December 7, 2017
AMO WatchFile Guest Column

Council of Ontario Universities

Ontario’s Universities

Ontario has a bright future, with the talent, the diversity and the expertise to thrive in the years ahead.

But to do so it must address major challenges, from the technological disruption that threatens job security, to the aging population that could overburden public services and the worrying effects of climate change.

This is the big picture thinking Ontario’s universities received from hundreds of thousands of Ontarians during a year-long listening initiative − engaging with the public through an online survey, social media and public events, and at a series of roundtables with private- and public-sector leaders.

And as Ontario residents told Ontario’s universities their hopes and concerns for the future, they delivered another clear message: Everyone needs to work together.

“What Ontarians told us over the past year is that they don’t want a society of silos; they want a society of partners,” says David Lindsay, president of the Council of Ontario Universities, which represents the province’s 21 universities.

Universities listened. And they have responded with a new report, Partnering for a Better Future for Ontario, in which they lay out their role as active and willing partners in securing a more vibrant and prosperous future for students, communities and the province.

The report commits Ontario’s universities to working with the government, municipalities, employers and public sector institutions to help students thrive, build strong communities and drive a growing and dynamic province.

Partnering for a Better Future for Ontario identifies key challenges for Ontario that need to be addressed by bold thinking and partnerships.

For example, universities will need to partner to grow Ontario’s talent pipeline and provide graduates with the skills to thrive in an economy disrupted by artificial intelligence and automation. They also have a role to play in Improving municipal infrastructure and delivery of services such as transit, health care, social services and high-quality Internet.

In addition, Ontario’s universities will need to adapt to a sharp growth in the province’s aging population and increasing demand for mental-health supports for adolescents and young adults. And they must keep partnering to secure a sustainable future through clean technology and by adopting best practices in lowering carbon emissions.

The new report lays out 24 recommendations to the Ontario government to help universities and their partners meet these and other challenges.
  • Jobs and Skills: Prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace by investing in more experiential (work-related) opportunities and providing incentives to employers, especially small businesses and non-profits, to work with universities on expanding access to these opportunities.
  • The Economy: Invest to help universities expand their network of incubators that help entrepreneurs launch businesses, and provide more graduate scholarships and other incentives to attract the best talent to the province.
  • Health Care: Expand support for research in medicine and health care, and work with universities to ensure they are helping train the right mix of health care professionals to provide high-quality care for all Ontarians.
Research and Innovation: Help move universities’ ideas and inventions into the marketplace by creating a Research Commercialization Fund.

“Ontario’s 21 universities are deeply ingrained in the fabric of this province through the students they train, the research they produce, and the knowledge and expertise they share with our local communities,” says Lindsay. ”Strong institutions will build a strong province. Our report spells out how universities can respond to Ontarians’ aspirations for the future by building partnerships that will help grow a thriving economy and secure a better quality of life for everyone.”