Globalization, rapid technological advancement and increased competition are hallmarks of today’s business landscape. The pressure to find talent with the skills critical to meet the demands of the 21st century workplace is growing. Deloitte’s 2014 Global Human Capital Trends survey of more than 2,500 business leaders in 94 countries found that talent acquisition, talent retention and workforce capability are among the most urgent issues facing businesses today.[i]
In order to address these challenges, jurisdictions around the world are working to improve their education systems and help workers develop the skills needed in today’s economy. Canada in particular is emerging as a leader on this front. Slightly more than half of all Canadians have a post-secondary degree – the highest rate among OECD countries.[ii]
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is leading the charge by investing significantly in education and working closely with industry to create a skilled workforce ready to help drive productivity and innovation. And its efforts are paying off: Ontario is Canada’s top economic performer; it generates 37 per cent of the country’s wealth, and it is recognized internationally as Canada’s most competitive province.[iii]
Ontario has a strong reputation as a global business hub and for attracting multinational companies. It is the number one destination in Canada for foreign direct investment projects and third in North America after New York and California. It is home to almost half of the nation’s employees in high tech, financial services and other knowledge industries,[iv]and Area Development magazine recently identified Ontario as a global leader in IT and life sciences.[v]
Ontario’s universities are expanding graduate programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) based on their relationships with industry. “Our institutions are connected to North America’s largest bio-medical hub and Ontario is home to the world’s largest centre for education in math and computer science, meaning our university graduates are in demand,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities.[vi]
The province has just announced a renewed vision for education called Achieving Excellence that will place greater emphasis on critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Ontario will invest $150 million over three years in technology to better prepare students for the knowledge economy.This includes expanding hands-on training programs by allowing students to focus their learning on specific sectors,[vii]similar to the dual education system in Germany, where learning takes place both in the classroom and in the workplace.[viii]
Between 2012 and 2013, the Ontario government invested $4.91 billion in colleges and universities to ensure more students can acquire the knowledge, skills and training needed for a high-performance workforce.[ix] Figures from its latest provincial budget show that Ontario invests 18.45 per cent of its total government spending on education.[x] According to UNESCO data, this compares favourably to 10.69 per cent for Germany, 10.38 per cent for France, 11.02 per cent for India, 12.01 per cent for the UK and 13.07 per cent for the US.[xi]
Perhaps the most immediate example of Ontario’s commitment to a skilled workforce that is ready to help drive business results is the province’s partnership with industry and academia to create Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research (DAIR), an aerospace cluster at Downsview Park in Toronto.[xii]
Ontario already accounts for an estimated 25 per cent of aerospace jobs in Canada. The development of an aerospace cluster at Downsview will enhance the province’s ability to compete globally, further developing its skilled workforce, providing a strong foundation for shared research and development and offering businesses the opportunity to benefit from logistical efficiencies.
Access to a skilled workforce was one of the main reasons Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) established a subsidiary in Ontario in 2007. The efficiencies of being close to its client Bombardier, the ability to do business with a deep supply chain and the resulting cost savings have pushed MHI Canada into serious growth mode, doubling its workforce to 700 since 2013. “MHI Japan continues to transfer more and more work here because Ontario is seen as a strategic advantage,” says Michael McCarthy, president, MHI Canada Aerospace Inc. “We are the parent company’s only large aerospace manufacturing site outside of Japan. Our plan is to become self-sufficient and supply a growing list of clients.” He is looking forward to the further integration of academia and industry at DAIR, which will expand the workforce and address industry needs.[xiii]
Helping Ontario’s aerospace industry grow is part of the government’s economic plan to invest in people and infrastructure and to support business. It is also a key aspect of the province’s innovation agenda, a wide ranging $3-billion initiative to strengthen its position as a 21st century economy.[xiv]
“Ontario’s skilled workforce already gives us a distinct advantage. There are great schools in the Greater Toronto Area and we rely on them to provide us with graduates who understand the industry. DAIR will build on that,” says Tim Whittier, director, government relations, UTC Aerospace Systems, Landing Gear, one of the industry partners in the initiative. In fact, unlike the company’s operation in Fort Worth, Texas, which has to extend its recruitment efforts across the continent, he says that the Ontario operation is able to meet its need for highly skilled technicians and engineers locally. “This speaks to the collective skill set of the workforce available to us here in Ontario. That’s a real strength.”[xv]
That workforce is providing the skills and brain power to fuel breakthrough innovation. Almost half of Canada’s full-time R&D personnel are in Ontario, where more than $14.6 billion in R&D spending is undertaken each year by businesses, universities and colleges, private non-profit organizations, governments and foreign firms.[xvi]
“Ontario is a world leader when it comes to research and DAIR will build on this strength,” says the organization’s Executive Director, Andrew Petrou. “Global organizations such as Bombardier are here because of the research we’re doing. DAIR’s innovation zone is a living lab that will bring industry and students together to solve real-world problems. The number of calls we have received from all over the world already is amazing and tells us that this is exactly what industry and students need.”[xvii]
A word on the power of clusters and collaboration
IBM, GE Healthcare, Linamar, Bioniche Life Sciences, Bridgewater Systems, Honeywell, DragonWave and Xerox are among the 18,000 IT companies that have chosen to set up shop in Ontario. In fact, the province has the second-largest IT cluster in North America, generating annual revenues of more than $85 billion. It also has the second-largest life sciences sector in North America, supported by 25 research and teaching hospitals and 44 universities and colleges. The Greater Toronto Area alone is home to more than 50 global pharmaceutical and biotech companies.[xviii]
Spotlight: Waterloo, Ontario-based technology hub Communitech is a member of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs and functions as the implementation arm of the Province of Ontario’s commercialization and economic development. Since 1997, it has supported and helped build a tech cluster of nearly 1,000 innovative technology companies that now generates more than $30 billion in revenue. Six hundred start-ups were created last year alone in the Waterloo region. Communitech supports tech companies at all stages of their growth and development, including large global players.[xix] U.S.-based Square, the growing B2B technology company that has created a suite of affordable tools to enable sales, has just launched an office in Kitchener-Waterloo[xx] in order to be part of this thriving tech community that already includes Google, Open Text, COM DEV and Desire2Learn.
Ontario’s diverse economy
Long known as a manufacturing powerhouse (manufacturers shipped more than $258 billion worth of product in 2011), Ontario’s economy is diverse, led by financial services, professional and scientific technical services, arts and retail.[xxi] Forbes magazine named it a top spot to do business because of its favorable tax system and focus on job creation.[xxii] The fact that it’s located in the heart of the North American Free Trade area with access to a market of more than 460 million people certainly adds to its appeal.[xxiii]
Aaron Rosland is a senior economic officer for the government of Ontario, Canada
[iii] http://www.occ.ca/Publications/EmergingStronger2014_web.pdf pg. 10
[vi] This paragraph is attributed to Bonnie M. Patterson, Council of Ontario Universities. Here is the content she provided in its entirety: “Ontario universities play a critical role in providing the highly skilled workforce that helps fuel the provincial and global economy. We have a knowledge-based economy and a diverse workforce that is able to adapt as the fast-changing economy demands it.
We are proud to say that Ontario’s university graduates are increasingly instilled with an entrepreneurial spirit while in school, which means they take an innovative approach within their studies and then to the careers they pursue over their lifetimes. Whether they have studied the humanities or science, technology, engineering or math, Ontario students are prepared for the workplace through interdisciplinary approaches to education coupled with unique work-integrated learning opportunities that allow them to hit the road running.
STEM programs play an integral role in Ontario’s robust university sector, which graduates more than 100,000 students a year. Ontario universities have been expanding graduate programs in STEM disciplines, which also attract a high number of top flight international students. Our institutions are connected to North America’s largest bio-medical hub and Ontario is home to the world’s largest centre for education in math and computer science, meaning our university graduates are in demand.”
[ix] Results-based Plan Briefing Book 2013-14, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, pg. 4. http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/annualreport/2014RbP_En.pdf
[xii] Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research (DAIR) presentation, delivered by Andrew Petrou, March 2014.
[xiii] Interview with Michael McCarthy.
[xiv] http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2013/10/ontario-supports-growth-of-aerospace-industry.html and http://docs.ontario.ca/documents/334-ontario-innovation-agenda.html#document/p2
[xv] Interview with Tim Whittier.
[xvii] Interview with Andrew Petrou
[xx] https://squareup.com/ca/news and http://www.techvibes.com/blog/square-announces-permanent-office-in-waterloo-hiring-team-of-30-engineers-2013-09-20
[xxii] http://www.occ.ca/Publications/EmergingStronger2014_web.pdf pg. 10
[xxiii] https://www.ontario.ca/government/about-ontarioRecommend0 recommendationsPublished in