22 March 2013

Budget 2013: A glass half full

Budget 2013 is an austerity budget, but one that contains some very positive news for colleges and polytechnics. Read our press release: George Brown College ready to deliver on federal budget initiatives aimed at bridging skills mismatch.

Several key recommendations from Polytechnics Canada were contained in the budget, including an increase to the College and Community Innovation Program funding, the inclusion of college undergraduate students in the NSERC Industrial Undergraduate Student Research Awards program, apprenticeship requirements for federal procurement, and the industry innovation vouchers pilot program as part of IRAP (“credit notes to help pay for research, technology and business development services at universities, colleges and other non-profit research institutions of their choice”). Funds for the Canada Foundation for Innovation for research infrastructure and a renewal of FEDDEV Ontario are good news items - George Brown College is building the Green Building Centre, a business accelerator and entrepreneurship centre for green construction and smart buildings, with support from FEDDEV. Part of the funding to FEDDEV will go to the new Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which represents strong potential for retooling the manufacturing industries, for example via the potential for disruptive change with new technologies like 3D printing.

A big part of the budget is the focus on skills and the new Canada Jobs Fund. A potentially contentious issue as it means renegotiating the Labour Market Agreements, the Canada Job Fund will require industry and the provinces to co-invest in skills training. It is well known that Canadian industry does not invest in skills training as much as it should. As reported in the Globe and Mail, Don Drummond and Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa are optimistic about the new program.

More analysis is needed, of course, and not everyone is happy with yesterday's budget, but the bottom line here for applied research and skills training is that we are seeing an emphasis on instrumentality and industry: directing education and research toward specific aims of increasing industry engagement and investment. These are essential to improving productivity and innovation in the country.

The focus on skills and innovation is a positive theme, and with the incremental increases to applied research funding we have strong potential for increasing the kinds of experiential learning and innovation skills acquisition that is a hallmark of George Brown College and polytechnic education. The federal government has given educational institutions, industry and individuals tools with which to increase innovation and productivity. It is up to us to pick up those tools and build a better future.


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