Amid rapid technological advancements and a constantly changing job market, universities, companies and governments are working together to create work-integrated learning opportunities that benefit employers and graduates alike – not to mention the Canadian economy as a whole.
That was the consensus of a roundtable discussion today to discuss how measures outlined in the 2019 federal budget will accelerate skills development among undergraduate students to prepare them for the workforce.
“We hear about this every day from our students… they want this,” U of T President Meric Gertler said during his remarks following the panel discussion.
“We also hear about this from our alumni – many of whom are employers themselves – and other employers that we talk to.”
The event, held at George Brown College, was organized by the Business/Higher Education Roundtable (BHER), an organization that was co-founded by the University of Toronto and represents some of Canada’s biggest companies and post-secondary institutions. President Gertler serves as the co-chair of BHER.
The panel members included: Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development; Val Walker, the executive director of BHER; Dave McKay, co-chair of BHER and the president and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC); Jennifer O’Connell, the parliamentary secretary for the minister of finance (youth economic opportunity); and Sara Robertson, a chemical engineering student from the University of Waterloo.
Bains kicked off the discussion by formally announcing that his government will invest $17 million to help BHER take significant strides toward its goal of ensuring work-integrated learning experiences for every undergraduate student in Canada within 10 years.
“We, as a government, share the vision of BHER in terms of making sure that every undergraduate student has the opportunity for meaningful employment and experiential learning during their time in college or university,” said Bains.
“Canada’s continued prosperity depends on young Canadians getting the education and experience they need to succeed … When young people gain valuable on-the-job experience, they are better equipped to succeed in the workplace, and that is fundamental to growing our economy and strengthening our middle class for years to come.”
At U of T, for example, a majority of students have a work-integrated learning experience as part of their education. At the same time, U of T was last year ranked first in North America among public universities when it came to graduate employability.