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Media release - July 21, 2014

Watch for this early fall event

The Economic Club of Canada hosts Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Paul Davidson, president, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Paul Davidson

As students head back to class at Canada’s universities, join Paul Davidson as he tackles one of the most hotly debated questions in Canada today: What kinds of skills do young Canadians need to get a job – and build satisfying and productive careers? Mr. Davidson will take you behind the scenes to university campuses today and describe how universities are preparing young people for innovative and collaborative workplaces and what more Canada needs to do to produce these leaders of tomorrow.

Thursday, September 25, 2014
11:45 am-1:30 pm
The Fairmont Château Laurier (Room TBD)
1 Rideau Street, Ottawa

For more information on programming and tickets, including the purchase of corporate tables, please go to the Economic Club website.

Commentary - July 9, 2014

This op-ed appeared in the Charlottetown Guardian on July 9, 2014 on the occasion of the 150th  anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference

By Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

One hundred and fifty years ago, the Fathers of Confederation gathered in Charlottetown to reimagine the future. Another gathering of leaders in PEI this week won’t result in a new country, but it has the potential to reimagine the future of skills development in Canada and set us on a better path to prosperity.

By bringing together key  players – provincial ministers of education and labour, educators and business leaders from Canada and abroad – the Skills for the Future symposium is an opportunity to explore solutions to our labour market needs, now and in the years to come.

Much has been said of the skills gap in Canada, but we have generally failed to get to the root of the problem and take action where real challenges exist. Unfortunately rhetoric has drowned out evidence, and anecdote has trumped data. This must change.

Getting things right in education and training for a more prosperous Canada will require three things: better and more accurate labour market information; an approach to skills development that includes all levels of postsecondary education – universities, colleges, polytechnics and trades; and stronger collaboration between government, educators and business.

Recent efforts to promote skilled trades by devaluing the benefits of university education take Canada in the wrong direction. Comments about how a whole generation of higher education graduates is lost are corrosive and unhelpful – especially when the evidence shows university graduates enjoy high employment and strong incomes.

Students can’t make career decisions and governments can’t make policy decisions based on myth or anecdote or a newspaper story about the situation in the U.S., where the system is very different from our own.

And we must resist the urge to focus on short-term needs over the next six or 12 months. We need to set our sights on what Canada will need five, 10, 20 and more years down the road.

I was very pleased to see a consensus on this issue emerging at the National Skills Summit in Toronto, hosted by Employment and Social Development Canada Minister Jason Kenney on June 25. Participating leaders from business, government and education recognize the need for longer-term solutions and to improve collaboration. Recent federal reinvestment in enhanced labour market information is a positive development.

Another important step is to realize that Canada’s skills challenges need to be met on several fronts at once. Just because Canada may need more plumbers or welders doesn’t mean it needs fewer university grads. In the fast-paced and rapidly changing global economy, we need more university graduates, more college graduates and more tradespeople if we are to develop the human potential of our country to its fullest extent. Today’s employers need high-level skills at all levels of operations – from the shop floor to the boardroom.

In fact, a recent CIBC study found that the most in-demand occupations in Canada today require a university degree. Yet we’ve fallen from fifth place in university participation to 15th amongst OECD countries.

Finally, government, business and educators have to create more experiential learning opportunities for all students, such as internships and co-ops. We have a good foundation on which to build. Today half of Canada’s university undergraduates have a co-op or internship experience before they graduate. Co-op enrolment has jumped by 25 percent in the last seven years, and more than 1,000 co-op programs are offered at 59 universities.

Universities are dynamic and responsive institutions. Some 45 Canadian universities have developed entrepreneurship degree programs and provide workshops, facilities, mentoring and other supports to students and researchers to help them commercialize product and service ideas.

Strengthening linkages between universities and employers in all sectors will further enhance the skills that graduates bring to their careers.

Close to one million Canadians will earn their first degree between now and the time we celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017. Some of them will still be in the labour force when Canada celebrates its bicentenary in 2067.

If we get skills development right, we will have equipped them to navigate a lifetime of adapting to the labour market of the future – and ensured Canada’s prosperity for decades to come.


Media release - June 20, 2014

OTTAWA – Business incubators and accelerators at a number of Canadian universities are poised to expand their reach after being selected for increased funding through the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP). Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the organizations chosen to advance in the selection process for $100 million in new funding at Communitech, Waterloo Region’s hub for the commercialization of innovative technologies.

“We are pleased to see this significant investment in university business accelerators and incubators and to see this element of Canada’s Economic Action Plan advanced,” says Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “Canada’s universities are vital partners in building prosperity through entrepreneurship. AUCC has advocated for investment in such collaborative approaches to nurturing entrepreneurship and bringing fresh new ideas to market faster.” Mr. Davidson joined the Prime Minister and Minister of State for Science and Technology Ed Holder in Waterloo for the announcement.

In 2013, the government allocated $60 million over five years, with an additional $40 million in 2014, to help outstanding incubator and accelerator organizations expand their services to deserving entrepreneurs.

Universities across Canada play a leading role in fostering entrepreneurial success. In addition to operating top incubators and accelerators, 45 universities have developed entrepreneurship degree programs and provide workshops, facilities, mentoring and other supports to students and researchers to help them commercialize product and service ideas. University students are building careers and their innovative ideas are creating jobs in the industries of tomorrow.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.


Media Contact:

Helen Murphy
assistant director of communications
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Commentary - June 18, 2014

This op-ed was published in the Globe and Mail on June 18, 2014.


Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Paul Soubry, president and CEO of New Flyer, North America’s largest bus manufacturer and parts-supply company

When University of Manitoba business student Dale Camuyong was nominated for—and won—an award as his school’s best co-op student of 2013, what were the qualities that so impressed his employer? Given that this employer was a bus manufacturing company, you might think that a sharply focused set of technical skills was critical. In fact, however, what New Flyer Industries cited about Camuyong’s performance was a strikingly diverse set of skills and qualities: not just human resources knowledge but leadership, initiative, teamwork, dedication, professionalism and a sense of humour.

This example shows something important about the relationship between employers and Canadian institutions of higher education. What employers are looking for is not just a high level of specialized skills, but a larger ensemble of social qualities—sometimes called ‘soft skills’—needed to do the jobs in today’s labour market.

Just what those soft skills those are, and how much Canada’s universities, colleges and trade schools can and should teach them, is one of the most hotly debated questions in our nation’s public and economic policy. Most stakeholders in industry and higher education agree that a core part of these institutions’ mission—even if not the entirety of that mission—consists in producing graduates suited to the needs of today’s labour market. And all parties agree that getting a good match between employers’ needs and workers’ fit with those needs has huge economic implications.

More data on labour market needs would better inform the discussion. But the consistent message from employers is that they’re looking for people who fit today’s collaborative workplaces, which call for interaction, team skills and leadership. As Canadian companies become increasingly global in their activities, so does their need for workers capable of doing business across cultural and national boundaries. That kind of ‘fit’ with workplace needs is so valuable that most employers prefer to hire for fit and then train for specialized skills rather than the other way around.

Canadian universities, colleges and trade schools know they’re being called on by employers to teach more about skills in collaboration, cultural awareness and team dynamics. Universities already do this well, and are preparing to do even more in years ahead. All institutions also know that they owe it to their students to provide an education that fosters adaptability in face of changing labour markets and the trend toward more career changes during their working lives. As economist Todd Hirsh, Chief Economist with ATB Financial, noted in this newspaper last month, “What postsecondary education needs to do—be it through a liberal arts degree or a polytechnic program—is prepare the students not for a job, but for a lifetime of morphing careers.”

In many respects, universities are already getting a lot of this right. According to a survey by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, most large employers in Canada are either satisfied or extremely satisfied with the quality of education given to the university students who go on to join their workforce. With half of all undergraduates already taking part in co-ops and internships, that’s helping create the workplace ‘fit’ that employers are looking for.

Yet much remains to be done in producing higher education graduates suited to today’s labour market needs. A good starting point would be the recognition that many kinds of education are in demand, spanning the entire gamut from advanced university degrees to college and trades training. It’s not a matter of promoting one kind of education as opposed to the others; just because Canada may need more plumbers or welders doesn’t mean it needs fewer history graduates or urban planners.

For their part, policy makers could help by embracing a broad rather than narrow definition of the skills that higher education should convey: not just technical know-how but team work, multi-dimensional thinking and cross-cultural competencies. They should also keep in mind the need to produce workers with the adaptability to succeed in a future of increasing career and labour market changes. They should work with partners in business and postsecondary education to gather and analyze better labour market data, in order to have reliable information on which to base decisions about directions for postsecondary education in Canada. Finally, they should be prepared to invest in internships and global experience for Canadian students in order foster the kinds of soft skills employers are looking for.

We can’t know everything about the labour market needs of the future, but we do know that flexibility, variety and fit will be essential. If industry, higher education institutions and policy-makers work more closely together to realize those goals, we’ll be doing right by students, workers, employers and Canada’s economic prosperity.

Video by Paul Soubry on job skills, income and higher education.

A short clip of Paul Soubry’s address at the April 2014 membership meeting of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.


Text on screen: [Address by New Flyer president and CEO Paul Soubry, AUCC membership meeting, Winnipeg, April 8-9, 2014 | Allocution de Paul Soubry, p.-d.g. de New Flyer, Réunion des membres de l’AUCC, Winnipeg, du 8 au 9 avril 2014]

Paul Soubry, New Flyer president and CEO:
So the next question, what combination of skills and experience does the next generation of leaders need to be successful? Now again, it’s 30 years since I went to school, but for me, the easiest courses were human resources, organizational behaviour and so forth. And most of the time, I thought I was wasting my time. I wanted to be an accountant after several unsuccessful attempts at first-year financial accounting, the prof suggested I might to into sales marketing or human resources.

But honestly, those courses to me were philosophical. They were theoretical, they were conceptual, there was no right or wrong, basically soft stuff. But honestly, now that I’m 30 years later, now that I run a business, in my case, 3,200 people in multiple facilities, previously 4,500 people all over the globe, honestly, the stuff that’s really important all day long is organizational behaviour, human resources and people and leadership stuff.

And so I realized you can hire smart people and you can realize you can buy computers and other stuff to design or calculate and so forth. The most difficult thing to do is to teach people how to be a leader. And we spend a lot of time in our business differentiating between management and leadership, and they are two very, very different things.

I’m a bit of a junkie for quotes and so forth, and I love this one from, from Michael Porter at Harvard, and so when you think, when he thinks about and talks about the global environment, he says, and it’s so true in my business cause all I do is assemble a bunch of parts, like 30,000 parts, and at the end of the day, you’ve got a bus. But so does my competitor. There’s not much really different. He says that people are the only real source of true competitive advantage.

And you know, when you look back at, at where people work and the way we respond and how we interact with our customers, at the end of the day, I’m building a bus, no different than any of my competitors. It really is about the people. And so, I really think that’s an important thing that universities should think about and that the difference between your school and somebody else’s school really has to do with the quality of the people that are teaching, managing, leading and, and educating our youngsters.

Text on screen: [Information/Renseignements ; bilingual logo of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada]

Media release - June 13, 2014

The new Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships will help develop the next generation of innovative leaders and community builders, both locally and globally, say Canada’s universities and community foundations.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) are proud to partner with the Government of Canada and the Rideau Hall Foundationin the program, which was announced today by Prime Minister Stephen Harper,following a meeting at Rideau Hall with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, former Prime Minister of Canada.The initiative will provideup to $40-million in scholarships in its first five years.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former Primer Minister Jean Chrétien and Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall.

Photo credit: Rideau Hall (2014)

“The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships offer young people in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth an outstanding opportunity to gain research-based global experiences that will benefit them throughout their careers,” says Paul Davidson, president of AUCC.  “I salute the efforts of the Government of Canada, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and our universities in making this ambitious new scholarship program a reality.”

“Canada’s community foundation network is proud to be part of this collaborative effort, which involves so many partners and contributors. We look forward to working with them, and others, to engage a dynamic new network of young people across Canada and the Commonwealth,” said Ian Bird, President of Community Foundations of Canada and Executive Director of the Rideau Hall Foundation.

As the technical leader of the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program, AUCC will draw upon its wealth of experience in working with partners that support postsecondary education through scholarships and bursaries.  It will use existing networks in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth to raise the profile of the program and communicate its value and engage with universities and community partners to enhance the program and report on its results.

CFC will use its philanthropic expertise to steward, invest and disburse the funding to participating universities across Canada. A special purpose charitable trust will be created to hold the funding and will be governed by an independent committee.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

CFC is the network for Canada’s 191 community foundations, which play a crucial role in how people give back where communities need it most. They manage $3.8 billion in assets and invested more than $158 million in Canadian communities last year alone.


For more information:

Helen Murphy
Assistant Director of Communications
613-563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613-608-8749

David Venn
Communications Manager
613-236-2664 ext. 302 or cell: 613-266-6917

( Total - 231 )