George Brown College ready to deliver on federal budget initiatives aimed at bridging skills mismatch

TORONTO, March 21, 2013 /CNW/ - Today's federal budget gives a clear mandate to colleges as the bridging agents for Canada's skills mismatch, and George Brown College is ready to play a major role.

Acknowledging the country's shortage of skilled labour exists principally in the fields colleges are preparing students to enter, the government made significant commitments today that bolster the kind of learning and industry partnership that are the hallmarks of George Brown's academic strategy. Extension of existing programs encouraging applied research and internships, as well as new focus on retraining and apprenticeships and a $20 million commercialization voucher for industry were among the key incentives identified in the budget.

Not only is George Brown among the largest Canadian colleges providing career-based education in high-demand sectors, it has become a leader in partnering with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to innovate and successfully commercialize business opportunities.

"This budget sends the clearest message yet that colleges are the best catalyst for job opportunity in this country," said Anne Sado, President of George Brown College and Chair of Polytechnics Canada. "We applaud the federal government for making these commitments at a time of fiscal restraint, because it acknowledges that investment in college-based learning brings a clear and rapid return that will help us out of our current economic malaise."

Creation of the Canada Job Grant aims to transform the way Canadians receive training by potentially providing $15,000 or more per person, including a maximum federal contribution of $5,000 and matching by provinces/territories and employers, to help Canadians access training in high-demand fields. Harmonization of apprenticeships across jurisdictions will help the college ensure its students complete their training and have increased opportunity for employment. Additional funding for education, including the skilled trades, was also a strong message to students looking to make career choices.

The budget extends support for programs that foster business innovation.  The College Community Innovation Program (CCIP), led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), addresses the research and training needs of industry by providing SMEs with needed funds to access skills, state-of-the-art facilities and industry networks at colleges. The budget also extended research internships to college undergraduate students through NSERC's Industrial Undergraduate Student Research Awards program, which had previously been reserved for university students only. Programs such as these help industry innovate while training the talent for the innovation economy.

Sado says these programs have a multiplier effect: "This support not only encourages students to pursue lucrative, in-demand careers in what have been undervalued fields, it extends the skillset of those students taking our programs beyond the basic career requirements and supplies employers with greater access to a larger, more capable labour pool."

George Brown is especially pleased to see increased support for the role of colleges in supporting industry-based innovation. It has been a vocal advocate for colleges to be given a greater role applying innovative opportunities to advance Canada's low productivity. In October 2012, George Brown released a wide-ranging study of business attitudes on the subject called Toronto Next: Return On Innovation. Its findings showed that business, and SMBs in particular did not see a clear correlation between the skills needed to foster innovation and productivity, nor were they willing to make a long-term investment in innovation due to short-term business pressures. The opportunity to partner with a college as a way to innovate with less risk and resource strain was not well known.

Federal funding through CCIP has enabled George Brown to link industry-focused applied research and problem solving with student learning in areas such as green building, health technology and food industry development. The college helps industry innovate while ensuring the economy has a skilled workforce with innovation and entrepreneurial skills.

"This year's budget recognizes the strong link between the innovation needs of firms such as mine and the skills and talent of college and polytechnic students across the country," said Carlos Paz-Soldan, president of Tenet Group, a Toronto-based value-added reseller and solution provider specializing in the design, development, implementation, and support of Information Technology solutions. "My firm is a strong supporter of George Brown and endorses improving access to R&D and talent for industry in Canada."

About George Brown College Toronto's George Brown College has established a reputation for equipping students with the skills, industry experience and credentials to pursue the careers of their choice. From its three main campuses located across the downtown core, George Brown offers nearly 160 programs across a wide variety of professions to a student body of 60,000 (including those enrolled in full-time, part-time and continuing education programs). Students can earn diplomas, post-graduate certificates, industry accreditations, apprenticeships and four-year bachelor degrees. George Brown College is a member of Colleges Ontario, the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and Polytechnics Canada.

SOURCE: George Brown College

For further information:

Jodi Salem
Corporate Communications Manager
George Brown College
416-415-5000 x3767
or
647-289-3784
jsalem@georgebrown.ca


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