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A new undergraduate degree program in non-profit management will be offered this fall at the University of Western Ontario’s Brescia College in London, Ont.Geoff Robins/The Globe and Mail

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

Here's a skill-testing question: Which fast-growing sector of the Canadian economy employs almost as many people as manufacturing? The answer is non-profits.

Moreover, their contribution to employment and economic output is "large and growing," according to a new report by Imagine Canada, whose focus is charitable organizations.

That said, the female-dominated sector of two million people has its challenges: retaining employees, often lower paid than in private industry, and recruiting new leaders who are savvy on social media, entrepreneurial and adept at managing change.

In response, a new four-year undergraduate degree program in non-profit management will be offered this fall at the University of Western Ontario's Brescia College, the only women's university in Canada and founded by the Ursuline Sisters in 1919.

The new degree is believed to be the only one of its kind in Canada, although Mount Royal University's Bissett School of Business offers a bachelor of business administration with a minor in non-profit management. There are, however, plenty of postgraduate certificates at universities and colleges.

Brescia business professors Colleen Sharen and Melissa Jean developed the program, building on the non-profit sector's own analysis of a need for training in leadership, research, finance and marketing.

"We tried to use them [the skills gaps] to identify the competencies that the students would have coming out of this program," says Prof. Sharen, a former marketing director for major food companies who previously worked at the United Way of Greater Toronto.

Historically, she says, non-profits hire people with "excellent program delivery skills" who, when ready to be promoted to management, lack expertise in managing people or budgets.

"We want our students to walk in [to a non-profit] as a junior program manager and actually work with people in the community and do community development work," she says. "But we also want them to come in with a whole lot of leadership and management skills that allow them, as they progress within the organization, to take on more leadership."

In second year, students at Brescia in London, Ont., can opt for the specialty degree that offers business and other courses, field studies, simulations and a paid internship of up to 16 months with a non-profit.

About 15 students are expected to sign up this fall, with a future intake of 50 students a year in five years, according to Prof. Sharen.

Non-profit advocates are happy to see new education options.

"We don't say 'crisis,' but there certainly will be a huge challenge in the next few years to fill leadership positions," says Cathy Taylor, executive director of the Ontario Nonprofit Network. "There is not a lot of opportunities for training and skill sets available."

Research by her organization and others shows a "disconnect," says Ms. Taylor, between current training and emerging demands for leaders to be entrepreneurial and manage in a fast-changing funding environment.

"In the past, some of those skills were 'nice to haves' but were not essentials," she says. "We are seeing they are essential moving forward."

Imagine Canada president and chief executive officer Bruce MacDonald, says entrepreneurial skills are in demand by the non-profit sector "as we look to get more innovative in not just the programs we run but in looking at the sustainable future of organizations."

Looking ahead, he says, charities have to raise their game as professionally-capable organizations equipped to tackle social problems.

The non-profit sector, he adds, "is a vibrant part of the economy that needs the professional training and skills to be able to manage in complex environments, often with big budgets and sometimes with small budgets."

Of Brescia's new degree, he observes, "It is exciting to see these kinds of programs coming about."

Former Desautels dean to lead top business school in France

Peter Todd, who stepped down last year after a successful nine-year run as dean of McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal, has been named the head of a top European business school.

In reporting on the appointment, the Financial Times newspaper noted that Dr. Todd is the first non-French dean of HEC Paris, No. 16 in the newspaper's global ranking of MBA programs this year.

At Desautels, Dr. Todd is perhaps best remembered for his role in a successful campaign to lift a provincial-government imposed cap on tuition fees at the business school.

The Financial Times notes that Dr. Todd is taking over his new post in Paris when, thanks to a French government law passed last year, HEC Paris now has greater independence than before to raise its own funds.

Professors team up for case competition win

Oana Branzei, an associate professor of strategy at the University of Western Ontario's Ivey Business School, and Haiying Lin, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo's school of environment, enterprise and development, are co-winners of the "corporate social responsibility" category of the 2014 global case-writing competition sponsored by the European Foundation for Management Education.

Their case study focused on a successful sustainability initiative between Hewlett Packard (Canada) and the World Wildlife Fund Canada.

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