30 June 2010

Round table report on market trends and public education

The Learning Partnership yesterday convened a Round Table on Labour Market Trends and Implications for Public Education. The goals was to inform public education policy. Warren Jestin, Chief Economist of ScotiaBank, chaired the event, and offered introductory remarks on the context of the opportunities and challenges facing Canada and public education. Jestin identified three trends that will inform educational and economic policy, reminding the audience that we need to focus on the unfamiliar for growth. That is, the economy will rebound, but will not go back to what it once was. Jestin pointed out that the G20 is now the official voice of the world economy, acknowledging the complexities of the global economic system as being comprised of developed and developing nations.
The three trends are:
1. We must focus on the emerging world where we are not yet plugged in - but could be.
2. Discussions on the environment and sustainability are at a very early stage. Major changes are imminent and will impact all sectors.
3. Demographic changes will mean less people working and more retired.

Productivity must drastically improve if we are to complete internationally, Jestin said, and "there is a crying need for improved education and skills training." Jobs in health care will of course be in demand, as will change in how health care is operated and funded. Urban infrastructure requires investment and renewal if we are to compete on quality worldwide. Skilled graduates with innovation literacy will be in demand: "We need people who know how to do something in a rapidly changing world," including easy facility with language and technology. Driving this should be "more fluid transfer of credits between colleges and universities." This last point is especially important; articulation of the education system will make the innovation economy more effective and responsive to social and economic productivity demands.

Rick Miner spoke about his recent study "People without jobs; Jobs without people." This report is a must-read for anyone with an interest in education and its downstream effects. It is also a wake-up call for all of us to start (re)thinking how we conceive of education, how we structure its delivery, how we measure its outputs and social impacts, and what we need to do to ensure Canada remains globally competitive.

The subsequent discussion was interesting for its common approach - across many educational sectors represented - on change needed in our education system. A report on the Round Table is forthcoming. What is clear is that there is good alignment in education: Innovation is not just a word. It is an activity and a call to action to reformat our thinking and our approach to social and economic productivity.

24 June 2010

H20 in Toronto

No - that's not a typo, and it's not about water. The H20 Summit & Top 100 Awards Breakfast is the Hospitality 20, which I attended this past Tuesday with members of the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts management team. It was an interesting look into the industry, and featured a round table discussion on wide-ranging issues related to the economic recovery, talent management, greening the industry and innovation. The topic of innovation was an interesting discussion as it focused on aspects of improving productivity, but also on meeting current and future demands of consumers in the hotel and food service industries. The applied research of our chefs and food scientists fits into this very well.

When the panel was asked what we can do to better prepare our graduates, one comment was that we should continue to have an open dialog with industry partners. There was acknowledgement that CHCA does an exemplary job of working with industry to prepare highly qualified and skilled graduates, and that our role in preparing our graduates for work in these industries requires us to encourage innovation and productivity in addition to the job-ready skills we are well known for instilling in our graduates. Our preparation of graduates with innovation literacy and exposure to innovation and downstream productivity issues is reminiscent of the points I raised in my last post regarding Stephen Murgatroyd's 10 challenges for colleges, particularly to embed creativity, change management and adaptability in our curricula.

11 June 2010

The net effects of innovation and applied research

The ACCC held its annual conference earlier this week, which featured some good sessions on the practice of applied research at Canadian colleges. Many keynote speakers made reference to the importance of applied research and innovation and colleges' collective close links with firms. Most important was the discussion not on applied research per se, but rather on the downstream net effects on productivity our applied research work with firms has.

Stephen Murgatroyd gave the closing keynote on Innovation, Colleges and Community, where he discussed key challenges for Canada's productivity and what colleges can do about this. Among other things he spoke of the need to encourage flexibility and adaptability in our students, the intangible skills that we call innovation literacy. Murgatroyd calls colleges "the best hope we've got" for improving productivity in Canada. Many topics raised in this space were raised, from the need to encourage more open innovation and coopetition, to "a relentless focus on improving productivity" in firms - the downstream effects of our work - rather than a focus on what we do in and of itself. This is solid, grounded thinking. Our work in applied research is important, but if we are successful we are in the background, an enabler of innovation writ large in social and economic productivity improvement.

Murgatroyd finished with 10 challenges for colleges:
1. Stop focusing on innovation and focus on productivity, design and skills development.
2. Embed creativity, change management and adaptability in all curricula (c.f. innovation literacy)
3.Don't focus on R&D, but rather on design, development, deployment and sustainability - what we can call the effects of applied R&D.
4. Use networks to create local and regional clusters.
5. Build cross-functional capacity within colleges and firms - this is a staple of interprofessionalism.
6. Be glocal - realize our work is local but interconnected to global trends and markets.
7. Invest in futures thinking, and partner with industry to develop innovation roadmaps.
8. Pursue and create Public Private Partnerships - what I have elsewhere termed P3RD.
9. Build community capacity.
10. Communicate our work directly to firms, governments and the public.

Related here is the recent release of the new OECD Innovation Strategy. The OECD continues their  focus on people and education and training, and speak about innovation literacy as an intangible asset linked to tacit knowledge, as well as the importance of a highly qualified and skilled work force. The mobility of the work force thus equipped with innovation skills-sets is an important driver of innovation and social and economic productivity.

05 June 2010

Food Research for Cancer Survivorship

Yesterday's launch of the Princess Margaret Hospital's Electronic Living Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Cancer Survivorship Research (ELLICSR) featured Chef James Smith and Chef School Graduate Sharon Booy demonstrating recipes created as part of a collaborative project GBC is working on with PMH-ELLICSR researchers. Building Recipes and Understanding Nutrition for Cancer-Survivorship Health (Project BRUNCH) has developed over 30 recipes that are simple to make and tasty, focused on making healthy eating easier for cancer survivors. The Toronto Star's story on the launch of ELLICSR has an accompanying photo of Chef Booy. Yesterday's event was very well attended, with over 200 people - patients, clinicians, staff - taking in a variety of presentations from ELLICSR partners, including the cooking demos showcasing recipes developed by the project. Project BRUNCH is part of GBC's NSERC funded program of research. This is an excellent example of how George Brown College works with community, clinical and industry partners, and mobilizes faculty and student expertise to address practical, real-world problems.