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Politics Canadian colleges to partner with India in skills development

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses for selfies with Indian students in Toulouse, France, Saturday. Mr. Modi is expected to arrive in Ottawa on Tuesday, with a skills-development agreement to take place Wednesday.

Reuters

Canadian colleges are poised to sign agreements with India's national skills development corporation this week, part of an effort to provide job-related training for India's rapidly growing youth population.

Twelve educational institutions, including nine colleges, are expected to sign memorandums of understanding with India's National Skill Development Corporation at an event with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is scheduled to arrive in Ottawa on Tuesday for a three-day trip that will also take him to Toronto and Vancouver. The event is expected to take place in Ottawa on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister, who was elected last year on a promise to revitalize India's economy, has pledged to boost job creation by better matching the skills of India's work force to employers' needs. His visit to Canada comes after stops in France and Germany that focused in part on enhancing trade and investment.

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Speaking with The Globe and Mail last week, Indian High Commissioner Vishnu Prakash said his country's growing youth population is both a strength and a challenge. "There is an explosion of energy which can propel your economy into a different sphere. Or, God forbid, you have a situation where there are 10 million people that don't have jobs."

That's why India's government is focusing on skills development, Mr. Prakash said during the interview, adding that he hoped to see more partnerships with Canada and other countries.

Each Canadian college will be paired with an Indian partner that's focused on a specific sector, such as aviation, health care or agriculture. The Indian partners will pay the colleges for their services, which could include curriculum development, education for Indian trainers and assistance with accreditation systems. The colleges will work through centres of excellence overseas that have been established by India's National Skill Development Corporation.

The corporation is a public-private partnership that aims to develop large, for-profit vocational institutions across the country.

"The thing about Canada and the skills sector is that we have a very strong reputation," said Cynthia Murphy, director of partnerships in Asia and the Middle East for Colleges and Institutes Canada. "And you know, certainly the Indian government is aware of that and has wanted to capitalize on that."

Ms. Murphy said her organization, which represents publicly supported colleges, polytechnics and other institutes in Canada, first signed an agreement with the corporation last year. This week's memorandums of understanding are the next step in connecting Canadian colleges to institutions in India, Ms. Murphy said.

David Agnew, president of Toronto's Seneca College, said the school will work with an Indian partner to improve skills training in India's aviation and health-care sectors. "When you think about where the world is going, and the educational needs of the world, this is a place where Canada, I think, can play an increasingly important role," he said in an interview on Monday.

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Fanshawe College will begin by focusing on textiles and apparel in India but could later expand to other sectors, such as automotive and aviation, said Wendy Curtis, executive director of the London, Ont., school's international centre.

Other schools that will be signing agreements with the corporation this week include Bow Valley College in Calgary, the College of New Caledonia in Prince George and Algonquin College in Ottawa.

Mr. Modi's visit to Canada will also see him deliver a landmark speech to 10,000 Indo-Canadians in Toronto and attend a banquet dinner with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Vancouver. It is the first bilateral visit by a sitting Indian prime minister in more than 40 years.

The politician will be greeted by excited fans who view him as a celebrity of global politics and by protesters who hope to draw attention to his record on human rights. Mr. Modi, a former chief minister of Gujarat, has been criticized for failing to prevent deadly riots in the Indian state in 2002.

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