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Innovation through Co-operative Education

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 10/12/2016 1476309077
Introduction CAFCE (Canadian Association for Co-operative Education) is the voice for post-secondary co-operative education in Canada. Co-operative e .... Read more

Introduction

CAFCE (Canadian Association for Co-operative Education) is the voice for post-secondary co-operative education in Canada. Co-operative education (co-op) programs alternate periods of academic study and work experience in fields that are relevant to students’ programs of study. Students are given opportunities to test their theoretical knowledge in real-world contexts, explore a variety of careers before fully entering the workforce, and earn both valuable experience and compensation.

Co-operative education is a foundational part of Canada’s reputation as a nation full of innovative, skilled entrepreneurs. When students participate in co-op programs, they develop the professional skills — communication, teamwork, problem solving — that employees and creators need to thrive in the future economy. They’re also given the chance to watch and learn from existing innovators in their communities.

CAFCE recommends Industry Canada consider the following options as a means of furthering its Innovation Agenda:

Canada Innovation Co-op Grants

Startups and innovation businesses should be encouraged to hire Canadian co-op students through the establishment of a grant program.

How would this work?

The grant program would involve the development of partnerships between post-secondary institutions and businesses meeting a set of eligibility requirements. A portion of the grant funds would be put towards a percentage of students’ salaries, making it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to pursue innovation and plan for additional hiring.

The grants would be distributed across Canada’s provinces and territories based on a prorated distribution, i.e. more grants for provinces with a greater number of enrolled co-op students. The grants would also be spread equitably across the country’s various innovation sectors. A cap on eligible business size would be implemented to ensure the grants benefit startups and small businesses. The number of grant-eligible hires per fiscal year would also be restricted to ensure the grants’ reach across as many businesses as possible. Finally, an additional incentive could be implemented to encourage innovative businesses to hire students looking for their first co-op position.

What are the potential outcomes?

  • The creation of ground-level partnerships between startups and small businesses and post-secondary institutions (e.g. RIM’s relationship with the University of Waterloo)
  • Immediate incentives for innovation companies and startups who can support the hiring of co-op students.
  • Increased opportunity for students interested in pursuing careers in Canada’s various innovation sectors.

Co-op Entrepreneurship Program

A scholarship for co-op student innovators should be established, encouraging students to spend a term developing their own ideas and/or companies with fewer financial restrictions.

How would this work?

Scholarships valued at $10,000 per work term (four months) would be offered to student innovators intent on spending their terms developing their own ideas or enterprises. The scholarships would be distributed across Canada’s provinces and territories based on a prorated distribution and would be awarded based on applications. The collection of applications and delivery of funds would be coordinated with students’ post-secondary institutions and advertised on campuses and through institutions’ co-op programs.

What are the potential outcomes?

  • Canada’s innovative capacity would increase through the support and development of aspiring entrepreneurs in a co-op context.
  • The program would encourage the development of students’ entrepreneurial mindsets and innovation skills while still allowing them to experience formalized co-op programs. Students who haven’t actively considered entrepreneurship could be encouraged to give it a try by the provision of a considerable scholarship.

Mitacs Undergraduate & Graduate Co-op Program

Mitacs should expand its operations by introducing a series of co-op-specific awards at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Co-op student recipients would spend a work term in a Mitacs-endorsed research environment, developing their skills and contributing to their employers’ innovative efforts. These awards would augment Mitacs’ existing efforts to expand and support research-based innovation in Canada.

How would this work?

Many post-secondary institutions already have a relationship with Mitacs because of its research funding, training, and support for international research collaborations. The new program would build on these pre-existing relationships and the associated infrastructure. The resulting co-op opportunities with researchers across the country would yield benefits for post-secondary institution, Mitacs, and its partners.

What are the potential outcomes?

  • Co-op students interested in research and innovation would have a new way to pursue appropriate employment within their chosen field.
  • Increased partnership between Mitacs and post-secondary institutions will reduce competition for talented students, and it can create opportunities for the sharing of knowledge and resources.
Credit: Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE)

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Opening public service employment

Question:How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
on 07/12/2016 1468334981
As a public servant for the past 25+ years, I have witnessed or participated in running several competitions to hire new staff. My observations in the .... Read more

As a public servant for the past 25+ years, I have witnessed or participated in running several competitions to hire new staff. My observations in the context of attracting and developing talent are as follows:

  • it has become the habit of most managers and HR departments I've seen, when faced with hiring staff, to restrict hiring to the simplest and least time-consuming route possible, given the complexities and lost time associated with this convoluted and lengthy process. What this usually means is that the PS almost never gains new talent. We just shuffle it around from job to job, because the internal processes of deployments and assignments, etc., is so much easier than a country-wide advertised open process that might attract thousands of applicants to sort through... This is a disservice to the countless extremely bright and motivated young people who could add so much in terms of innovation and fresh ideas to our public service. So I would recommend an overhaul of the hiring system to facilitate bringing outside people in for the normal run-of-the-mill competitions so we are not stagnating.
  • Secondly, I have seen that the strictly structured method of interviewing with defined sets of standardized questions, while intended to reduce subjectivity, does not permit the flexibility needed for managers to hire good people, quickly. It is not uncommon for a competitive process to take 7-10 months to complete. And if you find anyone good, they are gone by the time an offer is made because that step alone requires a month or two because of all the rules. I would recommend a system in which broad overarching principles are set out, and within that big "circle", managers have lots of flexibility and discretion to hire good people, knowing they must be able to justify it. Too-tight rules makes for a cumbersome, inefficient, unattractive process that accomplishes little. People need to be given the respect and trust that they can do a good job hiring good people. I have an example from our office where a casual employee who performed a job superbly for 15 years intermittently has never been able to be hired - even though we wanted her and she wanted us. That is good talent wasted. Youth need an open public service where they can compete easily for jobs so the PS has a dynamic work force - and managers need to be able to hire the best candidate, not the easiest one to move into a position, with flexibility and speed.

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National youth STEM, innovation, and entrepreneurship celebration event

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 06/30/2016 1467314950
Canadian high school students regularly achieve world-class results in international STEM competitions. In 2015 – and again in 2016 – youn .... Read more

Canadian high school students regularly achieve world-class results in international STEM competitions. In 2015 – and again in 2016 – young Canadians won the top award (and the US$75,000 cash prize) at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), topping 1,700 students from 75 countries. Canadians have won the Sanofi International Biogenius Challenge, FIRST Robotics Competition World Championships, and numerous STEM Olympiad competitions from astronomy to mathematics. Canadians have been top 15 finalists (from over 10,000 global entries) in the Google Science Fair almost every year since it began in 2011 – and won top awards in 2013 and 2014.

Most Canadians – and particularly our youth – are completely unaware. It’s as if our world junior hockey team won and no-one noticed. That doesn’t happen because Canada has a vibrant hockey culture. Thanks to Vancouver 2010 and Own the Podium, we’re developing an Olympic culture. But we need a STEM, innovation, and entrepreneurship culture.

As in sports, a STEM culture needs heroes – rising stars that young Canadians recognize and emulate. When 16-year-old Victoria BC inventor Ann Makosinski appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show with her hand-heat-powered flashlight – and again a year later with a cell phone charging travel mug – kids noticed. Peltier tile-powered devices – many built by girls – appeared at science fairs across Canada. Building a science and innovation culture is no different to building a hockey or Olympic culture; celebrating excellence and achievement on the national stage and in the media is an essential component.

In 2010, U.S. President Obama initiated what became an annual tradition – the White House Science Fair. Over the past six years, this event has celebrated the winners of a broad range of youth STEM and entrepreneurship competitions at what the President has called, “the most fun day of the year.”

I propose creating an annual event, hosted on Parliament Hill, to recognize Canadian winners of national and international youth STEM, innovation, and entrepreneurship competitions and other young Canadian achievers. They would be invited to share their work with the Prime Minister / Minister of Youth, Minister of Science, Key Opinion Leaders, STEM-related government officials, and most importantly, the media.

Most kids aren’t going to become professional or Olympic athletes, but wanting to inspires and motivates. Let’s celebrate Canada’s youth STEM, innovation, and entrepreneurship heroes and role models.

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