Many Canadians are familiar with the essential work that colleges and institutes do in providing vocational training to support the demands of the labour market, but fewer might know about how these same schools are changing lives around the world through international partnerships.
Over the past 40 years, Canada’s colleges and institutes have engaged in over 700 international projects to build a better world for all. One major way that Canada’s colleges and institutes are doing this work is through the Education for Employment (EFE) programs run by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan). Whether it’s in the Caribbean, Pacific Asia, Africa, or South America, this program partners Canadian colleges and institutes with collaborators in host countries to enhance vocational training and better coordinate this training with the needs of regional labour markets.
“I’ve had the incredible privilege of seeing just how much impact this work has around the world,” says Alain Roy, Vice President of International Partnerships at CICan. “Our college professionals have deep expertise in engaging both the public and private sectors, as well as an incredible humility and openness to undertaking these projects in a spirit of cooperation. They are there to help and learn.”
Roy notes that in a recent trip to Bolivia and Peru, he had the opportunity to speak with young women and girls who had their lives completely transformed after enrolling in a local trades program. The program had been redeveloped with support from CICan and Quebec’s Cégep de Trois-Rivières to make it more accessible to women, all in an effort to better meet the needs of local labour markets. Together, professionals from CICan and Cégep de Trois-Rivières helped the local schools better understand the programming and facilities that were needed to attract and support more women from enrolment to graduation. “This was a project that benefited enormously from the expertise of our colleges and institutes,” notes Roy, “but before all of that, it benefitted from listening to the needs and aspirations of the host institution and the community it supports.”
These are the same kinds of successes that Alain Roy will discuss in a special session with University of Northern British Columbia President Daniel Weeks at Reaching Across Borders, Building a Better World this November 5-7 in Montreal. Hosted by Academics Without Borders, this first-of-its-kind conference will gather experts from Canada and around the world to explore the transformative role Canada’s colleges and universities have to play in global development, social innovation, cross-country collaboration, and the social and economic well-being of all the world’s citizens.
CICan reports that 80% of jobs available worldwide require strong technical and vocational education and training (TVET) that gives students direct entry into an occupation or trade. Around the world, employers are also identifying an increasing mismatch between their needs and the training provided by educational institutions. CICan’s EFE programs allow educational institutions in participating countries to partner with Canadian colleges and institutes to enhance their program delivery through curriculum development and teacher training. These partnerships also allow them to improve their education policies through advocacy.
EFE provides support at the:
ministerial level by supporting policy reforms to better align training with employment realities;
institutional level by building the capacity of institutions to design and deliver demand-driven, competency-based training programs, and by supporting the development of entrepreneurial and management skills; and,
regional, national, and international levels by creating networks for effective sharing of knowledge, experience, best practices, and innovation.
Roy notes that at the heart of CICan’s current and future strategy is the idea of comprehensive internationalization, which can start with student recruitment, but must move toward two-way collaborations, outbound mobility, knowledge exchange, and partnerships. He notes that all of these things feed ultimately back into recruitment efforts and bolster them, yet emphasizes that this must all be part of an overall ecosystem of internationalization.
“As we move forward, internationalization requires us to integrate international issues and global citizenship into curricula, programming, and outbound opportunities for both students and faculty,” notes Roy, who adds that he is very excited to see Canada’s university and college sectors coming together in an incredible program to celebrate successful global partnerships that reach across borders and build a better world.