Over the course of the year, Ontario’s universities held more than two dozen roundtables and community consultations with business, government and community leaders, part of a conversation with our partners about the challenges and opportunities in their sectors, and about how we can work together to build a better future for Ontario.
The topics ranged widely from aging to youth employment, innovation and diversity – just some of the many areas in which universities, whether through the students they educate, the research they conduct, or the expertise they can provide, work with partners across Ontario to prepare our province for tomorrow’s world.
At Trent University, for instance, leaders from Peterborough discussed how strong bonds between campuses and larger communities are integral to fostering innovation and finding solutions to many of our larger social and economic challenges.
Innovation was also the topic of a university-led roundtable hosted in April by Cisco, where leaders from Google, Communitech, TD, GM and more spoke about the importance of soft skills and cross-disciplinary learning in an age of disruptive technology. Google Canada’s Fab Dolan noted that “with things moving so quickly, role-related knowledge is likely going to be irrelevant in 30 years. You need to be someone who is constantly learning, who is much more flexible, skilled at empathy.”
The importance of adaptability and flexibility was also a central theme at our roundtable on youth employment, hosted by RBC, where representatives from organizations including MaRS, LinkedIn, Bayer and United Way Toronto discussed how to ensure our youth and children have the tools to capitalize on the changes ahead and thrive in our “age of adaptation.”
At Queen’s University, we heard from students and community leaders about how adapting to our changing world requires strong support for entrepreneurship. As was the case at almost every roundtable, participants around the table highlighted the importance of partnership – between different levels of government, and between employers, universities and communities – if we are to take hold of the opportunities presented by technological advances.
This growing pace of innovation, and the increasing technological power at our fingertips, is affecting all sectors, from health to finance, mining to agriculture. In May, a roundtable at OCAD University focused on the particular challenges and opportunities that this digital world presents for arts organizations. The heads of numerous cultural institutions and media companies noted the necessity and, in the case of smaller galleries, difficulty of making use of data collection and analytics. There was also optimism about how, as the workforce continues to change, demand for creativity, adaptability and other core elements of an arts and design degree will increase in value.
The changes confronting Ontario are not only technological, though. They are also demographic. The latest census shows that today, there are more seniors in Canada than children. Our roundtable on the aging population, hosted by Elizabeth Buller, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Centre, examined how Ontario can help its seniors live long, healthy, and rich lives. Around the table, we heard from participants such as Anthony Dale, President and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, about the urgency of ensuring we have the capacity in our hospitals and long-term care homes to meet the needs of our aging population. But we were also told that an age-friendly Ontario goes beyond doctors and nurses – it’s also a matter of building communities that allow Ontarians of all ages to thrive.
Our population is also becoming increasingly diverse. By 2031, Statistics Canada projects that the country’s foreign-born population will rise by as much as 28 per cent, four times faster than the rest of the population, and about one-third of Canada’s population will be a visible minority.
At our roundtable on diversity and inclusion, hosted by the Honourable Ratna Omidvar, Independent Senator for Ontario and founding Executive Director at the Global Diversity Exchange, it was clear that even as Ontarians are rightly proud of this rich diversity, there is still much we can do to make better use of the talents and contributions of all Ontarians to create a stronger province. Fostering inclusion and belonging means ensuring “everyone has the equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the social, economic and political systems of our society,” said Andrea Nemtin, President and CEO of the Inspirit Foundation. Given our shrinking workforce as our population grows older, achieving this goal is both a moral and economic imperative for Ontario.
Throughout our roundtables and consultations, the theme of collaboration came up repeatedly, no matter the issue or sector under discussion. Developing a robust workforce, sparking innovation, expanding sustainability, promoting diversity, nurturing healthy policies and integrating connected communities are important stepping stones to creating a brighter future. But each step will take province-wide partnerships across education, government, non-profit and business sectors.
The importance of partnership is one reason why Ontario’s universities embarked on this #futuring campaign – so that we could hear insights and ideas from Ontarians across the province, understand the shared challenges and opportunities we face in the next several years, and work together to create a better future for Ontario.
If you want to read more about our roundtables and consultations, you can follow the links below. And make sure to sign up for our newsletter and check back in the fall when we will report on everything Ontarians told us throughout our #futuring.
Read more about some of our roundtables and consultations
Scroll through some photos from our roundtable discussions