Sandra Banks

Sandra Banks
Vice-President, University Relations

According to Randall Lane, chief content officer and editor with Forbes, COVID-19 has accelerated almost every field and trend that might otherwise take a decade to unfold.

“In my opinion, the next competitive battleground will be talent. Everything else is, or will become, a commodity,” Lane said.

In addition to developing talent, Lane says that universities play an important role at the nexus of public-private innovation initiatives, with employers benefitting from highly motivated, ambitious and knowledgeable teams of hyper-talented students. It’s why so many of them seek out University of Waterloo co-op students to play a vital role meeting their business objectives.
Now more than ever, our economy needs a resilient and future-ready workforce that will drive Canada’s recovery. At Waterloo, we’ve increased hiring flexibility and opportunities for employers to access funding as part of our wider response to changing needs of the Canadian workforce.

The virtual Waterloo Innovation Summit on July 22 where Lane will be the keynote speaker, also gives employers across industry, government and knowledge institutions the opportunity to explore the talent imperative.

Seeing beyond the status quo

As organizations look to reset, rebuild and rebound, the focus on developing highly skilled talent has only intensified.

Take ApplyBoard, Canada’s fastest-growing tech company and a Waterloo alumni scaleup dedicated to helping international students with their post-secondary applications.

When the pandemic hit, ApplyBoard doubled down on its commitment to students.

“Student success and well-being are always at the centre of everything we do, and COVID-19 has only heightened our attention to students,” Martin Basiri (MASc ’13) said, ApplyBoard CEO and co-founder. “There is far more at stake than economics.”

Michael Litt (BASc ’11), co-founder and CEO of Vidyard, a company changing the way businesses connect and communicate in an increasingly digital world, has seen first-hand how the pandemic has shifted the business environment, creating a tail wind for digital platforms as more companies go online.

“If you can be flexible, the world is your talent bucket. All the big players have been taking advantage of global talent — now everyone can,” Litt said. “It will provide a wave of global commerce we have not seen before.”

Harnessing workplace data and insights

Employers must strengthen their talent pipeline to recruit and retain employees with the right skills that consistently drive the growth of the organization. Companies and global leaders, like ApplyBoard and Vidyard, partner with the University of Waterloo to develop that pipeline.

Waterloo is a global leader in the areas of experiential learning, employer-student connections and partnerships with employers. In the full year before COVID-19, Waterloo saw more than 21,800 work terms in 60+ countries, and in-field contributions by co-op students returned $525 million in employer gains and $567 million to Canada’s GDP.

It’s a new era that calls for the creation of new resources, like the University’s Work-Learn Institute (WxL), the only unit of its kind dedicated to researching the development of talent through quality work-integrated learning programs.

By analyzing rich data on employer and employee behaviour within Waterloo’s co-op program, insights are mined to help Canada’s employers both develop and attract the next generation of talent.