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Fab Labs Nation

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 07/11/2016 1468243720
Le français suit. The “Fab Labs Nation” project proposes a concerted strategy to equip Canada with a digital manufacturing interstructur .... Read more

Le français suit.

The “Fab Labs Nation” project proposes a concerted strategy to equip Canada with a digital manufacturing interstructure that makes it possible to promote, entrepreneurship and the creation of jobs of the future as well as innovation in communities and businesses.

A Fab Lab is a collaborative innovation laboratory equipped with digital production machine tools (3D printers, laser cutters, digital milling machines, etc.) and an innovation accelerator where students, engineers, inventors, creators and all those who have a project gather to go from the idea to the object. The Fab Lab offers its users the means necessary for professional digital design to conduct collaborative innovation projects, access to quick prototyping.

A true international community gravitates around the Fab Labs, by implementing laboratories in hundreds of cities and villages. The potential which emanates from them for economic and social development steadily increases and is explored in numerous sectors: health, creativity, education, entrepreneurship, etc. The Fab Labs are part of an open innovation movement and are the tangible tools of a Smart City.

 

L'initiative « Fab Labs Nation » propose une stratégie concertée pour doter le Canada d’une interstructure de fabrication numérique permettant de favoriser l'entrepreneuriat et la création d'emplois d'avenir, l'innovation dans les communautés et les entreprises.

Un Fab Lab est un laboratoire d’innovation collaborative équipé de machines-outils de fabrication numérique (imprimante 3D, découpe laser, fraiseuse numérique, etc.) et un accélérateur d'innovation où les étudiants, les ingénieurs, les inventeurs, les créateurs et tous ceux qui ont un projet entrepreneurial se réunissent pour passer de l’idée à l’objet. Le Fab Lab offre à ses usagers les moyens de conception numérique professionnel nécessaires pour mener des projets d’innovation collaboratifs, l'accès au prototypage rapide.

Une véritable communauté internationale gravite autour des Fab Labs, par l'implantation de laboratoires dans des centaines de villes et villages. Le potentiel qui en découle pour le développement économique et social croit sans cesse et est exploré dans de multiples secteurs : santé, créativité, éducation, entrepreneurship, etc.. Les Fab Labs font partie du mouvement d'innovation ouverte (open innovation) et sont les outils concrets d'une Ville intelligente (Smart City).

 Source : http://www.communautique.quebec/portfolio-items/fablabs-nation/?portfolioID=33

 

 

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Make work-integrated learning opportunities the cornerstone of the Innovation Agenda

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 08/09/2016 1470776531
People innovate. Whether it takes the form of a new product, new process, or new markets, the introduction of innovation is done by visionary individu .... Read more

People innovate. Whether it takes the form of a new product, new process, or new markets, the introduction of innovation is done by visionary individuals who see how to do things differently. A successful innovation strategy must therefore start by fostering the talent, skills and opportunities required for potential innovators to thrive.

The need for innovators intensifies as the economy continues to move towards an innovation-focused, high-value service base. Already, Canada’s service economy employs about three quarters of Canadians and accounts for 70.8% of GDP — a 5% increase since 2000. Financial services, environmental services, water-management services, and IT services are all areas where Canada is a world-leader, thanks in part to the innovators who have built world-class firms in these growing sectors.

The trend towards an economy built on innovative services is intensifying as the knowledge economy evolves. We are entering what has been called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” where disruptive technology such as artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology are quickly transforming the ways we live and work. As a result, the skills Canadians need for career success are also changing, and employers increasingly demand workers with a wide range of skills and functional knowledge.

An effective innovation strategy will respond to these trends by supporting the effective education and training of future innovators. To do so, Canada needs to increase the number of work-integrated learning opportunities for students in order to grow talent and skills, and to prepare the next generation for a rapidly changing economy. In order to “futureproof” a workforce, the World Economic Forum reports that “government and businesses will need to profoundly change their approach to education, skills and employment,” and they recommend enhanced collaboration between businesses, governments and education providers in developing 21st century curriculums.

There are some caveats: students should be paid; the learning opportunities should be relevant; and the experiences should be meaningful. The idea is that the opportunities are collaborative, and mutually beneficial. By connecting young minds with dynamic Canadian businesses, we can grow Canadian talent for innovation, strengthen the employability of post-secondary graduates, and provide businesses with the specialized knowledge, skilled talent and fresh perspectives they will need to adapt and innovate.

If Canada is serious about becoming an innovation leader, we need to make work-integrated learning opportunities the cornerstone of the Innovation Agenda.

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Ensure Canada's youth are equipped with the right skills

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 09/02/2016 1472844698
Tags: digital  skills  education  youth 
Coding and the underlying computational thinking, critical thinking and problem solving skills are crucial components of innovation and entrepreneursh .... Read more

Coding and the underlying computational thinking, critical thinking and problem solving skills are crucial components of innovation and entrepreneurship but these skills aren't being taught in school.  That needs to change. "

Canada's youth are the entrepreneurs and innovators of the future and critical to the Canadian economy. We need to ensure they are equipped with the skills they need to successfully start, grow and nurture the jobs of the future.  And, we need all youth to have equal access -- that includes young women and other historically underrepresented groups."

Melissa Sariffodeen, Co-Founder + CEO at Ladies Learning Code

Melissa Sariffodeen, Young Women: The Key to Unlocking #CDNInnovation, LadiesLearningCode.com. September 1 2016

Credit: Melissa Sariffodeen, LadiesLearningCode.com

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Healthy business climate, great projects, innovative culture, prioritized immigration streams for highly skilled talent

Question:How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
on 09/19/2016 1474320059
Great talent is typically attracted to great work. To attract the best and brightest talent in the world, the Government needs to attract the best inn .... Read more

Great talent is typically attracted to great work. To attract the best and brightest talent in the world, the Government needs to attract the best innovation projects and most innovative companies to anchor their operations in Canada. Ensuring our corporate tax rate remains competitive while also offering financial credits and incentives that support innovation and a strong talent pool are essential to attracting foreign companies to Canada. Moreover, attracting anchor companies in provinces that can supply talent and meet their demands will be key to long-term success. These companies need not be global headquarters to achieve this goal, as we have seen with companies like Ubisoft and EA, who respectively employ approximately half of the FTEs in the Canadian videogame industry.

To lead in innovation, we encourage the government to invest in creating and propelling forward a framework that can be applied to all policies, funding incentives, laws, and programs with the primary goal of developing the best, Canadian talent pool. This includes both 1) an immediate resolution to bring in highly skilled talent from around the world into Canada to transfer and share knowledge and skills; and 2) a longer term strategy to address digital skills gaps.

To start, current policies and legislative frameworks should be evaluated for their effectiveness and ability to meet the goal of developing the best talent pool in the short and long term. To the extent that relevant policies, practices and laws do not work to achieve this goal then they must be revised to meet current needs and ensure Canada remains competitive globally.

 

  i. Attracting High-Skilled Talent

With almost 1,400 job vacancies expected in the next 2 years, Canada’s video game industry is facing challenges recruiting foreign workers.

While technical and creative educational programs across the country produce well-trained workers for entry level positions (98% of junior roles in the industry are filled by Canadians), there is a shortage of available talent at the intermediate, senior and expert levels in various disciplines. Programmers, data analysts, game designers, artists and art directors are in highest demand. The capacity to hire, support and train junior employees depends on a solid and experienced core team. Foreign workers can help continuously “upskill” current Canadian talent through mentoring and by importing best practices in innovation. The inability to efficiently hire experienced talent is a critical barrier to growth for Canadian studios.

There is no question that the industry prefers to hire domestically, but the dearth of available labour, combined with the unique nature of an industry that is continually innovating and continually improving on games to be exported around the globe, requires the industry to have access to the best and brightest workers from around the world. Competition for this talent is fierce, both within the video game industry and within the technology sectors more broadly.

Consequently, the ability to quickly bring in temporary foreign workers (TFWs) is extremely important to the video game industry. However, changes by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) have erected barriers that are causing significant staffing problems. Specifically, in 2011 HRSDC eliminated the federal IT Worker Program, which permitted companies to bypass obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA for seven specified categories of IT workers.

The TFW program is ill-equipped for our industry’s needs. Although changes were made, it continues to make insufficient differentiation between low-wage, low-skill streams and high-wage, high-skill streams. Program officers’ inconsistent application of the regulations and their inability to understand the particularities of the new jobs created for a new economy makes it cumbersome to administer and frustrating for companies looking to quickly advance projects. The requirement for a Transition Plan is ill-suited to companies selectively hiring top global innovators, and negates the government’s own critical role in developing the skills needed for the economy of the future. A “trusted employer” approach or a return to sectoral exemptions as existed under the IT Workers Program could greatly help a growing video game industry in Canada. Sectors such as the video game industry, which are specialized and require specific skills that are in demand globally, should not be required to obtain LMIA’s as there is a shortage of professionals in this area in Canada. Hiring high-tech workers with specialized skills is not displacing Canadians. In fact, it is adding to Canada’s talent pool and innovative brain-trust.

Short of this solution, the program could be fixed if a number of changes were made:

  1. NOC Codes do not accurately represent our industry or jobs

 ESDC makes determinations about labour shortages based on outdated national occupation codes (NOC). The department should work with the industry to remove the requirement for NOC Codes and/or create the ability for new NOC Codes to be introduced annually to meet new and evolving roles and jobs of the future. In 2013, video game companies were consulted on the 10 different positions and job definitions with the hope that eventually new NOC Codes would be created for them. This information is already with ESDC and has been for two years now; however, the NOC codes have never been updated, which has had a negative impact on our companies in Canada.

 2. Inconsistency in Service Canada Processing

 

Across the country, Service Canada officers process TFW applications using different interpretations of the regulations. An application in Vancouver might be approved quickly, while the exact same type of application in Toronto could be held up and/or declined for one of many reasons as determined by individual officers. If Service Canada is to be empowered to make determinations on eligibility, officers should have a thorough understanding of our industry and the particularities of technical job titles and descriptions which are continually evolving and changing based on the evolution of technology. ESAC has already offered to work with ESDC and Service Canada to hold information sessions about our industry in order to educate staff on the particularities of hiring in our industry. This would help Service Canada officers to streamline and standardize the service standards for our industry’s TFW applications.

 3. Processing Times for LMIA Applications

 

Processing times at Service Canada offices have not noticeably improved, even with the total elimination of the low-skill stream and with a hefty application fee. There are no service standards and companies have no confidence in making a hire and expecting the LMIA to be approved in a certain time-frame. The government of Canada could introduce service standards that accompany the application fee so that companies can plan and make decisions based on a reasonable expected time-frame for processing applications.

Ideally, growth sectors paying above average wages like the video game industry should be allowed to hire TFWs without Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs), similar to the former Facilitated Processing for IT Workers Program that was discontinued in 2011.

  1. Transition Plans

With the introduction of the Transition Plans, applicants must now include a detailed plan on how the company will transition from hiring foreign workers to Canadians with every single LMIA application. This requirement is ill-suited to our industry which will always require access to the best talent and innovators to add to Canada’s overall productivity and resourcefulness. Ideally, the requirement for transition plans should be removed from Canada’s immigration requirements. Not only is this part of the program ill-suited to the modern innovation economy, which is global and will always need external talent, but it is also cumbersome for companies and creates unnecessary liability.

If it is impossible to remove this piece of the program than a better way forward would be to allow companies to submit one company-wide Transition Plan each year, which would encompass all of their LMIA applications and could help ease the administrative burden on companies and show government the overarching approach a company is taking to transition to a Canadian workforce. This would be beneficial for both sides and would reduce administration on the company and Service Canada officers.

5. Salary Disclosure in LMIA Advertisements

 

As part of the advertisement requirement for LMIA applications, ESDC requires companies to post and disclose starting salaries. In a competitive industry, this is sensitive information which can compromise a job offer through when companies are vying for highly sought after talent. Allowing companies to omit the salary disclosure portion from the ad, or allowing a generous range in salary, would help protect the competitive advantages of companies.

 ii. Developing Digital Skills

In the long term, we encourage the Federal Government to lead by example and build a country that celebrates and prioritizes educational opportunities, at all levels, to support an inclusive and innovative economy. One way that the Federal government could demonstrate this commitment would be to provide cutting edge education in aboriginal communities, to create access to digital skills education opportunities. There are numerous international programs to provide inspiration of what is possible regarding the design and delivery of this type of education, and we encourage the Government to engage, learn and adopt best practices regarding skills education from K-12, and beyond. Moreover, it is also possible for the Government to re-think the manner in which it defines the education space. Increasingly, Canadians are seeking alternative venues for education opportunities like coding dojos, virtual classrooms, “open-source” learning like Khan Academy, Udacity and even classes on You Tube. To re-think education is a challenge, but the current gap in skills and talent required to innovate, and most importantly, lead demands out of the box policies, incentives and programs to help Canada play catch up to its international counter-parts. Some examples of innovative approaches to education include, The UKs Digital Schoolhouse (http://www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk/) and the US-based Alt School (https://www.altschool.com/about). Considering ways to incent innovative companies to contribute to the education of Canadians is also important to ensure Canadians are job-ready to meet current vacancies and those careers we have yet to imagine. The Government could consider tax or financial incentives for companies that offer in-office training to students and current employees. This extends past co-op and internship opportunities, which are important but only address new employees and not the current workforce that also needs constant training to keep up to date and innovate forward. Education in companies is expensive and takes employees away from projects. There is a cost to companies to invest in the education of their workforce and the government should consider ways to encourage more employers to invest in educating their talent. For these reasons, we recommend the above and that the Government:

    1. Create a comprehensive national computing and digital skills strategy for Canada that includes a coordinated effort to immediately address the digital skills gap in Canada. The strategy should be holistic, reflecting industry and educational needs in Canada, and developed by a multi-stakeholder task force comprising industry leaders, policy makers and educators who establish clear objectives and milestones to put Canadians’ digital skills back on track with international competitors.
    2. Develop policies and programs that support and incent industry stakeholders to be active participants in digital skills education and curricula development for Canadians in K-12, post-secondary and in the workforce.
    3. Establish a strong working partnership with the provinces to support the introduction of computing and digital skills into elementary and secondary school curricula across Canada. The federal government can provide the resources and support required to define national objectives in relation to computer science and digital skills in a manner that ensures inclusivity, diversity and ultimately creates more opportunities for all to participate more fully in Canada’s digital economy - including teaching staff, local and provincial policy makers and students in levels K-12.
Credit: The Entertainment Software Association of Canada

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What does it take for Canada to be known globally as the best country in attracting and developing diverse, high-end talent?

Question:How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
on 09/29/2016 1475179612
Numerous studies have shown the positive relationship between immigration and innovation. Immigrants bring with them specialized skills and experience .... Read more

Numerous studies have shown the positive relationship between immigration and innovation. Immigrants bring with them specialized skills and experience, diverse perspectives, international relationships and networks, and an entrepreneurial spirit. With an aging population and low birth rates, Canada will increasingly rely on immigration to ensure our labour market needs are met in the future. CPA Canada’s own internal occupational demand analysis shows this to be true for our profession.

 

We face competition for the best and the brightest. If we are to be competitive as a destination of choice, we must do a better job of attracting talent, smoothing the integration of newcomers into the workforce and providing them with the best opportunity to succeed. We must also do a better job of processing applications with speed and certainty.

 

CPA Canada has provided more specific input to this matter in our submission to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s recent online consultation, a National Conversation on Immigration.[1] Several key points are worth expanding upon in the context of Canada’s innovation agenda.

 

The Express Entry system of managing the economic class immigration streams would benefit from further refinement. Three reforms in particular are worth consideration: a re-examination of the emphasis on youth; replacing Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs); and supporting the role of international students in meeting labour market needs.

 

Age is one of the criteria for awarding points in the comprehensive ranking system for Express Entry applications. Generally, it makes sense to award a greater number of points for youth – as the point structure does – because younger immigrants have more years to contribute to Canada’s labour market. However, some highly specialized skills or executive-level experience can only be acquired through experience over time. The point system as currently structured unintentionally penalizes senior business executives and specialists for their wealth of experience. It also penalizes Canadian employers who need to fill particular niche roles for which suitable candidates are scarce.

 

This is particularly important when it comes to one of Canada’s biggest innovation challenges: our struggles to grow firms to a larger scale. A 2016 study by the Lazaridis Institute examined the barriers faced by high-growth Canadian technology firms and concluded that the biggest challenge was a lack of experienced management and executive talent. In particular, respondents indicated a shortfall of executives with first-hand experience scaling up technology firms.[2] Canadian firms need access to a deeper talent pool than the country’s labour supply is able to provide. Age should not preclude skilled managerial talent from consideration.

 

 

A central purpose behind Express Entry was to make Canada’s economic class immigration streams more responsive to labour market needs by enabling employer demand to directly impact the selection of immigrants. As such, the offer of employment from a Canadian employer is a significant component of the Express Entry point structure. But as a report by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce illustrated, by making that offer of employment contingent on a positive LMIA, the demand-driven thrust of Express Entry has been negated by what is essentially a protectionist labour market test.[3]

 

The Chamber makes a well-reasoned argument to replace the LMIA, to which we will just add that the LMIA requirement adds further time, administrative compliance and uncertainty to the Express Entry application process. The resulting delays and uncertainty are felt by both Canadian employers and prospective immigrants. The most sought-after international talent has options, and delays and uncertainty in the application process make Canada less competitive.

 

International students enrich the learning environment in Canada’s education institutions and make a substantial contribution to our economy in the process. There are sound economic reasons why Canada should position itself as the destination of choice for international students. Similarly, there are good reasons why we should look to these international students as potential future Canadians. No immigrants are better poised for success in Canada’s labour market than those who already possess a Canadian education, a comfort with Canadian society, and perhaps Canadian work experience.

 

But once again, Express Entry has minimized the opportunities for this talent pool, or at least created more uncertainty than before the system was introduced. The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) had been a convenient and successful pathway for international students to pursue immigration to Canada. In fact, in recent years, the Canadian government had set ambitious targets for CEC in order to maximize the number of international students who chose to stay. Since CEC is one of the economic class immigration programs subject to Express Entry, international students must now be ranked based on the Express Entry point system and compete with other potential immigrants. Their Canadian education and experience does not necessarily have any additional value under the point system.

 

Express Entry’s impact on CEC may make Canada a less desirable destination for international students in the first place. There should not be any guarantees of permanent residency offered to international students who come to Canada. However, at the same time, students should be able to realistically assess their chances of staying should they want to do so. Express Entry’s point system presents a rather cloudy view, and if other international students are less successful in pursuing immigration (as early Express Entry results suggest), then Canada may appear a less attractive choice for their studies. Once again, it is a matter of competition. The best and brightest international students will choose to go to the countries that offer the best educational opportunities along with the best long-term career prospects.

 

 

Recommendations:

 

  • Re-evaluate the points awarded for age under Express Entry to ensure that Canadian employers are not denied access to international talent with highly valued skills and experience.
  • Consider replacing the Labour Market Impact Assessment under Express Entry. If it is necessary to have a labour market test or validation of a legitimate job offer, ensure that the process is fast, efficient and clear.
  • If the Canadian Experience Class must be subject to the Express Entry points system, ensure that a Canadian education and experience is valued as it is in the Canadian marketplace.

 

How do we work together to better equip our young people with the right skill sets for the economy of the future?     

 

Much emphasis is placed on the need for Canada to graduate more students from the so-called STEM fields of study – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Certainly these fields are critical for an innovation-driven economy. But just as important is the need for business graduates that have a sophisticated understanding of how to grow businesses through each stage of development, how to pursue opportunities in Canada and abroad, and how to anticipate and adapt to change.

 

An expert panel struck by the Council of Canadian Academies noted that STEM skills are not sufficient on their own to ensure improvements in innovation, productivity or growth. “Other skills such as leadership, creativity, adaptability, and entrepreneurial ability may be required to maximize the impact of STEM skills,” their report stated.[4]

 

The Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity measured the specific shortfall in business skills finding that, when compared to the United States, Canada has a significant gap in the number of business degree holders. “More alarming is the lower educational attainment of those in management occupations, irrespective of field of study. Just over a third of our managers have a university degree, compared to half in the United States,” the institute warned.[5]

 

The OECD has also noted that Canada lags its peers in the development of business and entrepreneurial skills. In addition, it identified another reason to emphasize the importance of management talent – Canadians’ perceived aversion to risk and the contribution that makes to the country’s commercialization gap. It suggests that more management training and higher education in general would help to address that problem:

The best way to stimulate willingness to take risk may be to boost competitive pressures and openness … and to complement this by enhanced attention to management training and diversity at all educational levels. More tertiary education in general is also needed … Canada still lags in attainment of university degrees, whereas highly educated persons are much more likely to be owners of high-growth innovative firms.[6]

 

In addition to developing managerial talent, we need to do a better job of instilling basic business skills in graduates of all fields. The STEM graduates who may create the products, processes and services of the future, would benefit greatly from a fundamental understanding of how to commercialize their ideas and take them successfully to market. Yet interdisciplinary studies are often discouraged or even prevented. In some cases, spaces in business classes are reserved for students in business programs, making them unavailable to students in science faculties. On the other hand, students in STEM fields may believe that focusing their studies as narrowly as possible gives them greater expertise and enhances their employability.

 

The OECD recommends that post-secondary education institutions include training in entrepreneurship and business skills in their science-based programs, a recommendation we endorse. Greater awareness also needs to be generated regarding the business training resources that exist beyond post-secondary institutions, such as those provided by the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT).

 

Business-oriented financial literacy programs can also improve basic awareness of business skills. In fact, CPA Canada and thousands of CPA volunteers deliver a range of financial literacy programs to Canadians each year. Some of those programs are targeted to entrepreneurs or operators of SMEs to provide some of the essential knowledge and skills for operating a business.

 

By promoting a general understanding of business and removing barriers to interdisciplinary studies, we would develop a more entrepreneurial, adaptable and innovative workforce. The possession of specialized knowledge or skills along with an understanding of how to apply them in a business environment is a combination that should be encouraged.

 

Recommendations:

  • Ensure that Canada’s business schools are producing the sophisticated business managers needed to start, lead and grow firms into successful global players.
  • Encourage more interdisciplinary study in post-secondary education to enable innovators and inventors to also have a fundamental understanding of business, finance and entrepreneurialism.

 

[1] To be available on CPA Canada’s website at cpacanada.ca.

[2] Lazaridis Institute, Scaling Success: Tackling the Management Gap in Canada’s Technology Sector, Wilfred Laurier University, March 2016.

[3] Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Immigration for a Competitive Canada: Why Highly Skilled International Talent is at Risk, January 2016.

[4] Council of Canadian Academies, 2015, Some Assembly Required: STEM Skills and Canada’s Economic Productivity, Ottawa: The Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future, Council of Canadian Academies.

[5] Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity, Canada’s Innovation Imperative: Report on Canada 2011.

[6] Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2012), OECD Economic Surveys: Canada 2012, OECD Publishing.

Credit: Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada

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Tax incentives for individual innovators

Question:How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
on 10/27/2016 1477539031
From the airplane and the liquid-propellant rocket, to modern computers, software and social media, many of the technologies that have shaped and cont .... Read more

From the airplane and the liquid-propellant rocket, to modern computers, software and social media, many of the technologies that have shaped and continue to shape our modern world have been the result of individuals, amateurs, and small groups of enthusiasts, often working in their spare time with extremely limited resources, rather than as part of a company.  

Not only does the work of such individuals sometimes lead to significant new technologies and viable companies, it also provides them an unmatched opportunity to develop their own creativity, skills and expertise in a hands-on way that can be of immense benefit in helping them to succeed and contribute to Canada’s economy. 

That success may come directly as a result of an idea they are working on, but it can equally come indirectly, as a result of the experience they have gained and the skills they have developed.  Such self-motivated innovation and experimentation can thus be both a means of developing talent and a means of encouraging innovative work that could lead to new products or companies.  

Yet they tend to face significant obstacles and there tends to be very little support available to them to pursue such work.  If those individuals are only able to pursue their work in their spare time, they may not have the means of incorporating a company and gaining access to the incentives that are available to businesses.

One way the government could lend its support to such self-motivated innovators would be through tax incentives, for example allowing any investments they make related to their innovative activities to be tax-deductible against their primary income, if they do not happen to have their own profitable business to claim it against.  If the costs they incur, for example purchasing a tool or piece of equipment, buying parts to build a prototype or proof-of-concept, taking a relevant course or joining a “hackerspace”, could be used as a deduction against their primary income, this would serve as one practical incentive to encourage and aid them in the pursuit of their work, and would help promote the idea that individuals who take the initiative to engage in their own innovative work and hands-on skills development are actively supporting Canada’s innovative economy and should be encouraged to do so.  

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National Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 07/28/2016 1469705082
Tags: innovation  skills  youth 
Canada as a nation requires a workforce that is capable of generating innovative solutions to problems through collaboration, communication, critical .... Read more

Canada as a nation requires a workforce that is capable of generating innovative solutions to problems through collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. There has been over a decade of research, books, papers, and videos about how the education system does not prepare our youth for the future and there are suggestions for areas of focus, but what we need now is an action-oriented implementation program. The desire for change and the ability to implement a strategy exists.  The most efficient approach to achieve this goal is to tap into the human resources that exist and to use these resources to provide learning experiences that foster essential skills. 

The path to developing the “right skills” rests heavily in Science, Technology and Innovation education.  There is a comprehensive coast-to-coast network of informal learning in Canada through Science Centres and organizations such as Let’s Talk Science, ACTUA, and Youth Science Canada. Independently they do amazing work; collectively, with a strong support system, they could change the country! Currently, no national coordinating body exists for the extensive informal network; a network that is able to come from outside the provincial education systems and act as a vehicle for change inside the systems. Almost all the G7 countries have such a body.

To begin, we need to create a National Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation that supports in-school and out-of-school informal and innovative learning practices. The foundation can provide a coordinated effort through which a fundamental transformation of Education will occur. The proposed budget for the foundation could be based on the number of school aged children in our schools at a level of $2/child. The investment would be made available to all informal STEM education organizations that reach Canadian youth. Collaboration with each Province would ensure that the program addresses their priority areas. It will be important for the “national coordinating body” to develop clear objectives linked with the development of 21st century skills.

Equipping our youth with the right skills will require a concerted effort by all levels of government, organizations, schools, and individuals. Creating the National Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation would be a big step in achieving these objectives.

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Provide a mechanism to facilitate the transition of college graduates into the new innovation economy

Question:How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
on 08/15/2016 1471283788
Students often work on industry- and community-driven projects while balancing other academic demands. While students graduate with a strong appreciat .... Read more

Students often work on industry- and community-driven projects while balancing other academic demands. While students graduate with a strong appreciation of what is needed to solve problems effectively, their skills could benefit from fine-tuning and mentorship. At the same time, new graduates enter the work place where companies have embraced "lean" ideals and expect that these graduates will have an immediate impact with minimal or no training. In some cases, this results in a gap between employer expectations and employee abilities. The question then is how do we address this gap? 

Our solution is a “Springboard Mentorship.”

This idea is based on funding and a mechanism that allows recent graduates to be engaged in solving industry or community problems while still having the ability to learn from an experienced professor over a short period of time – say six months to a year.

Further, these graduates could mentor junior students who are working their way through their programs by providing insight and guidance. This idea harnesses the passion and enthusiasm of college graduates to propel innovation.

 Funding for such a partnership could stem from a joint effort between industry, government agencies (such as the tri-councils) and colleges. Enthusiastic graduates could put their skills into action right away, without having to worry about course work, thus generating an immediate influx of new ideas, new designs and new ventures into the marketplace.

These graduates would benefit from the expertise and guidance of college faculty mentors who could help polish their mentees’ applied research skills. In exchange, graduates could reduce faculty workload by assisting students involved in faculty-run projects or externally driven work. By acting as mentors to junior students, graduates develop leadership and communication skills – the much needed and so-called “soft skills” while improving their practical knowledge and abilities.

The benefits of a Springboard Mentorship are multi-layered. Graduates would be more employable and better equipped to take the next step in their career, easing the transition into the workforce. It would reduce the employers risk of hiring new graduates, as they would see a solid body of real-world work experience, rather than hoping that there's talent behind the credential. Picture the innovation payoff of thousands of experienced and engaged college graduates, and the domino effect of their new ideas, designs and approaches alongside their boiling-over desire to join the workforce. Now picture what is lost if that same number are unable to find employment and experience, instead succumbing to an inevitable erosion of skills. There is so much attention being placed on creating something new — new funding for research, new incubators and new initiatives — yet no attention is being paid to developing the skills of the next generation of innovators. We encourage the innovation strategy to consider this option.

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Create Core Educational Policies and Build Expert Teams to Create Evidence-Based Educational Technologies, Learning Environments, and The World’s Leading Mobile Education Platform to Assist Teachers and Students Nationally and Worldwide

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 08/31/2016 1472624552
The learning environments and educational approaches utilized in the majority of classrooms across our country (particularly publicly funded post-seco .... Read more

The learning environments and educational approaches utilized in the majority of classrooms across our country (particularly publicly funded post-secondary institutions) are based on educational practices developed hundreds of years ago before digital technology was available. This creates a situation where a minority of students get access to effective teachers, while the majority must suffer from poorly delivered education based on ineffective educational practices which often ignore basic pedagogy. This is a systemic issue of educational inequality (prevalent throughout our institutions), which I would argue is a fundamental root issue in Canadian society. Since many citizens are largely unaware that this is even an issue, the problem remains unaddressed as other progressive nations jump ahead in this area of innovation. High quality, evidence based education should be a right for all people, and we are not currently progressing towards that goal at the pace that is required within our current national and global situation.

The government has made post-secondary education more affordable and accessible, but there is still no standard of quality and very little application of evidence based educational technology and learning environments. There is plenty of research that has been conducted in key universities that proves the effectiveness of progressive educational approaches (although many universities do not yet have programs offered in the Learning Sciences).

To attract and keep the world’s best talent, Canada needs a clear goal: to become a world leader in digital education technology (particularly evidence based solutions that are scalable) that can assist individual learners as well as blended learning environments, both throughout our country and throughout the world. Canada should aim to create value for the entire world by creating cross-platform applications that will work well across mobile and desktop platforms (likely with the focus being on mobile to benefit the most people). Canada should see evidence based education as a right to all people, and should aim to provide it to all of its citizens as well as people in third world countries. There are many people (in Canada and throughout the world) who don’t have access effective schools or effective teachers, which leads to a lower quality of life.

The best way to support startups and growing companies is to focus on effective 21st century education for all Canadians. That means focusing on areas such as basic computational thinking, problem solving, programming, health education, project-based learning, basic learning sciences education, educational technology development, and harnessing creativity and collaboration by the practice of creating solutions that add measurable value to people’s lives and the environment. This is the basis for creating an entrepreneurial and creative society. If students undergo project-based learning using digital technologies, public-private industry partnerships will naturally emerge, and startups will begin to flourish.

Canada has a strength in ICT technologies, but very few attempts are currently made to retain the talent that we produce. The people who leave Canada to work at top technology companies are usually motivated learners who frequently engage in self-directed learning. If Canada can produce the best educational technologies, these technologies can scale up and target everyone all the way from our children to the top technologists to improve their learning efficiency as they learn new technologies. It is only natural that they will then be interested in being part of this educational movement and want to contribute tools and content to the new educational platforms that are created. Since this goal has the higher purpose of improving the lives of Canadians and people worldwide, people will likely want to participate if it also means becoming global leaders in this emerging market. As more devices and people are added to the internet, having the best mobile education platforms will ensure Canada’s economic viability moving forward in the 21st century.

Creating a demand for research in educational development will spur scientific growth and excellence within our higher educational institutions. There is already good research being done which can be leveraged, but implementing those findings and testing which approaches are the most effective will be a scientific exercise. This will involve taking all the leading innovations and creating a landscape of cooperative competition among educators and technologists as we learn which approaches are the most effective in which situations. If Canada conducts this research and publishes the findings, other countries will begin to look to Canada for the best insights into learning sciences and effective education.

We can also leverage these educational platforms to inform our citizens about the most pressing issues we face as a nation and a species. By teaching all people how to use technology effectively, companies will naturally start to grow. By teaching all people about clean growth and the environment, our startups can have a positive impact on the earth. By teaching all people about local and global issues and creating effective impact, our effort can be directed in the most beneficial way. This provides the perfect foundation for Canada to become a strong competitor in today’s digital world. Delivering distributed educational solutions that really work is the one of the best value propositions that Canada can offer to the rest of the world.

If Canada is successful in creating scalable educational technology that can be easily delivered to other countries, clusters and partnerships will naturally emerge throughout the world. Canada can utilize its progressive political situation to help lift the world out of educational poverty, which is in line with the goals of the UN. Most of the other large issues in the world are arguably symptomatic of the root problem: inaccessible or ineffective education. Mobile technologies can be flexible to work in situations where not many devices are available or there is low internet connectivity. For example, paper materials can be printed based on the curriculum content stored within the platform, which can also be stored locally on devices if there is no connection. Or, the application can enter a mode where only the teacher uses it to guide lessons and manage student learning and progress. This can help fix the teaching gap that exists in counties around the world as it would not require teachers to be fully qualified to deliver material that has been proven to be effective in such situations, such as flipped/mastery/personalized/adaptive learning technologies (and so on). I could dive into the details of effective educational approaches here, but it is hard to summarize years of research and innovation that has happened in the top private institutions around the world in several paragraphs. Of course, I would be happy to provide additional resources and research, as well as several reports I’ve written that contain my own ideas of how to implement such educational platforms and environments.

Creating educational policy that ensures the availability of evidence-based educational technology and learning environments to all people helps Canadians greatly in the short term, but even more so in the long term. If we combine the diversity of skills that Canadians already possess with the ability to create effective technologies, Canada will produce innovations across a large spectrum of sectors. This is likely the ultimate way to stimulate economic development, create jobs and improve the lives of as many people as possible.

It is only a matter of time before coding education becomes mandatory within Canadian schools, or at the very least widely adopted. By investing in innovative educational technologies, Canada will not only be avoiding the pitfalls of the current approaches to coding education, but will also prevent us from having to outsource the job to other countries to provide often untested coding educational tools to us. This will save us money and produce value in our economy since the relationship will work the other way around. Although it is a good idea to provide free education the people who need it most (such as people in low-income situations inside and outside Canada), we can also create economic growth by selling to other wealthy nations. This will be a natural result of ubiquitous evidence based education which empowers all Canadians with the digital and entrepreneurial skills needed in the 21st century.

If ineffective coding education is provided to new students, they may fail to properly learn these digital technologies and simply assume that they are incapable of understanding core concepts in this area. When this happens, we lose another potential innovator and the person’s ability to create change in the world is significantly diminished. What we need is effective coding education that has been developed using the insights already available in our research sector.

Instead of simply throwing money at this problem, we should aim to create highly effective teams of educators who have extensive expertise in the areas of pedagogy, progressive educational technology and learning environments. These teams should be paired with our best technologists to create powerful educational platforms that meet a list of criteria for providing the most effective education possible. The technology should be low-cost, and evidence based. It should be a general solution, which allows our leading educators to easily insert their educational content to create courses and modules that can then undergo iterative improvement as they are utilized and tested among the population. After educators insert their educational content onto the platform, this content can be delivered to students with applications that leverage provide techniques and learning models, such as flipped classrooms or mastery learning models. For example, software that allows students to input data while watching videos (such as questions, confusion points, and notes) can assist in Flipped Classroom approaches. Software that breaks up learning modules into smaller parts with generated quizzes can assist in implementing Mastery Learning environments, or Adaptive Learning technologies. After the data is stored in the system, it can be output to the user in different ways because of the flexibility of software, and new technologies can be leveraged as time goes on with pre-existing educational data, possibly scanned in from raw written course material. In fact, it is almost impossible to predict all of the innovations in this area that Canadians will produce once they are given the skills and direction which is desperately needed.

Although the creation of a general purpose platform (which facilitates easy educational content creation) will be the most effective solution for tackling this issue, desperate short term measures are required. In my view, the most important things to develop first are the following:

  1. A set of online materials and courses which will educate Canadian teachers on evidence based educational technologies and learning environments. A condensed course containing the key educational concepts is also needed, which works will on mobile as well as PC platforms. This will allow our teachers to understand the basics of high quality education, and dispel harmful misconceptions that many teachers currently have (for example, teachers fear that these technologies aim to replace them, when in reality they are meant to empower and assist them, make them more effective at their jobs, and improve their experience teaching students). Of course, these materials can and should be available to all Canadians, as it is their right to understand effective education and what we know about it.
  2. A set of online materials and courses which can be used to effectively teach people basic coding and computation thinking. Again, these courses should be condensed to the core concepts and skills, and should focus on getting the student immediately engaged with the practice of solving problems and coding. Measures should be taken to ensure that these educational experiences are engaging and effective, to ensure that the majority of people can successfully obtain and retain the material. Active learning is extremely important in this area, which leads directly to project based learning (this is one of most effective ways to teach this subject: by having students work on creative projects that involve to their existing areas of interest or expertise, using coding as a tool to accomplish other goals). The content delivered can also be scaled up and down to be useful for elementary schools, high schools, post-secondary, retraining our workforce, as well as any Canadian with access to a mobile device or PC. Just like normal written language, coding and technology literacy can be applied to almost any discipline and is at the heart of innovation, giving citizens the tools to empower themselves, Canada, and ultimately the rest of the world.
  3. There are several other core areas that also need covered such as 21st century skills (including the four Cs), as well as environmental, world issues and personal health education. Basic reading, writing, mathematics and science are also desperately needed in the global community, as well as in a subset of our own population.
  4. Progressive educational policy to spur the development of these educational technologies, as well as their implementation in learning environments. Schools and teachers do not necessarily need to be required to implement the solutions supported by these policies. Instead, educational materials and applications that will educate them of these issues and technologies should be developed, tested and distributed. Incentives might be provided to teachers to accelerate widespread adoption. We should aim to create awareness of these issues and ideas, so that solutions can be developed sooner and more effectively. This is probably a better approach than enforcing solutions onto teachers (even though many are already evidence based), which could cause a negative reaction. If students are informed on these issues as well (based on clear direction proposed by the Canadian government) they will naturally seek the highest quality education available to them. Currently, students are mostly uninformed on these issues, and are usually only seeking to be awarded the best resume qualifications for a high job status. Instead, they could be focusing on finding the right learning environments that will allow them to develop and cultivate useful skills that enable them to provide value for themselves and society. From that foundation, Canadians will be able to pursue their interests more often based on the abundance created by a more digitally progressive society.

 

 

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Start early, create engagement opportunities, inspire curiosity & create an innovation ecosystem in schools, communities and at home

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 09/19/2016 1474315644
Collaboration by all stakeholders is key to ensuring that youth are equipped with the right skills for the future economy. By today’s definition .... Read more

Collaboration by all stakeholders is key to ensuring that youth are equipped with the right skills for the future economy. By today’s definition, the skills we think are relevant and the way that we define education and curriculum will likely look quite different in 10 or 20 years if we are committed to developing these key skills for success. For example, education may include:

  • experiential learning opportunities (e.g. virtual reality simulations or simulated real-life workplace scenarios);
  • integration of digital skills learning opportunities across subject matters (versus a siloed approach with singular classes for specific digital topics like “coding” or “digital skills”);
  • interaction with companies that have expertise and business acumen to share with children and youth;

each of these, as well as other new opportunities, will be critical. Of equal importance, is offering engagement opportunities that pique the curiosity and ignite the inner-innovator in children as early as 4 and 5 years of age. Experiences in the UK, Sweden and other parts of the world have shown that this can be done through activities that develop computing logic skills and may require teams to solve tough challenges (e.g. http://www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk/), or may include programming or building something (e.g. the BBC microbit project: https://www.microbit.co.uk/). In all cases, the key is to offer options that are engaging, challenging and fun to help kids get started on a path that will help them succeed in the future. We need to ensure that in terms of education we are constantly evaluating the material being taught and the delivery model. Work needs to be done to ensure buy in from the parents, students, educators and government. An important piece is ensuring that Canadians understand the shifting landscape and why certain skills are more important today than ever before. By setting a clear framework with defined objectives this will help build awareness of the value of these skills and also provide a measuring stick to ensure progress.

 

Many of our member companies have also expressed that while young graduates are engaged in co-ops and internships, they still seem to lack the general business skills required to grow into leadership positions. Deeper collaboration and consultation on curriculum and programs between training organizations, including elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions may help to facilitate the reduction of this skills gap in new employees and better prepare students for the work force.

 

Certainly students in secondary school start considering what they want to do for work when they “grow up”, but these skills are not reserved solely for secondary school and can be introduced very early on in simple ways. One example of an organization championing this new approach is Alt School, a US based private school (https://www.altschool.com/). We encourage the government to consider how to support and inspire new learning opportunities for children, youth, and their families that are engaging, dynamic and equally supported by the provinces.

 

To start this process we would recommend the Government consider further collaboration with the provinces to establish a national skills strategy that incents and rewards provincial innovation in education.

Credit: The Entertainment Software Association of Canada

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Fostering Innovation from Non-Traditional Sources

Question:How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
on 10/27/2016 1477536302
In a true innovative culture, innovation can and does come from many different sources.  Some may be traditional established companies or university .... Read more

In a true innovative culture, innovation can and does come from many different sources.  Some may be traditional established companies or university researchers, but in the modern age where access to information and ease of networking, collaborating and sharing of ideas have never been greater and “crowdsourcing” is increasingly becoming common, significant innovation is also being driven outside of these traditional sources.  Small startups, individual entrepreneurs, researchers and hobbyists, private collectives of innovators such as “hacker spaces”, and student teams and organizations are all filled with highly talented people and highly original ideas.  Moreover, these small, non-traditional innovators are typically much more nimble and have far less overhead than their larger, more established counterparts and as such can do “more with less”. 

Moreover, their work serves not only as a potential source of commercially viable products, technologies and future companies, but also as a direct, hands-on means of fostering learning, skills development and creativity that is invaluable in helping those who engage in it to reach their full potential as innovators and contributors to the creative economy.

To truly foster a culture of innovation, the government and its agencies should actively strive to make Canada among the most favourable countries in the world for this rapidly growing group of innovators.  The government should make it policy to recognize the existence of these small, non-traditional innovative groups and individuals as potentially valuable sources of both innovation and hands-on skills development, and ensure that support is specifically available to them that recognizes and is responsive to their unique needs, capabilities and situation, rather than being solely available to or heavily biased towards larger established companies and universities only. Such support may take the form of grants or funding, but could also include tax incentives, access to government facilities and government experts.

Not all innovators are the same, and the needs and abilities of individual or small groups of innovators are inherently different from those of large organizations, established companies and universities.  By ensuring support is specifically available to individuals and small groups engaged in innovative work, this large and growing source of innovation can be encouraged.

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Build a learning framework for STEM education - Canada 2067

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 11/15/2016 1479225940
Seventy per cent of the top jobs in Canada today require some STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills – and this number i .... Read more

Seventy per cent of the top jobs in Canada today require some STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills – and this number is growing every year. That said, less than half of Canadian high school students graduate with senior level science and math courses and only one in five graduate with the prerequisites to pursue engineering.

At Let’s Talk Science, we are committed to helping youth build the competencies they need to become innovators, critical thinkers and problem solvers ready to meet the challenges of an increasingly demanding economy through education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

STEM learning builds competencies and characteristics that are needed for all jobs – things like critical thinking, problem solving, information management, positive risk taking, resiliency, effective communication and more. As the world rapidly changes, work and citizenship demands will require greater capacity in STEM.

Canada 2067 is our bold new nation-building initiative that will bring Canadians together to develop a STEM learning framework.

With Canada 2067, we are calling on Canadians to join the conversation on STEM education by visiting http://canada2067.ca and filling out our online learning framework questionnaire.

The contributions of Canadians through this initiative will contribute to a STEM learning framework for the next 50 years – and will help us to evolve and strengthen Canada’s education model for the 21st century by enhancing student exposure and access to the STEM disciplines across all levels and areas of learning.

Together, we’ll make sure Canadian youth have the skills they need to face the future with confidence.

 

About Let’s Talk Science: Let's Talk Science is an award-winning national, charitable organization. Over the past twenty years, we have worked with educators to support learning and skill development. We’ve developed hands-on programs for Kindergarten to Grade 12 youth to get them interested in STEM at an early age and keep them engaged as they move through high school. Our goal is to motivate and empower youth to fulfill their potential and prepare for their future careers and roles as citizens.

Credit: Let's Talk Science, Canada 2067

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Support entrepreneurs who develop entrepreneurs

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 12/02/2016 1480715966
INTRODUCTION Mining requires a complex network of skills in engineering, business, and trades.  These skills are developed by a strong educational s .... Read more

INTRODUCTION

Mining requires a complex network of skills in engineering, business, and trades.  These skills are developed by a strong educational system that teaches science, technology, engineering, financial literacy, business, math, social science and the arts.  However, young people must also learn how to embrace change, take smart risks and be resourceful. In the workforce, a great way for young people to build technical competence while practicing these soft skills is through the long-term application under the advisement of a competent entrepreneur or business leader.

The Ultra-Deep Mining Network (UDMN) is a Business-Led Network Centre of Excellence comprised of mining industry leaders, academia, mining supply and service companies.  UDMN believes in equipping entrepreneurs  and young thought leaders with the right skills and experience for the future economy through active roles in UDMN supported projects. The concept of a business-led network provides a challenging environment that attracts the most skilled and creative thinkers, thus providing connectivity and global visibility to accelerate their careers.

CHALLENGES

For entrepreneurs, the task of training the next generation of entrepreneurs can be extremely valuable, but risky.  When a promising young employee begins work, they often lack the experience and skills to perform at the same level as a tenured employee.  Sometimes when an entrepreneur invests upfront in young employees (through training, education and mentoring), they decide to take their new skills and leave the company for a competitor or become an entrepreneur themselves (and perhaps a competitor).  

SOLUTIONS

It is important to train mining industry entrepreneurs the skills necessary to mentor young professionals, while also ensuring they have the right growth mindset necessary to value mentorship. This could mean direct, sector specific training and support for hiring, leadership, and implementing tactics for developing talent, along with courses on leadership for enabling business growth.  By expanding Canadian entrepreneurs’ management capabilities, we secure the best trainers for the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs.   

*Note:  For information about the Ultra-Deep Mining Network, please visit: https://www.miningdeep.ca/

Credit: Ultra-Deep Mining Network

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