Leveraging polytechnics to support Canada’s post-pandemic recovery

Recovery is on Canada’s horizon.  Despite an initially slow rollout, Canada is now leading the vaccination race, which means now is the time for governments to put post-pandemic plans into action.  Canada’s recovery catalysts need to be out in full force, supporting equitable, green recovery among those most at risk of being left behind. 

It is clear to me that Canada’s polytechnics are among those catalysts.  Over the last six months, Polytechnics Canada has held a series of virtual events centred around the role of polytechnics in post-pandemic recovery.  One message was repeated time and time again – as Canada strives to build a future that is economically prosperous, inclusive and sustainable, leveraging the expertise and resources of these institutions will be imperative.  

Here are some key takeaways: 

Facilitating an Economic Recovery 

Recovering lost jobs and helping businesses rebound will be critical for economic growth.  Polytechnics are well-positioned to support on both fronts.  Our members are leaders when it comes to retraining those who have been displaced, boosting skills that reflect current industry needs and standards while building resilience to future labour market disruptions. 

For example:  

  • Fanshawe College is offering a free skills development program, Skills2Build, that will generate employment opportunities with local employers and fill gaps in the construction industry 
  • Humber College, in partnership with Siemens Canada, is providing training to accelerate technology adoption to help prepare students for an increasingly digital workforce  

But, polytechnic support for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) extends beyond producing a work-ready talent pipeline.  Applied research capacity ensures institutions can offer businesses opportunities to develop novel solutions to their challenges, allowing them to penetrate Canada’s innovation ecosystem.  Because intellectual property is generally retained by the business partner, applied research can pave the way to growth and ensure SMEs have the ingredients to be competitive in the post-pandemic economy. 

Last year, our members served 2,375 partners on more than 3,350 applied research projects, a large majority of them small businesses.  Partnerships included: 

Enabling an Inclusive Recovery 

While SMEs are important employers and contributors to the Canadian economy, the pandemic has also exacerbated social inequalities that must be addressed.  Canada’s polytechnics are committed to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion – looking to eliminate barriers to educational success and labour market entry for marginalized communities.  For example:  

  • The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) recently released its first EDI strategy, which supports their Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre’s strategy, Connecting the Four Directions, created to help bring Aboriginal ways of knowing to the institution  
  • Seneca College established a $12 million endowment to support student-focused EDI initiatives that will assist equity-seeking groups throughout their educational journey  

Supporting a Sustainable Recovery 

We also know that “building back better” requires an emphasis on addressing climate change.  An important component of this work will be to develop a workforce with green skills, something about which Canada’s youth are also passionate.  Some excellent examples of work being undertaken on campus include:  

  • The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology is changing the way Canadians build homes. Their Green Building Technologies team recently built one of the greenest homes in the world, one that generates more reusable energy than it uses 
  • Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Tsawwassen First Nation Farm emphasizes both environmental and cultural sustainability by teaching students sustainable agricultural practices alongside Indigenous food knowledge to feed a growing population while restoring the land 

As Canadians navigate post-pandemic recovery, we will need to activate every advantage to achieve the government’s ambitious vision for economic growth, green transformation and the provision of opportunities for all.  Based on what I’ve learned over the past six months sitting in on virtual sessions addressing these topics and others, polytechnic institutions will be valuable facilitators. By leveraging their expertise and resources, Canada will be better able to build a country that is more resilient, inclusive and sustainable than the one we had entering the pandemic. 

Check out our Past Events page to see if you agree. 

About the Author

Alexandra Hornby, Communications Officer

Alexandra Hornby is a Communications Officer at Polytechnics Canada. She holds a Master of Arts in Brand Management from Coventry University and a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies from Carleton University.