As the province continues to strengthen local communities and economies with highly skilled talent and Ontario-made ideas and products, partnership and collaboration across sectors will be more important than ever.
These vital partnerships were the focus of the Council of Ontario Universities’ (COU) 60th anniversary celebration as students, industry, business, government, government agencies, and partners from across sectors, such as skilled trades and construction, came together at the Toronto Region Board of Trade to mark this milestone moment.
In his welcome remarks, COU’s President and CEO, Steve Orsini, highlighted the sector’s history of partnership since COU’s founding in 1962, and the significance of these partnerships in continuing to drive change for the benefit of students, communities and the province: “When we reflect on COU’s 60 years, a key driving force has been building partnerships based on an overriding purpose to advance student success and economic growth in Ontario.”
Some recent achievements of university, industry and community partnerships noted at the event include the Centre of Innovation in Campus Mental Health established together with colleges, students, community groups and universities, and the launch of MyCreds created in partnership with college and university registrars to allow for the digital verification of transcripts and micro-credentials.
Her Honour, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, also spoke about the important role universities and their partners play in developing solutions to some of the most pressing and complex societal challenges, “Throughout the pandemic, we saw universities working together with all orders of government, and working with partners, to address those challenges, from PPE to combatting misinformation.”
Ontario’s university students, researchers and staff continue to answer the call to support Ontarians through COVID-19 and beyond. They were at the forefront of ground-breaking COVID-19 research and innovation, spearheading projects such as community waste-water testing in partnership with local municipalities, fabricating face shields for frontline workers, and creating clinics on campus to support the provincial vaccine roll-out, to name only a few examples.
The importance of this collaboration to the sector was further emphasized by the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Jill Dunlop, “Our universities and COU have provided a forum to collaborate, bringing together the brightest minds and strengthening the postsecondary sector in Ontario.”
Minister Dunlop also highlighted the important role students play in supporting Ontario, “Students are making an impact away from university campuses and taking ideas to market and opening doors to new discoveries.”
Over the years, the far-reaching impact of Ontario’s university students have left an indelible mark in their local communities through volunteering, fundraising and work-integrated learning. This is made possible in part by strong industry and community partnerships with universities that provide students with valuable hands-on learning and entrepreneurship opportunities in local communities. Many of these examples can be found in our one-pager, University Students Make an Impact in Ontario’s Communities.
Looking ahead to the next 60 years, Dr. Mohamed Lachemi, President of Toronto Metropolitan University and Vice-Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities, highlighted the ongoing value of these partnerships, “It is only through collaboration that we can continue to serve our students and bolster our economy. While working together, we can forge a brighter future for us all.”
This type of collaboration will continue to be critical in helping Ontario find answers to big questions – from climate change to health care – and implementing solutions that support a strong economy as the labour market continues to evolve.
As committed partners, Ontario’s universities look forward to continuing to work together across sectors to build strong local communities and economies, help ensure the success of our students and drive ground-breaking research and innovation that improves the lives of Ontarians for years to come.