Commentary on the recent federal budget from Marilyn Luscombe, President and CEO of New Brunswick Community College
Federal budget offers vote of confidence in Canada’s colleges
Marilyn Luscombe, NBCC President and CEO
New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) was pleased to see a focus on lifelong learning in the recent federal budget which announced investments in skills, innovation and inclusive growth. The investments and priorities of the budget acknowledge and align with the role colleges and institutes play across the country. With 3,000 campuses in communities of all sizes, Canada’s colleges and institutes provide more than 8,000 programs to 1.5 million learners of all ages and backgrounds.
Here in New Brunswick, NBCC is a leading contributor to New Brunswick’s social and economic prosperity. We offer more than 90 programs in six campus regions across the province, as well as apprenticeship training and continuing learning opportunities. Our operations and graduates contribute over $1 billion to the economy each year and 90% of our employed graduates are working right here in New Brunswick.
Over the past year, NBCC has been engaged in a strategic planning process, setting out a vision for our College to 2022. More than 4,000 students, staff and community members contributed their voices to this process. Reflecting on the main themes of these conversations and the strategic plan that we are now crafting, we are heartened to see that the strategic directions and priorities for our college align with priorities this budget sets for Canada.
Skills development to respond to learner aspirations and economic opportunities
The number of traditional-age learners is decreasing in New Brunswick. We need to create learning opportunities for individuals of all ages, backgrounds and aspirations so that they can successfully pursue post-secondary education. As colleges and institutes such as NBCC look at more flexible programs and course delivery, the investments included in the federal budget will help more learners access these opportunities, including adults seeking to upgrade skills, learners with dependent children and those returning to school.
Increasing these opportunities not only benefits individual learners, but also ensures that we have the skilled workforce necessary to grow our economy. The federal government is committing to create a new organization to identify the skills required by Canadian employers and the exploration of innovative approaches to developing these skills. Canada’s colleges have extensive experience in responding to changing needs in the labour market. We look forward to collaborating with this new organization to meet the needs of both learners and employers.
Increased opportunities for Indigenous Canadians
NBCC aims to contribute to diverse and inclusive communities, and to support the participation of under-represented learners in post-secondary education, including Indigenous learners. Over the past five years, we have launched pilot projects to further the indigenization of NBCC curriculum, created gathering places for sharing and support at each NBCC campus, created new scholarships and bursaries for Indigenous learners and welcomed local elders throughout the year to share their culture and experiences with students and staff.
Meaningful partnerships with New Brunswick Indigenous communities and organizations are crucial to creating new opportunities. We have undertaken a number of customized training programs with communities and other partners to increase Indigenous participation in local labour markets. The federal government’s investments in Indigenous education and skills development will provide more Canadians with a path to meaningful employment.
In 2014-2015, more than 31,000 students are engaged in applied research efforts at Canada’s colleges and institutes with more than 5,500 private sector partners, 78% of which were small- and medium-sized businesses. By actively engaging in applied research and innovation, NBCC enriches the learning experience for our students, and we help solve business problems and develop new innovative technologies and processes that enhance the way we live, work and do business. In 2015-2016, over 200 NBCC students, 36 faculty and staff, and 27 industry partners were engaged in research projects.
The federal budget commits to the establishment of Innovation Canada to coordinate and simplify the support available to Canada’s innovators. We look forward to working with this “one-stop-shop” for Canada’s innovators to ensure that the programs and policies guiding innovation in Canada recognize the contributions and maximize the innovation potential of Canada’s colleges.
The federal government sent an encouraging signal in this direction with a two-year commitment of $10 million to the Community and College Social Innovation Fund. NBCC was among the first colleges in Canada to receive funding through the initial round of grants through this fund. Through the support of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), researchers at NBCC St. Andrews Campus, in collaboration with Dr. Christopher M. Gilham, St. Francis Xavier University, are working with NBCC peer mentors and schools across Charlotte County to examine the impact of the Girls’ Action Foundation (GAF) Amplify program on self-esteem in middle school girls. Social innovation research helps NBCC positively impact communities in New Brunswick while contributing to bodies of knowledge that will benefit Canadians from coast to coast.
Working together to transform lives and communities
Post-secondary education provides one of the most important pathways to opportunity. This 2017 federal budget demonstrates a commitment to and confidence in the role Canada’s colleges and institutes play in supporting the success of learners from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of aspirations and needs. NBCC looks forward to working with our national network, Colleges and Institutes Canada; governments at all levels; and our community and industry partners to transform lives and communities here in New Brunswick and across the country.
Students in NBCC’s Chemical Technology program are among those who could benefit from new commitments in skills, innovation and inclusive growth in the 2017 federal budget.
With new commitments in skills, innovation and inclusive growth, the 2017 federal budget is a vote of confidence in Canada’s colleges and students such as Aissata Niang, a student in NBCC’s Electronics Engineering Technology program.
For more information:
Community & Government Relations Advisor, NBCC
506.444.3320 | firstname.lastname@example.org