Budget 2013 should target innovation and skills mismatch, says Polytechnics Canada

OTTAWA, Feb. 13, 2013 /CNW/ - Polytechnics Canada calls on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to consider six no-cost to low-cost measures in his coming federal budget to help meet the government's goals of job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity.

 "We fully recognize the need for fiscal restraint," says Nobina Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of Polytechnics Canada. "Our proposals would merely reallocate existing funding or make modest new investments to enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to generate the smart, long-lasting jobs of the future, whether through innovation or the skilled trades."

Adds Robinson: "Our recommendations are aimed at supporting innovation for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as providing skilled tradespeople for an economy in dire need of their talents. We believe government innovation programs should harness the potential of research and commercialization collaboration between colleges, polytechnics, and SMEs. As well, Ottawa needs a smarter, more targeted approach to solving the existing trades skills crisis."

Polytechnics Canada's six recommendations are:

  1. Launch a pilot commercialization voucher program to allow innovative SMEs to partner with colleges and other applied research service providers to overcome the well-documented, private sector late-stage commercialization hurdle.

  2. Through reallocation, increase funding by $15 million for the successful and over-subscribed College & Community Innovation Program (CCIP) so that more SMEs—and the economy—benefit. CCIP is the only federal research granting council program that supports applied research activity at colleges and polytechnics. 

  3. Use federal tendering criteria to create more apprenticeships. To secure major contracts such as shipbuilding and, other infrastructure, bidders should be required to maintain a minimum number of apprentices.

  4. Create an alternative to Employment Insurance (income bridge loans, micro loans, automatic savings programs) for mature Red Seal apprentices or those in the later years of their program. This would encourage more workers to become qualified tradespeople by offering to them the same financial support available to other post-secondary students. Currently, apprentices are limited to Employment Insurance, which creates a barrier for many potential and existing apprentices.

  5. Provide tax credits to employers when an apprentice achieves Red Seal certification in his or her trade. Employers say they are reluctant to release employees to finish their certification because they will then have to pay higher wages or risk losing the apprentice to poaching from rival firms that do not invest in apprenticeship training.

  6. Target new Labour Market Agreement funds to increase the number of Pre-Apprenticeship Training Programs at colleges and polytechnics. This will increase awareness of, and facilitate new entrants into, professions in the skilled trades. Evidence shows that individuals who take pre-apprenticeship programs have higher completion rates and finish their training in less time than traditional apprentices.

"Together, these affordable measures will boost private sector growth by creating high quality jobs and helping industry to close the innovation gap, while supporting the government's fiscal and economic objectives," Robinson says.

Polytechnics Canada is a national alliance of Canada's 11 leading research-intensive, publicly funded colleges and institutes of technology. Established in 2003, its members share a common focus on advanced technical and technological education.  Members of the association are degree-granting and industry-responsive post-secondary education providers, committed to education, training and applied research for industry and all Canadian employers.

In 2012 alone, Polytechnics Canada's members trained more than 40,000 apprentice students, as well as assisted some 1,200 companies with applied research and commercialization projects, utilizing the innovation skills of nearly 9,000 of our students.

Located in Canada's key economic regions, the member colleges and institutes of Polytechnics Canada are: British Columbia Institute of Technology, SAIT Polytechnic and NAIT in Alberta, Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology , Red River College in Manitoba and, in Ontario: Conestoga, Sheridan, Humber, George Brown, Seneca and Algonquin.

For more details on our six recommendations, visit www.polytechnicscanada.ca/recommendations

SOURCE: Polytechnics Canada

For further information:

Ken Doyle
Polytechnics Canada
Email: kdoyle@polytechnicscanada.ca
Tel. 613-656-1541

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