however, do not offer the same level of support nor ensure that educators remain in the north. The Qualifications Upgrade Program is an available education grant available to cover the cost of tuition fees related to studying in a recognized Early Childhood Education diploma program. To be eligible to receive funds under this grant program, the individual must have 6 months of employment within a licensed child care setting or formal early learning setting and be enrolled into a recognized community college in Ontario for full time or part time studies.

Ontario recently announced its Dual credit program, which allows high school students to take apprenticeship or college courses to count toward their graduation, would be expanded to include early childhood education opportunities to up to 420 students over two years.


Staff believe that our active recruitment strategy along with the Ontario Learn and Stay Grant will translate into a long-term and sustainable staffing solution for Paramedic Services.

Staff are recommending that advocacy commence to expand the Ontario Learn and Stay grant to include Early Childhood Education to ensure the current and anticipated staffing needs are met.