Red River College Polytechnic embraces innovation to transform disruption into opportunity

When Red River College changed its name to Red River College Polytechnic this past October, we made a resounding commitment to an education model that acts as a direct link between labour market needs, student talent, and applied research partnerships. 

In some ways, the name change was a mere formality. RRC has been a polytechnic for years. However, in another, more critical way, officially calling ourselves a polytechnic signaled a bold step forward – and that’s in our commitment to innovate.  

The COVID-19 pandemic forced our institution to reckon with disruption in the here-and-now as global events accelerated the onset of new technologies, processes, and economic realities. By embracing innovation, RRC Polytech aims to transform disruption into opportunity. Following extensive consultation with our industry partners and other key stakeholders, we recently launched a new five-year strategic plan that charts a bold transformation in everything we do. We call our plan In Front of What’s Ahead, and it commits us to providing what students and industry need – before the need arises.

The first commitment of this new plan guides us to seek out innovative, accessible, flexible ways to deliver programs to students at every stage of learning and working. We know our current learning model doesn’t work for many learners and employers. Embracing our identity as a polytechnic means addressing this head-on to create the flexibility needed to meet them where they’re at, and that transformation is happening now. On top of our professional certifications, diplomas, and degrees, we now offer micro-credential courses that help employees up-skill or reskill to meet urgent employer or market needs and advanced diplomas and degrees that prepare students for leadership roles in emerging sectors.

We are known for immersing our students in applied, hands-on experience, taught by industry leaders using the latest tools and technology. Even before they graduate, they gain invaluable work experience through co-operative education, internships, clinical training, applied research and more. Now, along the way, they will master the personal and digital skills needed to succeed in tomorrow’s workplace.

Innovation isn’t limited to technology. In our social innovation programs, students explore new approaches to decision making and ways to initiate change in communities. We understand that true innovation is only possible when everyone has opportunities to make a difference. In the second pillar of our strategic plan, we renew our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action within our operations and in our work to advance Indigenous education.

This commitment reflects on the harms of the past and supports the key role Indigenous peoples must play for our province, and our country to realize its fullest potential – an economic reconciliation as well as a moral one. We are integrating Indigenous knowledge, history and culture into our programs and student supports and addressing barriers to create important pathways to support Indigenous learners in their careers and in their communities.

We believe this inclusive, flexible, and immersive approach is the future of education. But we can’t succeed on our own. RRC Polytech has always partnered with industry to offer the best learning experiences for our students. This relationship is a two-way street, which is why our new strategic plan calls on us to expand our capacity to help industry innovate and prosper.

As an example, our newest building, Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, which translated from Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) means “Where Creator sits/Brings light”, opened its doors this past November. This name honours the heritage of where we live, represents the work and learning that will occur inside this new building, and serves as a powerful inspiration to continue our commitment to embedding Truth and Reconciliation in everything we do.

This new collaborative space stands at the heart of downtown Winnipeg’s entrepreneurship and tech community and will house some of our most cutting-edge programs. Here, students will work with local enterprises to develop new products and solve problems. They will learn innovation by innovating – with real-world impact for the clients they serve.

RRC Polytech has a long history of mobilizing state-of-the-art facilities, equipment, expertise, and student ingenuity to deliver solutions that help businesses stay ahead of coming changes. Our partners come to us to explore the future of advanced manufacturing, robotics, electric vehicles, aerospace, culinary research, business and more. Over the next five years, we will weave applied research partnerships and opportunities into our programs wherever possible. These partnerships expose our faculty and students to today’s most complex business needs. When we succeed, the benefits compound. Our students gain opportunities to apply new skills to practical challenges, build their professional network, and get hired, helping Canada’s small- and mid-sized employers grow.

Innovation is a value, a mindset, and a practice. By strategically elevating innovation in every aspect of our learning model, RRC Polytech is shaping the professionals, problem-solvers and leaders who will guide us through the challenging years ahead, and ensure we thrive.

About the Author

Fred Meier, President and CEO, Red River College Polytechnic

Fred Meier is President and CEO of Red River College Polytechnic in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Throughout his career, he has focused on building a positive and inclusive culture, with a focus on innovation and collaboration.