Message from the CEO

Message from the CEO: Nobina Robinson

CEO, Polytechnics Canada

Demand-driven solutions for Made-in-Canada Innovation and Talent

Statement to House of Commons Finance Committee, October 7, 2014

Deliverd by Nobina Robinson:

Click here for our April 21, 2015 press release regarding the announcement of the 2015 Federal Budget:

Our thanks for including us in your important annual hearings.  Polytechnics Canada’s ten recommendations for next year’s federal budget encompass two of your themes: increasing competitiveness through R&D and maximizing job opportunities for Canadians. 

In fact, innovation and jobs are vitally linked – in our view, it is people who innovate, not institutions.  So we need a 21st century workforce that knows how to innovate – and you know that I will continue to advocate that college and polytechnic advanced applied education builds much sought after innovation skills for all Canadian workers.

I will provide concrete examples that underpin our recommendations, but I hope you will ask me more about our substantive ideas to improve innovation, labour market and trades training outcomes in Canada.

Our 11 members are publicly-funded research-intensive colleges and institutes.  We are demand-driven and industry-responsive in all that we do. 

Your Committee’s focus on competitiveness is absolutely correct.  Let me share an example of how our members are enabling a whole industry sector to compete.  In 2012 the College and Community Innovation Program (CCIP) awarded Sheridan College in Oakville a five-year grant to establish the Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT).  A year later, 36 local and regional companies and organizations from Ontario's digital media industry have partnered with over 180 Sheridan students and faculty on industry-led applied research projects. 

If you want an example of how colleges and polytechnics spur commercialization, then consider how Red River College in Winnipeg is using another CCIP award to purchase tools and equipment to serve the needs of an industry consortium involved in an all-electric transit bus project, designed to test lithium battery life in Manitoba’s extreme winter weather.

If you want more such success, then we recommend an increase to CCIP, the sole NSERC program supporting college applied research, now stalled because demand for our R&D collaborations is outstripping supply. Worse, thousands of small Canadian firms are now forced to put innovation “on hold.” 

And then consider how neither Sheridan nor Red River, nor any of our members, can access the same supports for their indirect costs of research as their university counterparts.  This leads me to our second research related recommendation, namely to increase the funds for the Indirect Costs of Research Program and to allow the CCIP I just mentioned to be eligible for this Program. We can find no policy rationale for this long-standing exclusion. Stable, predictable funding to build our research and industry liaison capacity and to increase our industry-driven research projects is needed. 

Your other concern for maximizing job opportunities requires that we as a country, and more importantly, the federal government, once and for all, recognize the consensus that now exists after a year or more of skills debate and labour market turmoil: Canada needs to invest in reliable, accurate, and timely labour market information. Your own Committee’s hearings on youth employment recognized the need for action on this important issue.  This is why we recommend the creation of a Labour Market Information Council that will make both demand and supply-side labour market data available to all Canadians – learners, workers, employers, parents, and educators alike. 

With the persistent threat of not enough certified journey persons in high demand trades professions, the same Labour Market Information Council could modernize how we track Canada’s 400,000 apprentices through the creation of a National Registered Apprenticeship Number. We would gain crucial information about progress, mobility, and barriers faced by apprentices.

And if demand is outstripping supply of talent for the skilled trades professions, consider our recommendation on high demand training capacity needs.  Each of our members has examples to give you of the numbers of qualified applicants we are turning away due to lack of space, lack of equipment or lack of instructors.

Above all, we will need to de-risk investment in trades training if we are to grow the number of certified tradespeople.  This is why we have recommended an employer tax credit for those employers of record who sponsor a Red Seal apprentice through to certification. We are pleased that many employer associations are aligned with this recommendation.

The modern innovation process is far more collaborative than ever before, involving teams of researchers, technicians, technologists and business and marketing specialists – yes, even tradespeople.  Connecting firms to the talent and R&D solutions of polytechnic applied education should be a high priority for your Committee’s deliberations.

I look forward to your questions.

What People are Saying

“College applied research now has a specific recognition in new and existing federal programs - recognition not because we are colleges, but because the notion that our institutions have the facilities, the faculty, the enterprising students and above all the ideas by which to help industry gain productivity is now becoming accepted.”

Nobina Robinson, CEO of Polytechnics Canada - May 2011