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Watching Extended Education's University Continuing Education Webinars.

Working together to educate and train tomorrow’s professionals

Conversation continues June 11 and 18 with the next webinars in this series

May 19, 2021 — 

It’s going to take a great deal of collaboration to meet the education and training needs of tomorrow’s professionals. Universities, colleges, businesses and government will have to work together in order to define and meet those needs. And when they do, the key to offering them most effectively will be flexibility.

“Flexibility is the future,” said Cynthia Leach, senior director of economic thought leadership at RBC at Extended Education’s May 14 University Continuing Education Webinar, “After the COVID pandemic: The role of universities and colleges in building a stronger Canadian economy.” The Lifelong learning: Putting ideas into practice webinar series continues on June 11.

Lifelong learning is essential to the future success of the workforce. From academic and non-academic skill building, to recognizing prior learning, and offering and defining micro-credentials, there is still a lot to do.

At RBC, Leach says, she is passionate about post-secondary education because her company feels that a healthy labour market that can deal with disruption is good for Canadians and good for business. That’s why they researched a future skills report called Humans Wanted: How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption.

The report has triggered much discussion across Canada, says Michael Benarroch, UM President. “Through continuing education, we can be very quick to fill the skills gaps.”

Benarroch noted that the transformation of the working world was already underway when COVID hit and post-secondary institutions have been looking at the changes in the world and learning from them. “A big part of what we have to do is lifelong learning. Post- secondary education has to train for the workforce and train global citizens. We must ensure marginalized communities have opportunities and that requires different ways of thinking and learning. We must conduct funded research, not always leading to a patent or invention. Research can transform society.

“My generation worked 30 years in the same job. Now people change jobs every few years, so how do we train for that? We have to be nimble and resilient, and in contact with employers to really learn what they need.”

Fred Meier, president and CEO of Red River College, noted how work requirements are changing. “Employers and industry tell us they are seeking human skills like adaptability and problem solving, they need blended technical skills, and are looking for modular solutions.”

The learner is also changing, Meier said. “Traditionally, students at the early part of their lives were looking for intense learning to carry them through life. That model is changing. People need lifelong learning and upskilling in the workplace. We find our learners are going to need learning throughout their careers and they are clearly on our minds. To achieve the outstanding results grads are looking for, we have great post-secondary partnerships.”

Heather McRae, dean of the School of Continuing Education at MacEwan University, asked if learners really want their micro-credentials or short bits of learning to ladder into other credentials. “Laddering sounds good but is it really feasible? Do learners want it? And how do we get universal recognition for micro-credentials?”

Meier agreed that how to measure competencies can be a challenge.

Overall, the panel agreed that post-secondary institutions have to embrace flexibility and collaboration.

McRae says, “We have to collaborate better, including with students.”

Meier says, “We have to be adaptable.”

Benarroch says, “We should not fear change. We can do it. I would never have predicted the university could become ‘virtual’ in a few weeks. But here we are.”

Leach reminds us that although we don’t know how things will turn out post-pandemic, “We are going to have to up our game.”

The next webinar in the University Continuing Education Webinars series, “Deciphering the meaning of micro-credentials” is on June 11, followed on June 18 by “Recognition of alternative credentials”.

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