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Donna Smith, Graduate Program Director, MBA Programs, Ryerson University, looks outside the window on the first floor of the Ted Rogers School of Management at 55 Dundas Street west.Ingrid Forster/The Globe and Mail

In 2019, a single statistic led to the reimagining of the master of business administration degree program at Ryerson University in Toronto.

The statistic from a 2018 report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada stated that “every week 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems or illnesses.” Thirty-four per cent of those surveyed cited work as their main stressor.

At this point, wellness, well-being and mental health became the centre of the school’s MBA program and in 2020, Ryerson launched its “Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace” elective for MBA students.

“Those in or entering the work force are saying, ‘I don’t want to work in a toxic workplace anymore,’ ” explains Donna Smith, graduate program director of the MBA program at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management. “We thought that if we can get these [elements] intertwined in our curriculum, our school culture, co-curricular activities, and make them central to what we teach and do, then we can turn out leaders who will make the workplace a better place and that will have a huge impact on productivity.”

MBA programs around Canada are introducing programs, curriculum and culture changes to embrace what the next generation – Gen Z, the oldest of whom are now finishing their undergrad studies – wants and needs to prepare them for the workplaces of tomorrow, including a larger focus on technology, sustainability, ethics and wellness in the workplace.

At the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario in London, it’s the second year for an MBA course which teaches students responsible governance.

Co-taught by faculty in accounting, finance and strategy, the course examines how environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors make their way into the investment process and overall business decisions.

Professor Glenn Rowe, who teaches the strategy part of the course, says he’s seen the evolution of students and there is demand for this perspective of mission and margin as business today has moved beyond its sole focus on the bottom line.

“One of the things we wanted to get at with this course is the concept of purpose and profit, which we don’t think of as mutually exclusive,” Prof. Rowe says. “We wanted to explore gender pay gaps, integrate ESG concerns into the course, and we also look at risk and risk management.”

For his part in the course, Prof. Rowe takes his students through the words in the Canada Business Corporations Act, “... in the best interest of the corporation” and how that could and should be interpreted today, “as some of us have gotten past the idea that that should mean in the best interest of shareholders,” he adds.

The evolution of MBA programs and their offerings is inevitable as business schools strive to turn out graduates who are not only prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, but continue to create value in industry, explains Lisa Cavanaugh, academic director of the Robert H. Lee Graduate School at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“One of the things that we felt the students needed more exposure to, to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow and continue to create value, is more exposure to tech and analytics leadership,” Dr. Cavanaugh explains. “In particular, knowing enough about the new technologies and ways in which tech is integrating into other aspects of business and industry and being able to speak the language of tech and business.”

As a result, the school created its Technology and Analytics Leadership track within the MBA program, where – through courses such as AI Commercialization and Data Visualization – students are taught how to make informed and ethical decisions with data and become fluent in emerging technologies.

Dr. Cavanaugh explains that this new stream, launched this year, came about because there were students that had expressed a hunger for this type of exposure to the tech space – cryptocurrencies, AI and blockchain – and to see how these technologies will shape the businesses and industries they are entering, Dr. Cavanaugh says.

She explains that it’s about creating offerings within the MBA program that will benefit both students and industry and, perhaps most importantly, consider the skills that will remain beneficial and sought after in the future.

“We recognize, as a school, that our job is to equip its students with tools that will stand the test of time.”

The five hottest emerging business jobs and markets

While no one can predict the future, you don’t need a crystal ball to see that technology will reign supreme in the job market of the future. To stay current and employable for years to come, it might be a good idea to consider jobs in these hot markets.

Chief Technology Officer

There are a host of job prospects in this sector coming available each month as even more companies adopt AI and data analytics.

Chief Revenue Officer (CRO)

In charge of a company’s revenue streams, the role of CRO is growing in popularity, particularly among startups.

Drone Operations Manager

Used in everything from mapping crop yields to package deliveries, commercial drones are evolving beyond their military beginnings and being adopted in a range of industries, which need overseeing.

Clean or Renewable Energy

As much of the world tries to move toward more renewable sources of energy, there will be a rapid uptick in jobs in this sector.

Information Assurance Analyst

With more cybersecurity breaches happening every year, more and more organizations will be looking for those who specialize in data protection and policy compliance.

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