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Q&A with Denise Amyot, President and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada

What are the essential skills that students need for succeeding within the next decade?

The challenge for today’s students is that to be successful in such a rap-idly evolving environment, they can never stop learning. This means that as educators, we must equip them with the tools to be lifelong learners. In this context, having a strong foundation in your discipline is essential, but soft skills are also more important than ever as graduates need to be resilient and adaptable. Promoting entrepreneurial values can also be very useful as graduates will increasingly have to manage their own careers, which might take all kinds of unexpected turns.

How can educational institutions best foster research, innovation and entrepreneurship skills?

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Providing hands-on experiences remains one of the best ways to foster skills and competencies, which is why it is at the heart of the college and institute model. Our members try to include some form of work-integrated learning opportunities in all their programs, including by encouraging students to take part in applied research projects or entrepreneurial activity.

How can the impact of research infrastructure be maximized through collaboration?

Partnerships are definitely the key to maximizing the impact of research infrastructure. Colleges and institutes need to have access to the latest technologies in order to train graduates that will be ready for the current and future requirements in their fields. Meanwhile, businesses – and in particular SMEs or startups – often have a hard time accessing the equipment and expertise they need to fully develop an innovative idea or concept. Sharing those resources through research partner-ships is a win-win situation that helps fuel innovation while providing valuable learning opportunities for students.

However, creating these linkages takes work, which is why our association is calling for more research support funding for applied research projects in order to secure and amplify the long-term impact of college and institute applied research offices in the innovation ecosystem.

What are examples of research partnerships advancing new and innovative solutions?

Last year alone, our members were involved in over 7,300 research partnerships, so there are almost too many examples to choose from. We are also very proud to see them contribute to almost all sectors imaginable, from digital technologies and advanced manufacturing to social innovation. Whether it’s the Nova Scotia Community College helping develop the next generation of biofuel using microalgae, or SAIT Polytechnic developing a safe drug-delivery system to administer a new life-saving asthma treatment, there is no doubt that the innovation happening at colleges and institutes has positive implications for all Canadians.

How are colleges and institutes pre-pared to keep up with rapid societal changes?

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Colleges and institutes have always striven to be nimble institutions and are continuously looking to update their programs to reflect the needs of both students and employers. In fact, all programs are developed with input from a program advisory committee, which includes industry experts and local employers.

This consultation process is ongoing and allows colleges and institutes to review all their programs on a regular basis. It also helps faculty stay on top of all the latest shifts and trends in their field. This makes colleges and institutes particularly adaptable and puts them in an enviable position when dealing with disruption. The pace of change might have increased, but for them, it’s nothing entirely new.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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