Webinar: The Polytechnic Role in Pandemic Recovery

Established in May 2020, the Industry Strategy Council undertook an extensive consultation to consider sectoral pressures resulting from the pandemic, releasing its initial report at the end of the year.  At this session, we engaged three Council members to discuss their recommendations and next steps.

Key Takeaways:

Recommendations were organized around themes “restart,” “recover” and “reimagine.”  They include:

  1. Continue employment and income assistance
  2. Stabilize hard-hit sectors
  3. Reinforce the innovation ecosystem to attract and retain talent, accelerate digitization and de-risk projects
  4. Develop a made-in-Canada industrial strategy
  5. Foster public-private partnerships

Discussion focused on:

  • The important role and contribution of polytechnics to pandemic recovery, particularly with regard to reconnecting displaced Canadians to work
  • The need for a coordinated approach to upskilling and reskilling in an evolving labour market, including the ability to assess/validate an individual’s current experience and identify/fill skills gaps
  • A vision for improved navigation and support for both employers and individuals seeking relevant training options
  • Better funding for innovation intermediaries like polytechnics that can guide, support and partner with businesses seeking to reimagine their products, processes and markets in the aftermath of the pandemic
Monique Leroux
Chair of the Industry Strategy Council and Vice-Chairman at Fiera Holdings


In May 2020, Ms. Leroux was appointed Chair of the Industry Strategy Council by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry of Canada. She is Vice-Chair of Fiera Holdings Inc. and serves as an independent board member of global companies such as Michelin Group (ML-France), Bell/BCE, and S&P Global Inc. (SPGI). She brings to these boards her diverse experience, among others as Partner at Ernst and Young (EY) and Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Desjardins Group from 2008 to 2016. Her role at Desjardins saw Ms. Leroux the first woman elected Chair or the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group and the first woman to lead a Top 10 financial institution in Canada. Under her leadership, Desjardins Group achieved significant business growth and received a great deal of recognition.

Ms. Leroux is a Member of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the Ordre National du Québec, a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur (France) and a recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Award (United States). She has been awarded Fellowship by the Ordre des Comptables Professionnels Agréés du Québec and the Institute of Corporate Directors and holds honorary doctorates from eight Canadian universities in recognition of her contribution to the business sector and to the community.


John Baker
President and CEO
D2L Corporation


Mr. Baker founded D2L in 1999, at the age of twenty-two, after identifying his own unfulfilled need for learning online while studying systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo. A strong believer in community involvement, Mr. Baker devotes both his personal and business efforts to supporting young entrepreneurs who are developing and applying technology to improve society worldwide.

He was appointed to the Governing Council of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Member (Entrepreneurs’ Circle) of the Business Council of Canada, Business Higher Education Roundtable, and is a past Chair of the Board of Communitech. Mr. Baker has been awarded the Meritorious Service Cross, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year (Ontario for Software and Technology), Young Alumni Achievement Medal from University of Waterloo, and Intrepid Entrepreneur of the Year in Waterloo Region Hall of Fame.


Rhonda Barnet
President and COO
AVIT Manufacturing


Ms. Barnet co-founded AVIT Manufacturing in 2004, and currently serves as its President and Chief Executive Officer, managing finance, operations, and business development portfolios. She bring to the role 30 years of experience working in finance and engineering; 7 years managing small business finance portfolios; and 7 years working in the nuclear industry as a mathematical analyst assessing reactor operating conditions and errors in measurement devices. Her specialties include finance, federal policy advocacy, national and international business development, advisory board development and strategic planning.

Ms. Barnet served as Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Board Chair between 2016 and 2018, becoming the first female in history to hold this position. She is currently the Chair of the CME Workforce of the Future Council, and as an international thought leader on manufacturing skills and diversity, works to foster women and underrepresented groups to take up careers in manufacturing. Ms. Barnett also serves as a Director for the Government of Canada’s Economic Strategy Council representing the manufacturing sector, Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Economic Strategy Table, and Director for Next Generation Manufacturing Canada.


Dr. Larry Rosia
President and CEO
Saskatchewan Polytechnic


As President and CEO of Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Dr. Larry Rosia leads the province’s primary provider of technical education and skills training. Dr. Rosia’s career in education spans more than 35 years, as an Instructor, Program Chair, Revenue Generating Coordinator, Marketing Manager and Dean. He has more than 20 years of leadership experience and has served in advisory roles to community, provincial and municipal committees. In 2006, he completed his PhD in academic leadership at the University of Calgary. He completed the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard University and earned Institute of Corporate Directors Designation.

Dr. Rosia is the President of Post-Secondary International Network, Chair of Polytechnics Canada Board of Directors and serves on Boards including the CANARIE, Community Colleges for International Development, Polytechnics Canada, the International Mineral Innovation Institute, Skills Canada (Saskatchewan), the Chair Academy International Leadership Board, the Saskatchewan Post-Secondary International Education Council, the Saskatchewan Labour Market Task Force, World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics and the University of Regina Senate.

Dr. Rosia’s notable recognition includes the SAIT Board of Governors Award for Business and Industry Partnerships, the Conference Board of Canada Award for Business and Industry Partnerships, the Chair Academy International Exemplary Leadership Award, the Saskatchewan Men of Influence Award and the Paul A. Elsner Excellence in Leadership Award.

Dr. Rosia served as our moderator for this event.


Sarah Watts-Rynard
Polytechnics Canada


Sarah Watts-Rynard assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer at Polytechnics Canada in July 2018.  Prior to this role, she served as Executive Director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, supporting Canada’s apprenticeship community with research, promotion and by connecting stakeholders across trades, across sectors and across Canada. 

Sarah has a degree in Journalism and English from Carleton University.  Since graduating, she has built a career that includes time in government, the private sector and at skills-focused non-profit organizations.  She has experience related to non-profit governance, fundraising, advocacy and marketing.  She leads a team of passionate and dedicated employees committed to high-quality skills and innovation policy, reflecting the strengths of polytechnic education in Canada.  In 2018, Sarah was awarded an honorary diploma in the Skilled Trades by Niagara College. 

Sarah is Vice-Chair of the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology (WinSETT Centre) and serves as a Director on the Boards of the Canadian Club of Ottawa and the CWB Welding Foundation. 


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The Industry Strategy Council’s full report outlining their five recommendations for recovery.

If you don’t have time to read through the ISC’s full report, we’ve put together a short summary that includes the Council’s five recommendations organized around the phases: restart, recover, and reimagine.

While watching the webinar, take a look at the slide deck used by ISC Chair Monique Leroux during her introductory remarks. The deck makes a great resource to refer back to once you’ve completed the webinar as well.