Counting the ways we can work together for prosperity
March 29, 2018

Niagara grape growers are using VineAlert, a program at Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, to monitor for harsh weather that threatens their crops. Richmond Hill company PrecisionHawk is using  the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s ACE Climatic Wind Tunnel to help develop its pioneering extreme-weather drones.

Meanwhile R&B Cormier, a natural resources contractor in Sault Ste. Marie, is giving Algoma University students hands-on experience through a summer co-op program in partnership with the university’s Research and Innovation Hub.

These are just three of the myriad ways Ontario universities collaborate with the business world on research and development, entrepreneurism, experiential learning – all, ultimately, to drive innovation and economic growth. We are celebrating these relationships with a new feature, 50 Ways Ontario Universities are Partnering with Business.

Within our 50 examples, there are three important pillars: university-business partnerships that support students’ future success in the workplace, those that support our communities by stimulating jobs and commercial activity, and those that build a better province through collaboration on research and innovation.

The 50 Ways catalogue adds some very impressive specifics to a more general discussion that we started with our recent report, Partnering for a Better Future for Ontario. In that report, we recognized universities’ role in producing highly skilled graduates and stimulating the province’s economic growth – but we argued that true success in these endeavours could only be achieved if all stakeholders in the public and private sectors work together.

This is especially true in the areas of creating jobs and producing the skilled graduates to fill those jobs. It’s often said that employers are “crying out” for workplace-ready grads – and this is why experiential learning has become an important part of the postsecondary experience. Ontario’s universities are committed to a goal of offering such an experience to every student, in all fields – but it’s something that is only achievable though partnerships with employers and government support.

The 50 Ways showcase many impressive collaborations with Ontario businesses in this area of future skills and work preparedness. But the potential for growth is huge. Many smaller businesses and non-profit organizations don’t currently offer co-ops or other experiential-learning opportunities because they don’t have the scale or resources. If we can tap this well, with the help of government incentives, it will contribute greatly to strengthening the talent pipeline needed to help Ontario thrive, and give small to medium sized businesses the benefit of some top talent..

RBC is one large employer that has been promoting the skills agenda. Its Future Launch initiative pledges to spend $500 million over the next decade on partnerships, including some with postsecondary institutions, to help young people enhance their job prospects through programs that include internships and experiential learning.  And in an accompanying report, Humans Wanted, it argues for a greater emphasis on the very same skills that employers have been telling us they need for tomorrow’s jobs – such as critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity.

We welcome RBC’s partnership in building the highly skilled workforce Ontario needs. Indeed, Lakehead and Ottawa are two universities currently leveraging the bank’s generous support to provide experiential programs.

Today, technology is disrupting the economy and employment in so many different, rapidly evolving ways, and that provides as many opportunities as it does challenges.

Ontario’s universities are committed to the government’s call to raise the number of STEM graduates by 25 per cent, while recognizing that humanities students, armed with the skills needed to flourish in the knowledge economy, will also be highly coveted by firms in growth sectors.

We look forward to many more partnerships to help us prepare our graduates for tomorrow’s workplace so they can contribute to a better future for the province.