10:51 AM

Canada's Colleges are ready to help drive pandemic recovery - In the News

On September 23, The Hamilton Spectator published an column by Mohawk College President Ron McKerlie about the significant role Canada's colleges have to play in the country's economic recovery, focusing on climate-action and inclusion. The text of that column are found below.

Earlier this month, the Task Force for Resilient Recovery announced its recommendations for a lasting, sustainable economic recovery for Canada, once the global pandemic subsides.

The members of the task force, composed of some of the top industry leaders in the country, have proposed an aggressive, innovative and optimistic vision for Canada’s future. They have recognized that we need to get people back to work today but rightly focus on providing them with jobs that will still be there tomorrow.

Across the country, in neighbourhoods, cities, regions and provinces, people are trying to figure out how we can recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. The tendency to return to the status quo is strong. But we need to resist the urge to look back. We need to look ahead.

The Task Force for Resilient Recovery has suggested a new way forward, one that addresses the most pressing challenges that Canadian society is facing at this time. By proposing a model for recovery that ignites a new “inclusive economic growth and climate progress,” the five recommendations focus on critical elements for a healthy, sustainable growth for all Canadians.

A lasting recovery plan must be sustainable. It is clearer every day that climate change is the single biggest challenge our young people will face in their lifetimes. And around the world, governments are responding. The world is collectively changing how it constructs buildings, fuels vehicles, powers its cities and conserves its natural resources — creating new jobs and new opportunities in the process.

A lasting plan must also be inclusive. The economic burdens of this pandemic have not been born equally. Unskilled workers and women have been deeply affected. Vulnerable populations, Indigenous communities and at-risk neighbourhoods have also been hit hard. As people are retrained and re-employed in the recovery, these people must be a part of the future workforce.

Among its 22 recommendations, the task force identified the importance of training a new green building workforce to build and retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient and climate resilient. And they called on Canadian colleges to provide that training, keeping women and Indigenous communities in mind.

Canadian colleges are up for the task.

Canada’s community colleges are structured to respond quickly and effectively to the workforce needs of their regions. They educate the workers who build, maintain, care for and support their communities. They work with industry partners to find new solutions in a competitive international marketplace. And they respond to changing workforce demands with innovative new programs and pathways to skills training.

In light of the recommendations of the Task Force for Resilient Recovery, Mohawk College and a number of colleges across Canada have joined in conversation to map out the possible ways we can support this vision of a lasting, sustainable economic recovery.

One day this crisis will come to an end. The resilient recovery will begin. And community colleges will be ready to train the workforce that emerges from this pandemic-induced downturn.

  • Ronald J. McKerlie is the president and CEO of Mohawk College