The world of work is turning upside down. Until fairly recently, someone who was a professional student or changed jobs frequently was not on a successful career path.
But by 2040, the best employees will be lifelong students who can adapt to rapid changes caused by robots, automation and artificial intelligence, and who have transferable skills so they can move from one job to another.
Today’s post-secondary school graduate can expect to have as many as 17 different jobs.
“Laurentian University is preparing students increasingly for learning as a life-long experience,” to be ready for a changing workplace”, says Robert Haché, who assumed the job as the university’s 11th president and vice-president last year.
“In order to change jobs that many times, you need to continually upgrade your skills. Part of what we are doing is training people so they are job ready today, and also maintaining a relationship with these graduates for the next 20 years to assist them with their lifelong-learning experience.
Continued education may come in the form of part-time certificate programs, flexible on-line courses, or providing programs tailored made for specific companies or industries. As recognition of changing education needs, the federal government introduced a student grant program for part-time studies in 2019.
One professor giving a lecture to a large classroom of 100 or more students who then cram their notes before an exam or pull an all-nighter writing an essay is old school.
The university has becoming much more interactive. Laurentian is providing today’s students with experiential learning where they can learn and apply their skills beyond the classroom with worl co-ops and internships placements.
This includes, “bringing the world to the university by the use of technology and providing students a chance to experience the world. The federal government encourages students to have international experience,” says Haché.*
As well, “Laurentian has transformed from a classroom-lecture experience moving to small group learning. There are things called reverse classrooms where one professor goes from one small group to another.”
A reverse or flipped classroom could also employ traditional methods with online lectures and virtual group discussions.
Laurentian students can also take advantage of learning in English or French, and obtaining a bilingual certificate which makes them more marketable and gives them global opportunities.
Established in 1960 to educate northeastern Ontario students, the university’s role in the community has changed with times.
“Laurentian is becoming an economic driver for the north by bringing innovation to the workplace, developing new technologies and transferring knowledge created at the university into jobs,” says Haché.
“We do research in all manner of things from digital to artificial intelligence to sell-propelled machinery to occupational health and safety. We have extensive partnerships with large corporations and small and medium-sized businesses.”
The university’s strategic plan calls for the hiring of four new research chairs by 2023.
“We want to make this university an exciting place for our students,” says Haché. “The way to do that is to expose them to the latest and greatest. And some of the latest and greatest is being developed right here. We have the expertise to interact with students, so they are on the cutting edge of learning and cutting edge of understanding technology, or best principals in business, as they graduate. This increases our academic reputation, we attract more students and better professors, and we have direct impact on the growth of the community.”
Haché also sees the university has having a role in helping to build the north’s population and to meet its labour needs. By recruiting students from other parts of Ontario and the world to Laurentian and giving them a positive experience, these students are more likely to settle in Sudbury after graduation, he says.
“The university is very much a part of why someone would want to come to Sudbury, in the sense that you can have a stellar education that will lead you to a successful career, and a strong educational institution that will be here for your children.”
Laurentian has 9,000 students: about 12 percent are francophones and another 12 percent identifying as Indigenous. There are 700 international students. The university employs about 1,000 people.
According to Laurentian’s strategic plan, it hopes to grow its student population by 200 by 2023.
*Feds support foreign experiences
Canada’s new strategy has three key objectives: encourage Canadian students to gain new skills through study and work abroad opportunities in key global markets, especially Asia; diversify the countries from which international students come to Canada, as well as their fields, levels and location of study within Canada; and increase support for Canadian education sector institutions to help grow their export services and explore new opportunities abroad.
Budget 2019 allocated $147.9 million over five years, followed by $8 million per year of ongoing funding. Key elements of the strategy include Initiative Outbound Student Mobility five-year pilot project to support up to 11,000 college and university undergraduate students to study or work abroad in alignment with larger Government of Canada priorities. Financial assistance will range from $5,000 to $10,000 per year.
Half of the funds in the pilot will support equal access to international mobility opportunities and market diversification for under-represented students (e.g. low-income students, Indigenous students, and students with disabilities). Students from these groups are the least likely to pursue study abroad opportunities but stand to gain the most from those opportunities, gaining highly valued skills and competencies and developing a professional network of contacts within their field of study.
The pilot will also support students from outside of those groups, prioritizing study abroad opportunities to countries outside of the traditional destinations of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.
Encouraging these students to study in less traditional study-abroad locations—particularly in Asia and Latin America—will foster specialized knowledge and new economic ties with these regions to the Canadian workforce. In particular, Asia represents a significant strategic opportunity for Canada: with strong projections for future growth and important cultural and business ties in the region.
Source: Building on Success: International Education Strategy 2019–2024
Committed to reconciliation
One of Laurentian University’s key goals outlined in its strategic plan is to be a leader in the process of reconciliation of Indigenous people through transformative postsecondary education and research.
The Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre opened in 2017. The centre is a space for meetings and cultural activities as well as providing students with study and learning spaces, and work and teaching spaces for staff and Elders. The university has more than 25 full-time Indigenous faculty members.
“We are first and foremost trying to provide a welcoming and culturally appropriate environment not just outside the classroom but inside,” says university president Robert Haché.
The academic program is culturally aligned to make it a more satisfying experience to learn.
Haché quotes Murray Sinclair, former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “Education is the means by which the country will be able to fix this” (the imbalance between Indigenous communities and settler communities).
The university has an Indigenous studies program that promotes an understanding of Indigenous peoples, their traditions, aspirations, and participation in local, national and international communities. .
The new president says one of his goals will be overseeing the university’s efforts to contribute to national reconciliation and renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples.
“Universities can be an important contributor to equality in Canada,” he says.