While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought much uncertainty into our lives, the sudden shift to working and learning online has made one thing clear: Canadians must get comfortable with rapidly advancing digital technologies — or risk being left behind.
This week brought a buzz to Ottawa that was absent for most of the summer. On Wednesday afternoon, the Governor General delivered the Speech from the Throne, outlining the government’s agenda for the foreseeable future and formally opening the second session of the 43rd Parliament. A few hours later, the Prime Minister delivered a prime-time address to reiterate this plan and speak to the collective public health efforts required in the weeks and months to come. In the best of times, this would be a moment of excitement and new beginnings. But, of course, these are not those times.
The rebuilding of the Canadian economy in the wake of the pandemic is an opportunity – even an obligation – to finally get short-term skills training right. And on a massive scale.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created complex challenges across nearly every facet of society, students included. As the pandemic emerged through the spring and kept its grip into the summer, there has been no shortage of emotional and financial turbulence. In March, post-secondary students experienced the panic of packing up and storing their possessions at a moment’s notice when residences and campuses shut down. The summer has proven difficult for many financially; students who thought they had summer jobs had placements postponed or eliminated. As we look toward fall, the turbulence has yet to abate.
When it comes to tragedy, the human instinct is to assign blame. In the case of pandemic-induced deaths in Canada’s long-term care facilities, there are no end of culprits: governments for regulatory and oversight failures, owners and managers for poor employment practices, workers for abandoning their posts. Regardless of the direction the finger is pointing, the reality is that the senior population is growing, the cost of high-quality elder care is sky-rocketing and demographics dictate that the need for long-term care is here to stay.
Currently all upcoming events are postponed until further notice.
I have always understood the importance of hands-on learning. Growing up in southwestern Ontario’s Perth County – home to farmers, millwrights, nurses, plumbers and mechanics – my hockey team was organized by an electrician, an operating room nurse and a nursing home dietary manager. My parents were both healthcare professionals. What the people who worked in my neighbourhood had in common was an applied, hands-on education. A polytechnic education.
Across sectors and across Canada, workplaces are undergoing transformative change. The competitive environment requires employers to innovate continuously, embracing new technology and processes, while hiring and developing the right people to grow alongside the business. Polytechnic institutions are ideal partners for this transformation. They offer industry-relevant programs, equipment and facilities that ready learners for the workplace, support mid-career workers updating their skills and help solve real-world innovation and productivity challenges.
The important role of front-line workers has never been more apparent than over the last several weeks.
They include nurses and personal support workers, paramedics and other first responders, technology professionals and skilled tradespeople, and those working in advanced manufacturing or supplying us with food.