The future of education and skills development in Canada

The following article was written in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada. 

With change comes opportunity.

In Canada, along with the rest of the world, the evolution to a knowledge-based economy is putting stresses on our public and private sectors. It’s also creating unprecedented opportunities and demands for a new skilled, innovative, and diverse labour force. A labour force armed with advanced skills provided by re-imagined PSE institutions.

This is the message from Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Industry and Business Strategy at The Conference Board of Canada. At the forefront of this evolution, Bloom and his team believe that now is the time to create a national skills and PSE strategy that meets the demands of the skilled, innovative and creative local and global economies. “It’s extremely urgent,” says Bloom. “The trend line indicates this issue will get more and more important year by year. It has heightened urgency given the demographics, given the international competition for talent, given the movement toward a knowledge-based economy.”

At the heart of these issues, according to Bloom, is Canada’s aging demographic, which has dramatically reduced the numbers of young, highly skilled graduates needed to fill jobs. “What we have is a labour tightening,” says Bloom. “Employers need to find the right people from a smaller pool.” As well, global competition for top talent is at a fever pitch. The importance of attracting and retaining leading Professors and the ability to compete with top international PSE institutions is vital to Canada’s economic and social prosperity. The Canadian economy, argues Bloom, needs all of the stakeholders in PSE, immigration, the Aboriginal community, and business to come together and meet these challenges.

Bloom also argues that Canada’s PSE system needs “to clarify needs, identify changes, and break down many of the existing barriers to implementing reforms.” Establishing a national skills and PSE strategy to connect the many disparate elements of the system, and to best compete on an international PSE stage is no easy task, but one that Bloom feels is necessary.

A major part of the strategy, says Bloom, must include a plan to place the Aboriginal, immigrant, mature student, and those with physical and learning disabilities in the centre of their PSE experience. Where diverse ways of knowing and being in the world will create individual and collective prosperity on local, regional, and pan-Canadian levels. Skilled Aboriginal graduates, especially in the western provinces says Bloom, will be vital in maintaining a strong workforce.

As well, PSE institutions must begin preparing their students for the workforce when they begin their educations, not in their graduating year. “One reason, among many, why people go to post-secondary institutions is to prepare for employment. More resources are needed to address this,” says Bloom.

As thought leaders on the Canadian economic and education scene, the Conference Board’s Centre for Skills and Post-secondary Education and Careers: The Next Generation are hosting a major three-day Summit November 3–5, 2015 in Edmonton to explore how we can better develop the educated, highly skilled graduates who are urgently required by businesses, the economy, and society.

The summit will address the advanced skills, education, and competitiveness challenges facing Canada today with a combination of keynote speakers, participant dialogue, interactive presentations, and delegate-expert sharing with a strong focus on the west and will share world class practices and insights on how we can compete successfully with the global best in international and domestic markets.

The Canadian path to individual and collective prosperity is lined with knowledge and advanced skills that will employ the advanced economy. Leading the way is The Conference Board of Canada who believes that these changes will bring opportunity. Opportunity to closely examine how our PSE institutions are meeting these changes.

It all starts with a deep understanding of the sector, the institution and the stakeholder groups. We’ll bring our two decades of applicant and student survey data and combine it with custom research that is specific to the challenge you’re facing or strategy you’re considering. How do applicants perceive your institution?

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