23 May 2008

Polytechnics Canada conference: Real solutions for productivity pressures

Polytechnics Canada convened its annual conference in Calgary over the past two days, meeting at the SAIT Polytechnic campus to discuss "Canada's Shortage of Skilled Workers: How Polytechnics Provide a Solution." The conference was an opportunity for the Polytechnics members to meet to discuss our objectives for the coming year, and to hear from several speakers on the role of Polytechnics in Canada's productivity. Today's first speaker was the Honourable Mote Solberg, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Minister Solberg outlined the productivity gaps in Canada and how we need to seriously increase our education and training efforts to ensure that all Canadians can participate meaningfully in the economy. Calling for "new approaches and partnerships to meet the labour market challenges of today and tomorrow," Minister Solberg outlined his government's plans for addressing skills shortages through targeted programs designed to counteract our "mediocre productivity performance."

All speakers made clear the connection between the Polytechnic advantage of offering relevant skills training and applied research, filling important gaps in the R&D spectrum in Canada. The educational ecosystem in Canada benefits from the kind of "biodiversity" the Polytechnics bring to the mix.

The Research Committee set objectives for the coming year that will help us build on the concept of Innovation literacy: the ability to think creatively, evaluate, and apply problem-solving skills to diverse and intangible issues within industrial problems and multidisciplinary contexts. We believe that fostering innovation literacy in our highly qualified and skilled graduates is a key differentiator of the Polytechnic advantage, particularly as regards applied research conducted in close concert with industry and community needs.

Innovation literacy is the cornerstone of our new Research Commercialization and Innovation program which we are launching in January 2009.

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