U of T is helping Canadians upskill for the new economy

The University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS) is launching 24 short courses in the areas most in demand in the labour market. Covering a mix of technical and business skills, the courses are designed to leverage the federal government’s new Canada Training Credit which provides Canadians with a refundable tax credit to keep up their skills.

Multiple studies on the future of employment have found that the skills used at work are on the cusp of significant change. For example, the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that workers will spend 55 per cent more time using technological skills and 25 per cent more time engaged in emotional and social interactions than they do now. While universities will provide an essential foundation in both the communication and technical skills required of new graduates, jobs that are continuously changing will also demand continuous lifelong learning.

In response, governments around the world are encouraging employees and companies to invest in keeping skills current. Singapore, for example, gives citizens a financial credit to pay for adult training. With the Canada Training Credit, workers will be able to draw on a lifetime maximum of $5,000 to pay for upskilling courses throughout their careers.

“We want to make it easier for professionals to access the training they need quickly and bring that back to their companies or to the next stage of their careers,” said Maureen MacDonald, Dean of SCS. “We have thousands of busy professionals who take our courses every year and this initiative allows them to become familiar with the latest technology and business practices.”

The School’s initiative is the first from a university in Canada built to specifically complement the Canada Training Credit.  Courses range from the fundamentals of business, such as business analysis, effective writing, and Lean Six Sigma methods, to in-demand data mining languages such as Python, and cybersecurity risk management. Each course is up to six weeks in length and most of the 24 courses available will eventually be offered online.

About 21,000 students – primarily professionals – took courses at the school last year. With the new initiative, however, students do not need to sign up for an entire semester. Instead, they can take a series of short courses of several weeks and stack them together into a certificate.

"The new courses put the University of Toronto at the forefront of helping Canadian companies support their employees, develop their talent and improve Canada’s productivity,” said Andrew Thomson, Chief of Government Relations for the University of Toronto.

Here are five key elements of the new short courses:

Accessible: By scheduling courses for six weeks and, in the future, making most available online, the School helps employees invest in their development.

Relevant: Employees can learn the material their companies need quickly. As employers find new skills gaps, the School can respond with new modules to deliver just-in-time classes.

Stackable: The short courses can be combined to lead to certificates offered by SCS in established areas of professional development including Business Analysis, Data Science and Cloud Computing.

Strategic: Companies have told the School they are eager to invest in developing their staff's potential and are looking for ways to balance the long-term success of their businesses with daily operational needs.  

Open: The short courses are specifically designed for professionals who know what skills and education they need. The courses are open to everyone and there are no prerequisites.