Adopting clean technology is a skills issue

The urgency of climate change action is no longer theoretical. Worldwide, fires, floods and extreme heat have made it clear that we have a major global challenge on our hands.

Among the solutions, Canada should be all-in on clean technology adoption. While renewables are increasingly viable and tax levers have proven to influence company and consumer behaviour, clean tech offers immediate-term benefits that are critical to achieving climate wins.

This is where educational institutions offer an important bridge.

As part of its net-zero ambitions, the Canadian government has committed to reducing emissions to 40 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030. A key element was the introduction of an $8 billion Net-Zero Accelerator Fund, which requires companies to take the lead.

That can be a lot to ask, particularly when the vast majority of Canadian businesses are small. Without the internal resources to test new equipment, build a skilled workforce and integrate new technologies into their operations, investing in new technology can seem an unsurmountable challenge.

Distinguished by their emphasis on industry collaboration, practical skills development and responsiveness to real-world needs, polytechnic institutions have an important part of play in Canada’s sustainable future.

With state-of-the-art facilities and the expertise to help companies navigate cutting-edge technology adoption, polytechnic applied research helps companies explore the solutions to reduce their environmental footprint.

For instance, Ethey Foods partnered with Fanshawe with the goal of finding a way to make the company’s meal containers more eco-friendly. Their applied research partnership has pioneered a new plastic recycling technology that reduces used plastic into either a liquid or powder form which is, in turn, used to create new plastic packaging.

At another polytechnic – the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology – their Green Building Technologies Tech-Access Centre partnered with the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association on a multi-year retrofitting project designed to enhance energy efficiency at friendship centres across the province.

But helping businesses adopt green technologies and reduce emissions is only half the battle. As sustainability becomes a nationwide objective over the next decade, experts expect 3.1 million Canadian jobs will be impacted.

In addition to training new workforce entrants, polytechnic institutions are playing a crucial role in preparing mid-career professionals for the green economy shift.

Humber College’s tailored micro-credential programs provide specialized courses to upskill mid-career workers in green and digital technologies, enabling people to stay relevant and effective in their fields.

NAIT has also launched a national clean fuels online program. The program consists of self-paced training modules and webinars to increase awareness of clean fuels and technologies for academic, industry and government stakeholders, with accessible tools available to the public.

Simply put, having people ready to lead the implementation of clean technology solutions is as important as the technology itself. As governments around the world grapple with the competing realities of today’s urgencies – food security, housing shortages, war and inflation – along with the long-term best interests of the planet, partners who can help carry the load are critical. Canada’s polytechnics are ready for the challenge, introducing clean technology to their business partners and ensuring the workforce is ready to maximize their impact.

About the Author

Alyssa Buttineau, Policy Analyst, Polytechnics Canada

Alyssa’s work focuses on policy research, writing and advocacy related to diversity and inclusion, supporting lifelong learners, and innovation capacity through applied research. She holds a Juris Doctor degree specialized in Aboriginal and Indigenous law, Honours Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree in Criminology, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, all from Lakehead University.