Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A man in a suit presenting to a room filled with people

University of Waterloo’s associate vice-president, innovation, and executive director, WatSPEED, Sanjeev Gill, recently spoke at eCampus Ontario’s Microcredential Forum to discuss the critical need for a partnership between industry, government, and academia to address the skills gaps in Canada’s workforce.

“Our aspiration should be to build the world’s most coveted workforce,” said Gill. “A workforce that is continuously and constantly upskilled that always has a radar on national skills. I believe ultimately that will result in more direct foreign investment into Canada and lead to prosperity, and improvement in our innovation capacity, and increased competitiveness for the Canadian business.”

During his presentation, Gill outlined three key considerations to initiate meaningful change and make an impact: 

  1. Industry needs to have ‘real’ skin-in-the-game. By rethinking training and development programs, industry can establish new ways to tap into their existing talent base. To do this, organizations should explore working with education providers to co-develop content that leverages real-world data, to create learning experiences that are applicable to the modern workplace with the the highest quality through academic rigor. 

  1. Academia must support relevant lifelong learning. With today's unceasing rate of technological change, it’s critical for academic institutions to build relevant education not just for undergraduate and graduate students, but for professionals, leaders, and executives as well. There should also be a strong focus on building alliances with industry and government, especially to enable continued commitment to skills standards. 

  1. Government must support and promote new education models. Through the development of skills standards and assessments in consultation with industry and academia, government can hold both groups accountable for maintaining high standards in training. It may include the use of funding mechanisms, policies, and skills standards to promote new education models that reflect the future of Canada’s economy and society.  

Canada's skills challenge is not new; gaps have existed for some time as advances in technology move at hyper-scale and hyper-speed. For instance, the country's automotive industry has seen the impact of fluctuating currency for decades. However, the current skills shortage is more significant, as there is increased competition for talent amidst ongoing technological, environmental, economic, and social disruption, affecting every type of business and organization. Finding a way forward presents a challenge that demands national attention and collaboration. 

WatSPEED’s work to build the world's most coveted workforce is focused on supporting organizations to address the current and future skills challenges our society might face. Through stronger partnerships between industry, government, and academia, Canada can create a national skills radar, attract increased foreign investment, and drive economic prosperity—enabling our nation to be a leader and innovator in global talent and education. 

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