Top Ten

November 12, 2013

Alberta releases revised mandate letters

In addition to announcing $50 million in new funding for Alberta’s PSE institutions last week, Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk also released revised mandate letters that no longer require all 26 colleges and universities to adopt the Campus Alberta branding. The new letters also omit specific economic goals and uphold the uniqueness of individual institutions. “We want to preserve [the institutions’] independence while helping find ways to share resources in ways that make sense for everyone,” said Lukaszuk. In future, institutions that wish to develop new programming must first look for ways to collaborate with a Campus Alberta partner. The mandate letters will be reviewed annually. Earlier this year, Alberta’s provincial auditor determined there was a lack of clarity regarding Campus Alberta’s mandate and plans for collaboration. Edmonton Journal

Niagara College receives provincial funding for expansion

Niagara College is receiving funds from the Ontario government to expand the Industry Innovation Centre in Advanced Manufacturing at the Welland campus. The 18,000-square-foot addition will provide much needed space for labs, specialized equipment, and meeting spaces for students and business partners. The announcement was part of the 2013 fall economic statement delivered by Ontario's Finance Minister, The Honourable Charles Sousa, who also highlighted recent funding commitments to Centennial College’s aerospace programs. The fall economic report states that Ontario will “release a policy framework to govern future expansion in the postsecondary sector either through creation of 3 new campuses or through major expansion at existing campuses.” The economic statement centres on a new 3-part plan: Investing in People, Building Modern Infrastructure, and Supporting a Dynamic and Innovative Business Climate. Niagara News Release | St Catharines Standard | Ontario News Release | Economic Report

UOIT signs MOU with France’s Université de Bretagne-Sud

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Business and Information Technology (FBIT) has signed an MOU with France’s Université de Bretagne-Sud. The MOU is an extension of an earlier partnership under the Cross-Atlantic Partnership in Network Systems and Information Management (CAMIM) project, which was part of the Canada-European Union Program for Co-operation in Higher Education, Training, and Youth. “The Faculty of Business and Information Technology has an expanding international presence and offers a growing number of international opportunities for students,” said Dr. Pamela Ritchie, FBIT Dean. “Mobility under this project has been very successful and FBIT looks forward to a continued partnership with the Université de Bretagne-Sud.” UOIT News

Saint Mary’s launches new website

Halifax’s Saint Mary’s University has launched a new website that focuses on prospective students. The website organizes content into specific programs, allows for easy navigation with drop-down menus on the main page, and has easy links to the mySMU tab and most-used pages for current students and faculty. The new website also contains responsive design for mobile users, whether smartphones or tablets. The site currently features over 800 pages of newly designed content that integrate with the prior existing pages; over the next few months, SMU will update all pages, as well as incorporate video and social media channels. SMU website   

Polytechnics Canada makes pre-budget recommendations

In a recent statement to the House of Commons Finance Committee’s pre-Budget consultations, Polytechnics Canada’s CEO Nobina Robinson called on all levels of government for better Labour Market Information (LMI) to inform government action regarding Canada’s skills challenges. Specifically, Polytechnics Canada is requesting that the Workplace and Employee Survey and the Youth in Transition Survey be modernized and improved. In addition, Polytechnics Canada is repeating earlier calls for action in several key areas: adjusting the Canada Student Loans Program to allow for older apprentices with demonstrated financial need; establishing a list of specific skilled trades most in demand and providing target supports for students in these trades; provision of a tax credit for employers who sponsor the final stages of training for Red Seal apprentices; and the creation of a National Registered Apprentice Number (NRAN) -- a single unique federal identifier for all registered apprentices in Canada to provide up-to-date information on the supply of active apprentices and their current employment/training status. Polytechnics Canada News Release 

Concordia president suggests PSE-business partnerships to revitalize Montreal

Concordia University President Alan Shepard recently spoke to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, suggesting the need for 3 initiatives to help spark a city-wide revitalization. Shepard’s proposals, “Create a network of startup zones to bring companies and students together; support the startup zones with tax credits; and invest in talent and infrastructure to better position ourselves globally,” are part of a larger vision to unite universities and the city “to leverage the city’s talent and infrastructure.” Shepard cited the growing student population of Montreal, nearly 200,000, as potential for creativity and entrepreneurship. According to Shepard, Montreal can still experience a renewal and its universities “have a big role to play in that renewal ... We need to work together, not just to maintain the status quo, but to go beyond it.” Montreal Gazette

Ottawa looks for solutions to student-housing dilemma

US developer CA Ventures has partnered with Ottawa-based Viner Assets to build a 9-storey 630-bed apartment block to address uOttawa’s chronic student housing shortage, reports the Ottawa Citizen. At a public hearing to discuss the proposed building, local Sandy Hill residents opposed the project, pushing for more student housing to be built on campus. The Sandy Hill community has been at the centre of student-housing issues as landlords began converting homes into multi-student units, resulting in a temporary ban on such projects. One city councillor in Ottawa is proposing a demerit point system for landlords in a perimeter area around Algonquin College. New regulations would “only allow room rentals in licensed homes that must be limited to one kitchen, one common area and up to four rooms,” and a demerit point system would address regular nuisance issues like garbage and noise. The Action Sandy Hill community association applauded the proposal, and is calling for a city-wide student-housing strategy to address related issues. Ottawa Citizen (CA Ventures) | Ottawa Citizen (Algonquin)

Canada should increase access to trades training

Kevin G Lynch, Vice-Chair of BMO Financial Group, explores Canada’s skills mismatch and suggests the need for improved access to trades training in a recent Globe and Mail op-ed. Lynch uses the example of Germany’s dual vocational training system, where students split time between training at a business and training at school, with all levels of government in partnership with PSE institutions and local businesses. According to Lynch, “there are strong advantages to a dual vocational system that not only trains and educates skilled trades, but professionalizes and validates them.” This approach could provide some answers to the need for more skilled workers in BC, where it is estimated that more than 1 million jobs will be open in the next decade, 43% of those in the skilled trades or technical occupations. BC Education Minister Peter Fassbender noted that exposure to the trades as a viable option for future employment needs to occur at a young age. "We want to start developing a process where, at younger grades, we're starting to talk about career opportunities that include a variety of different options - post-secondary, dual credit, apprenticeship programs," Fassbender said. Globe and Mail | Vancouver Sun

Experts suggest labour shortage is exaggerated

A new report published by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy states that “Canada is not experiencing labour shortages, nor are widespread ones likely to materialize, although shifts in the economy are creating a new normal for the jobs market.” Cliff Halliwell, former Director General of policy research at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and author of the report, noted that although there are some industries currently experiencing shortages, there are no broad labour shortages because there are more workers than positions. “Rather than focusing on the need to boost labour supply, policy should focus on how to develop, match and fully use the skills of Canadians,” he said. Many US researchers agree that it is a myth that there is a shortage of workers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields, citing rising unemployment rates for workers in STEM fields, and generally flat rates of pay. However, many educators and employers continue to state that there are not enough skilled workers to fill positions, particularly in IT fields. Regardless, many experts suggest the answer is to make sure students receive as broad an education as possible, by combining humanities courses with STEM programs to make “sure that students develop skills that help them interact with other people, and in a creative way ... do more to foster workplaces where innovation would flourish.” Globe and Mail | Chronicle of Higher Education

Adjunct professors often excluded from governance bodies

A new US study to be presented this week at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education found that “Adjuncts remain largely excluded from faculty senates at most research universities.” The report examined more than 100 universities that have faculty senates, finding two-thirds of those institutions had faculty senates that were off-limits to adjunct faculty who have less than half the workload of a full-time faculty member. Of the remaining third, half of those had faculty senates that were open to any adjunct faculty member, regardless of workload, and the other half had rigid policies that prevented participation by any non-tenure track instructor. In January, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued guidelines regarding faculty involvement in shared-governance bodies, which stated "no faculty member should be excluded from participation in governance because of the appointment conditions over which most have little control." Chronicle of Higher Education