OTTAWA, Feb. 22, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada's leading colleges, institutes of technology and polytechnics call for concerted action in the upcoming federal budget to improve industry innovation, increase apprenticeship completion and stimulate entrepreneurship.
Business-responsive colleges and polytechnics are training students to help solve industry-identified problems in real time. With more public support and minimal investments, these institutions could do even more to close Canada's widening innovation gap with our international competitors.
Currently, the federal focus on the knowledge economy is concentrated excessively on the need for more people with more advanced degrees (Masters and Doctorates). Polytechnics Canada advocates for a more inclusive vision of the talent needed for innovation, one that harnesses the vast skills range of all Canadian learners: college students, existing workers, skilled newcomers and apprentices, in addition to university graduates. The diversity of the Canadian higher education sector needs to be better recognized by employers, parents and, indeed, all levels of government.
"The federal government has begun to recognize the positive contributions of polytechnics and colleges for wealth creation for Canada's many small and mid-sized firms with recent budget announcements that have created some opportunity for industry-college collaboration," said Nobina Robinson, CEO of Polytechnics Canada. "The coming budget can do more to address the innovation gap, while also giving industry the talent it needs to succeed," she said.
Specifically, the only federal granting program that supports college applied research, the College Community Innovation Program, cannot meet the current demand from industry for such collaboration without the injection of modest new funds.
Further, at no additional cost, the Government should end the university-only restriction on undergraduate industrial research awards, opening up eligibility to college undergraduates studying in more than 140 Bachelors Degrees in areas such as applied technology and applied science.
Realigning existing R&D direct support programs for firms to include a new commercialization voucher program would enable companies to choose more colleges and polytechnics as applied research service providers to assist with their near to market commercialization needs.
Polytechnics Canada has also proposed ways in which to harness the talents and experience of underemployed foreign trained professionals living in Canada by linking them to the applied research activity that colleges and polytechnics undertake for Canadian industry.
Students of the skilled trades should be treated as integral to Canada's knowledge economy and the talent needs of Canadian industry. Polytechnics Canada calls on the federal government to end the discrimination that punishes apprenticeship students who, alone among post-secondary students, must declare any grants as taxable income. That, in turn, will improve the shockingly low completion rates for tradespeople and more immediately address the calls for workers from sectors such as shipbuilding, forestry, mining, construction and energy.
Our recommendations will have an immediate positive impact on the Government's objective of supporting a more highly skilled, adaptable and inclusive workforce through Smart Spending for Smart Jobs.
Located in Canada's key economic regions, the current Polytechnics Canada members are: British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), SAIT Polytechnic, NAIT, Conestoga, Sheridan, Humber, George Brown, Seneca and Algonquin.
Please see our website for other recommendations to the Federal Government: http://www.polytechnicscanada.ca/publication_resources.
For further information:
Director of Policy
Email: [email protected]