08 May 2015

Polytechnics Know How

Saskatchewan Polytechnic hosted the Polytechnics Canada Annual Conference on 7 May, and featured some great speakers and discussion about highly relevant issues pertaining to education and its relationship to productivity in the economy. On 6 May there were internal group meetings kicked off by a talk by Ken Coates, who engaged the group with questions regarding "the polytechnic moment." Fundamentally this is about our ability to respond to labour market needs with effective balancing of supply and demand with skills training and education. This recurrent theme is of great importance given the lack of growth in education funding and the need to ensure that the labour market has effective inputs (i.e. graduates) for social and economic outputs.

The agenda featured good speakers and an industry panel that discussed the political context of education and differentiation and how to articulate the value of polytechnic education. This includes our focus on applied research and the conjoint outcome of helping industry increase innovation and productivity while giving our students valuable innovation skills. These intangible skills were a strong focus of the discussions, in that these are often overlooked and add value to any social or economic enterprise.  That is, with demographics being what they are, with the work force essentially shrinking and the expenses of those retiring increasing, we have a very real need to increase productivity across the economy.  The kinds of skills and education that polytechnic education provides offer an excellent avenue for realizing this goal. This include the transferable skills and training people to assume managerial responsibilities as areas in need of development.

Adaptive thinking is required in our graduates - a core competency of innovation literacy - as well as in our approach to education. This is not an either or argument - it is clear form our discussions that situating one form of education against others is not a winning proposition. Rather, our focus on complementarity, in education and applied research, acknowledges a perspectival multiplicity that is also a multiplier effect on the economy. This kind of thought leadership is important in the post-secondary education landscape.

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