Polytechnic Education and the 2015 Federal Election
CEO, Polytechnics Canada
The 2015 federal election will be a game changer and the three competing campaigns are sure to give us an eventful summer and fall. While polytechnic education is not directly mentioned in party platforms, all three national political parties recognize the key role it will play once a new government is formed. The ‘know-how’ skill sets possessed by highly talented polytechnic graduates, from trades persons to technicians, will be absolutely essential to making the new government’s ideas for productivity and economic growth a reality.
Growth for the Canadian economy and workforce remain challenges that concern all voters. Since 2008, Canadian youth unemployment has continually hovered around 13 percent, with an additional 27 percent underemployed. We continue to fall behind in high-technology and advanced-manufacturing exports; business R&D and innovation outcomes are not what they could be. We have aging infrastructure barely able to get goods to market in a timely manner. The ‘knowledge economy’ that was a priority in the 1990s is not enough for the 21st century Canadian economy. Canadian workers in the post-recession economy need to know more than just the ‘why’ of things – they need to know the ‘how’, needing specialized skill sets to complete tasks, turning the creation of new knowledge into goods and services that increase Canadian productivity.
This new ‘know-how economy’ no longer depends upon Canada’s universities as the sole providers of higher education, expected to ‘do it all.’ Rather, it focuses on a thriving ecosystem of post-secondary institutions. It requires highly technical talent, developed through extensive industry-education partnerships, building the multiple skills employers now require for success in the workplace. Polytechnic education, by its very nature of being applied advanced technological education, meets the needs of the new economy.
Polytechnic education is one of the three pillars of Canadian higher education, along with universities and community colleges. Polytechnics are unique in the wide range of credentials they offer: diplomas to Bachelor’s degrees, post-graduate certificates to apprenticeship training for skilled trades. These programs are designed in close collaboration with industry and employers. This ensures that the highly technical skills in demand are obtained by polytechnic students during their program of study. Finally, students gain critical innovation literacy, the ability to think creatively, evaluate and apply problem-solving skills to diverse and intangible issues. These skills are developed through hands-on participation in applied research projects, undertaken in partnership with Canadian companies and organizations.
The result of a polytechnic education is a cadre of highly qualified skilled personnel (HQSP). Ranging in fields from applied and natural sciences, business and media, computer and information technology, engineering to health sciences and trades, these highly talented graduates make up the backbone of the Canadian workforce. Working in collaboration, they are the drivers of key aspects of Canada’s economy. Graduates consistently find careers in their field upon completion of their study. An increasing number of our graduates acquire the entrepreneurial skills needed to achieve business success.
Whether it be significant investment in infrastructure, a plan for job creation, aspirations for middle class growth, innovation in the green economy, increased export of goods to our trading partner nations, reduced youth unemployment, or a thriving, globally competitive economy, the ideas and promises of all three political parties will require the skills and expertise of polytechnic graduates to translate into real growth and advances for Canada. Polytechnic education may not be the first thing that your local candidate for Member of Parliament or a or Federal party leader tells you about, but all three parties know this -- whichever claims victory on October 19, polytechnic education will be a ready solution to making their vision for a better and stronger Canada a reality.