The Business of Education: A Local and Global Enterprise
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The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 21 May 1998, p. 25-37


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Quinlan, Stephen, Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
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Why the president of a community college is addressing a business audience; why a college president was on the recent Team Canada mission to South America. Signing contracts with influence business people. Some of the experiences during the Ontario trade mission in April 1997. How important education is to South American business interests and to future trade relations. The many and varied relationships between Ontario's 25 Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology, or Community Colleges, and the people in the room. The strong presence in the lives and communities of Ontarians, of these colleges. An illustration of the reach and presence of these institutions, with some additional facts. A lack of appreciation among senior executives, of the business mandate the colleges were created to fulfill. Ways in which the colleges have revolutionised education and training in Ontario. Reference to this month's budget announcement. The doubling of the Seneca's summer enrolment. Education as an investment, not a cost. How little colleges depend on taxpayer support, with illustration. A few examples to show how Seneca's training expertise is valued and sought after at home and abroad. Colleges in the business of international training. Business training, but not in a vacuum, and how that is so. A look at the fastest-growing occupations in Ontario. The secret to Seneca's success with industry. The speaker's belief that we don't need more private training institutions, as suggested by the Metropolitan Board of Trade, and why he believes that. Business and students demanding more of the colleges today. Judging publicly funded institutions on outcomes. Colleges welcoming more accountability. Shrinking resources and implications thereof. Some predictions with regard to post-secondary institutions. Seneca College's association with York University. Contemplating a future of more strategic alliances and relationships. Putting education front and centre on the business agenda. How to institutionalise shared responsibility and force it to happen. Some suggestions. Competing for the international arena. Seneca, in the business of developing global careers.
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21 May 1998
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English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
Stephen Quinlan, President, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology
THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION:--A LOCAL AND GLOBAL ENTERPRISE
Chairman: George L. Cooke
President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Douglas Todgham, Vice-President, The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Rev. Dr. John Niles, Minister, Victoria Park United Church; Hazel Ann-Marie Williams, OAC Student, Haydon Park Secondary School; Gail Regan, President, Cara Holdings Limited; Marilynn Booth, Dean, Continuing Education Division, Ryerson Polytechnic University; Harry Seymour, Executive Vice-President, GBC Asset Management Inc. and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; John Farrell, Chairman, Ontario Council of Regents; The Hon. Dave Johnson, Minister, Education and Training; Doug Walker, President, Silicon Graphics; Veronica Lacey, Deputy Minister, Education and Training; Milenko Skoknic, Consul General, Trade Commission of Chile; John Honderich, Publisher, The Toronto Star; Courtney Pratt, Chairman, Noranda Inc.; and Edward Badovinac, Professor, Electronics Department, Telecommunications, George Brown College and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.

Introduction by George L. Cooke

An employer, interviewing an applicant, remarked: "You ask high wages for a man with no experience."

"Well," the prospect replied, "it's so much harder work when you don't know anything about it."

A highly skilled, educated, motivated work force is something we can likely all agree is very important. As our economy continues to expand aggressively and hundreds of thousands of new jobs are created, there is arguably no better time for post-secondary Institutions and business to work together. Not to take anything from government, we need focus, facilitation and dollars in classrooms, but not much more. It should be clear to those outside government that opportunities exist and what we need is a framework in which to recognise those opportunities.

I'm old enough to remember the original thrust for the establishment of community colleges. If that startles you, I am also young enough to have just experienced my son recognising the obvious advantages of junior kindergarten. Our education system is complex with many important parts, pressures and opportunities and, although we have all experienced some part of it, it is still relatively immature and very much in need of focus.

Stephen Quinlan is President of Seneca College, Canada's largest community college, serving a student population of some 100,000 full- and part-time students. Having joined Seneca College in its formative days, helping to shape the direction of vocational education in the community college system, Mr. Quinlan was appointed President in 1992. Previously he held several deanships in various faculties of the college as well as vice-president and senior vice-president roles. During Mr. Quinlan's tenure, Seneca College has developed a strong international presence providing educational opportunities and contract training to governments, international companies and to students from countries around the world.

Seneca's recent international activities span joint-venture agreements in the Pacific Rim, Mexico and South America including Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

As a result of Mr. Quinlan's initiatives, Seneca has linked several Canadian corporations to global opportunities. He is actively working on behalf of the Ontario government to expand Ontario's International trade potential with his recent appointment to the Ontario National Trade Corporation Task Force on Export Marketing.

Mr. Quinlan also recently participated in the federal government's Team Canada trade mission to Asia and Latin America led by Prime Minister Chretien. He has worked extensively for the United Way of Metropolitan Toronto and York Region.

Mr. Quinlan will outline today what it will take to secure a highly skilled, educated, motivated work force.

Mr. Quinlan, with our sincere thanks for your being here, the microphone is yours.

Stephen Quinlan

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends, and thank you for this opportunity to address the members of the Empire Club. I believe I am the first college president in Ontario to have this honour. I certainly hope I won't be the last.

I am delighted to be joined at the head table by so many distinguished friends and business partners of the colleges. These are people with whom we have built strong and rewarding working relationships, people who know a lot about what the colleges are doing. These people, like many of you, are the type of people who will help the colleges respond to the challenges inherent in this month's provincial budget announcement.

But there may be some of you out there who are wondering why the president of a community college is standing here addressing a business audience. Some delegates on the recent Team Canada mission to South America also wondered what a college president was doing there. As Milenko Skoknic, the Consul General, Trade Commission of Chile, can confirm, I was doing business-and probably signing more contracts with influential Chilean business people than many of the industry representatives on the mission.

On the first day of the Ontario trade mission in April '97, Bill Saunderson, MPP and delegation leader, then Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade and Tourism, asked me what the fit was between education and trade promotion. Towards the end of the trip, when Seneca's breakfast sessions outdrew the number of business people attending some of MEDTT's own events, it became pretty clear just how important education is to South American business interests and to future trade relations. We take Ontario's educational system for granted. In many trading nations there is no parallel, and we all know you can't conduct business without a trained and highly skilled work force.

There probably isn't a person in this room who hasn't had some connection with one of the 25 Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology, or Community Colleges as our institutions are better known. Perhaps you are a graduate of one yourself, or possibly you have a son or daughter in one of our programmes. Perhaps some adult family member is taking a course at one of the 200 college campuses across the province. Or you are in a business that relies on our customised training programmes to keep your work force current and ahead of the technology curve.

The colleges have a strong presence in the lives and communities of Ontarians. A recent independent survey found that 43 per cent of Ontario's population had either used, or had a family member who attended an Ontario College of Applied Arts and Technology. To illustrate the reach and presence of our institutions, just consider these additional facts:

Every year, one million Ontarians come into contact with a college through some form of training programme or continuing education course.

Since 1967, the colleges have graduated a half million highly employable people who enter the work force and start making an immediate contribution. There are some 10,000 business people and community members who volunteer their time and talents to the programme advisory committees that assist the colleges in developing their courses.

• And let's not forget that the colleges' paid staff of 14,000 faculty, support staff and administrators makes them one of this province's largest employers.

Altogether, that adds up to a lot of people, and a lot of ways that Ontario's community colleges touch their lives and careers.

However, while everyone knows the colleges or has some connection with them, it is my experience that very few senior executives really appreciate the business mandate the colleges were created to fulfill. You probably don't know that Ontario's colleges are the youngest school system in the province. They've been around for a mere 30 years, having emerged during the spirit of education reform that swept through Ontario in the late 1960s when Bill Davis was the education minister. Mr. Davis was a visionary who recognised an important gap in our postsecondary education system--a gap that he filled with a unique set of post-secondary institutions that combined education policy with business savvy. The result was a set of post-secondary institutions whose mandate then, as now, is to prepare people, young and old, to enter or re-enter the work force.

It's no exaggeration to say that, in their brief history, the colleges have revolutionised education and training in this province. As the youngest members of the educational establishment, we have shown some upstart tendencies. We are progressive in concept and in delivery. And in the fine Canadian tradition of Wayne Gretzky, who always heads where the puck is going, the colleges always aim for where the jobs are, where business is heading, where the market is moving.

Earlier I referenced this month's budget announcement. I am pleased to announce that even though the budget announcement called for increases in information technology enrolment in September 1998, at Seneca we have almost doubled our summer enrolment this year from 550 to 950 students. We know where the market is going, where the jobs are and where business is heading.

Education is an investment, not a cost. In the case of the colleges, we offer an exceptionally good return on investment because we're producing graduates who find work, become contributing members of society and start paying taxes immediately. It also costs far less to educate a college student than a student in either the elementary/secondary system or in university. A college education costs 30 per cent less than a university education, and our students graduate with a better than 75-per-cent chance of finding a job. That represents both excellent value and a high return on investment.

You'd be surprised how little colleges depend on taxpayer support. Only 50 per cent of the colleges' operating revenues come from provincial transfers and grants. The rest of our revenue is self-generated. And we do a good job of providing value to our investors, stakeholders, and clients because colleges know business, and the business of our clients. In fact, we are the pre-eminent source of business and industrial training for employers in this province. Together, we represent the largest training system in Canada and one of the largest in North America.

Our training expertise is valued and sought after at home and abroad. Let me give you a few examples from Seneca's recent experience:

In the past two years, Seneca has played host to over 300 Chinese business executives who have come here specifically to study Canadian business practices and search for potential Canadian business partners.

Seneca, in conjunction with our partner 'INACAP,' has established an English language institute in Chile for Chilean business people interested in doing business in Canada. A reciprocal programme--a Spanish language and culture institute--is being established at Seneca for Canadians seeking to do business in South America.

We are also working with a major international airline to finalise an agreement to provide training to their pilots and other employees--a deal that could be worth millions of dollars a year to Ontario. Our goal is to be the international trainer of choice for the airline industry... and we will be.

Colleges are in the business of international training, and Seneca is at the forefront of this globalisation with a wholly owned subsidiary company--Seneca College International. We have entered into joint-venture agreements in China, the Pacific Rim, Mexico and South America. Indeed, this year we will do close to $10 million worth of business in our international activities, with close to 75 full-time employees owing their jobs to the services we provide to international clientele.

We also have a strong international presence in the student recruitment market, attracting more than 1,000 students annually from over 60 countries. These international students also benefit local communities and the local economy, where the multiplier effect has been estimated to be eight times the value of the annual tuition paid. Equally important, these students are the gateway for many Canadians wishing to do business in their country. They are also the people who, upon graduation, are taking Ontario-born-and-raised students home to work with them in their native countries.

The colleges understand that business training can't happen in a vacuum. We have our finger on the pulse of the labour market. We understand what skills employers are looking for and develop programmes to fill those needs. If you look at the fastest-growing occupations in Ontario--a list that includes technical sales, technical writers, systems analysts, computer programmers, software developers, web masters and financial managers--we provide training in all of those areas.

The secret to Seneca's success with industry is our ability to operate as a client service business: flexible, responsive training provided anywhere, any way, any time. That's why we are a joint venture partner for industry leaders like Apotex, Silicon Graphics, CIBC and Ford Electronics--to name just a few.

You hear a lot of talk these days about skills shortages in critical areas like information technology. You hear about software giants in the U.S. stealing Canadian talent to fill their programming ranks and offering exorbitant signing bonuses for people with advanced technology skills. You also hear about companies in the Ottawa Valley and in Toronto trying to lure qualified technical people from abroad to fill those jobs that are in high demand. But, you know, the truth is we don't need to import skilled trades from abroad. We have the people and the skills training to meet the needs of industry right here in Ontario. And, we have a successful model for delivering high-quality training in this province. So why aren't we using it more, or at least using it better?

At the risk of disagreeing with the Metropolitan Board of Trade, I also believe that there are enough publicly funded post-secondary institutions doing a first-rate job in this province. We don't need more private training institutions, as the board has suggested. We need to make better use of the public ones we already have. To do so, the business community has to take a more active role than it has in the past in working with its post-secondary educational institutions--and I will say more about that in a moment.

We shouldn't have to create new training models or rely on private training institutions that charge high fees but deliver no better or different training than what is now available in the colleges. We shouldn't have to ship our students abroad to receive the specialised skills training required for today's high-tech jobs that go begging. Nor should we have to import qualified talent from offshore or south of the border to fill sophisticated technical positions. If high-tech companies in Ottawa and Toronto are clamouring for 2,000 technology graduates, then the colleges can and will supply them. The problem has been there's a disconnection between business and education in Ontario. We both need to do a better job of talking to one another. If a company needs a programme with specific requirements and provides a guarantee to hire our graduates, we'll design a programme or a semester of training to meet those needs--and we will guarantee our graduates.

Both businesses and students are demanding more of the colleges today. The marketplace is setting rigorous quality standards, and colleges are rising to that challenge. As I mentioned earlier, employment outcomes of college graduates are high, but so is the level of student satisfaction. According to one recent independent survey, the colleges earn a student satisfaction rating of 87 per cent.

Of course, employment outcomes are the most compelling measure of satisfaction. And we score well in that area. Most college graduates find full-time employment in jobs related to their field of study. Today, over 70 per cent of technology grads are working full time in their field, while many other graduates are choosing to work part-time or are pursuing further education.

I believe that publicly funded institutions should be judged on outcomes--real and meaningful performance indicators such as graduate placement rates, employer satisfaction and graduate satisfaction. With more autonomy comes more accountability. The truth is colleges welcome more accountability.

Let me turn now to another area where change is both welcome and necessary. In business today, consolidation and convergence is the way of the world--whether we're talking about financial services, consumer goods or education. I believe that in the future we will not be able to have as many post-secondary institutions offering the same courses and programmes as we do today. There will be programme rationalisation and greater specialisation in the college system because the market will not bear the cost and the inefficiency of too many institutions offering the same services or programmes vying for the same dollars.

The resource pool is shrinking, demand is growing, and the competition is fierce. And that reminds me of the statement: "When the water hole starts to dry up, the animals look at one another differently." I don't foresee a future in post-secondary education where we have to be at each other's throats, one institution pitted against the next, but that is a fear that many members of the postsecondary community have. I see a future where, rather than trying to be comprehensive, our post-secondary institutions will become more selective, choosing their positions carefully and developing them rigorously. Trying to be all things to all people doesn't make good academic or economic sense. We will have to decide what to be good at and excel in those areas.

I predict we will also see a greater consolidation of college programmes, at least on a regional basis. The colleges in the GTA, for instance, cannot continue to duplicate the same array of programmes. They will have to concentrate instead on developing a more limited and targeted slate of learning experiences in specific fields. After all, sometimes you get more, or at least better, when you have less.

Today's post-secondary institutions need to work together to deliver education that is flexible and responsive to the needs of students, employers and communities. Many students today want both a degree and a diploma, but in Ontario they need to attend separate institutions, under separate programmes, to achieve that goal. Well, it doesn't have to be that way.

In January, Seneca joined forces with York University to create a programme that allows students to earn both an applied diploma and a Bachelor of Arts degree in just three years. Seneca@York, as we call our new campus, is a joint venture between two post-secondary institutions and industry. This advanced technology campus, slated to open in the summer of 1999, can provide more than 4,000 students with a unique and rewarding learning opportunity--one that combines the practical, technical strengths of the college with the theoretical underpinnings of the university and the up-to-date systems and expertise of industry.

Seneca@York, Ontario's most advanced technology campus, marks the eve of a new era in private-public partnerships in higher education. It will serve as a vital resource for business and industry, not just in the physical facilities it offers, but in the creation of a pool of highly skilled and employable graduates to assist Ontario and Canada to compete in a global economy. Learning, as you know, is the key to prosperity in the new century. There's never been a better time for post-secondary institutions and business to join forces for achieving what I believe is a common goal: a highly skilled, educated and motivated work force.

As we contemplate a future of more strategic alliances and relationships, a future where the student and his or her needs become the raison d'etre for all we do, a future where collegiality, partnerships and specialisation are more than modern buzzwords, I offer a few suggestions for business, government and educators that will help make student success possible and guarantee a prosperous economy. First and foremost, we must put education front and centre on the business agenda. Education is a shared responsibility, a responsibility shared between the public and private sectors.

The question is how do we institutionalise that shared responsibility and, in effect, force it to happen? As a start, I suggest that governing boards of colleges have strong and experienced business representation. We will not have shared responsibility without such representation. Taking this concept a step further, perhaps the allocation of limited public resources for education should also be a shared responsibility between public and private sectors. Governments sometimes can benefit from the experiences of business when it comes to driving change and achieving efficiency in operations. Perhaps a board composed of business people and educators, and given real clout to make decisions, might do a better job of allocating scarce public resources and improving institutional efficiencies.

Second, we have to provide incentives for investing in youth. After all, students and graduates can only contribute to society when they are given a chance--when they are given a real job. Several months ago, when The Toronto Star tackled the youth unemployment issue in a series of thoughtful features, John Honderich came up with the one-per-cent solution to encourage businesses to provide more training and job opportunities for young people.

Well, I have an additional suggestion. Why not create incentives for the development of people and employment opportunities through the tax system? Years ago, when governments were encouraging industry to expand or explore or increase capital investment, they offered businesses the opportunity for accelerated capital-cost allowances, frequently in excess of the actual expenditures. Surely today's young graduates are equally as important to today's society as fixed assets were a decade ago. Why not, then, allow an accelerated tax writeoff for the first year for every new graduate hired, or possibly even for every new job created? The graduate opportunity deduction. An accelerated write-off worked for industry. It will work for today's youth.

Finally, we have to unleash the full power and potential of the colleges to do business by international standards and meet global expectations. Recently, I was visiting the Canadian headquarters of one of the world's most successful international companies. The secret of its Canadian success, the CEO told me, was having been given the world mandate for manufacturing and marketing two of the company's best products.

What the colleges are asking for is that same world-training mandate. Don't we or couldn't we have that now? Not really. We're competing in the international arena, but we're fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. That's because we cannot achieve world recognition and status without the ability to issue applied degrees. Our diplomas have little meaning beyond our borders. They were fine in the sixties when we were created. But today, in the late nineties, as we approach the next millennium and as we think globally, to be world-class institutions our colleges need world-recognised degrees where the academic rigour is at least equal to that of a baccalaureate degree. Therefore, we say to government, "Give us the tools to compete globally and we will overwhelm you with our students' success and our economy's prosperity."

As we say at Seneca, "We're in the business of developing global careers." And that gives our students and the businesses that hire them a key competitive advantage in today's economy. This is what we're doing at Seneca, and I know I speak for all the colleges in Ontario when I say that we're all heading in the same direction. It's the right direction for students, for businesses, for communities and for our economy.

Thank you.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Edward Badovinac, Professor, Electronics Department, Telecommunications, George Brown College and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.

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The Business of Education: A Local and Global Enterprise


Why the president of a community college is addressing a business audience; why a college president was on the recent Team Canada mission to South America. Signing contracts with influence business people. Some of the experiences during the Ontario trade mission in April 1997. How important education is to South American business interests and to future trade relations. The many and varied relationships between Ontario's 25 Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology, or Community Colleges, and the people in the room. The strong presence in the lives and communities of Ontarians, of these colleges. An illustration of the reach and presence of these institutions, with some additional facts. A lack of appreciation among senior executives, of the business mandate the colleges were created to fulfill. Ways in which the colleges have revolutionised education and training in Ontario. Reference to this month's budget announcement. The doubling of the Seneca's summer enrolment. Education as an investment, not a cost. How little colleges depend on taxpayer support, with illustration. A few examples to show how Seneca's training expertise is valued and sought after at home and abroad. Colleges in the business of international training. Business training, but not in a vacuum, and how that is so. A look at the fastest-growing occupations in Ontario. The secret to Seneca's success with industry. The speaker's belief that we don't need more private training institutions, as suggested by the Metropolitan Board of Trade, and why he believes that. Business and students demanding more of the colleges today. Judging publicly funded institutions on outcomes. Colleges welcoming more accountability. Shrinking resources and implications thereof. Some predictions with regard to post-secondary institutions. Seneca College's association with York University. Contemplating a future of more strategic alliances and relationships. Putting education front and centre on the business agenda. How to institutionalise shared responsibility and force it to happen. Some suggestions. Competing for the international arena. Seneca, in the business of developing global careers.