April 17, 2024

ImpAct-Climate Challenge: Inspiring Action, Sparking Change

The latest edition of the ImpAct-Climate Challenge has come to a close and students, staff, and faculty across 55 CICan member colleges and institutes now have a deeper understanding of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the actionable steps we can all take towards combating climate change.

Over six weeks, participants explored themes related to GHGs like energy, food, transportation, waste, and Indigenous stewardship and took on a new challenge—from increasing plant-based meals to eliminating single-use plastics—to lead transformative change. 

An overwhelming 82% of participants reported learning something new through the weekly educational content. More impressively, 90% felt inspired to incorporate these learnings into their daily routines, committing to sustainable practices that reduce their environmental footprint on campus in their personal lives. 

Recognizing Excellence in Sustainability 

Several institutions stood out for their exceptional engagement and efforts to mobilize their communities toward sustainability. To celebrate those with the highest levels of participation, we awarded bursaries to support their continued dedication to climate action. These bursaries are intended to honour students on their campuses who have shown outstanding leadership in sustainability initiatives, further empowering them to lead change. 

Gold Winners – Each receiving a $3,000 bursary

  • Large Institution: Bow Valley College 
  • Medium-Large Institution: Confederation College 
  • Medium-Small Institution: Cégep de Jonquiere 
  • Small Institution: Collège d’Alma 

Silver Winners – Each receiving a $1,500 bursary

  • Large Institution: Algonquin College 
  • Medium-Large Institution: Loyalist College 
  • Medium-Small Institution: Collège Lionel-Groulx 
  • Small Institution: Collège Mathieu 

In addition to the bursary, these institutions will each receive a trophy created out of 100% recycled plastics designed by talented students at Cégep de Vieux-Montréal’s Atelier Écodesign. 

Enhanced Learning and Participation 

This edition also introduced enhancements to integrate the challenge into coursework more efficiently. We provided instructors with resources to incorporate the challenge themes into their teaching and improved the way they could track student participation. These adjustments made it easier for the entire college and institute community to engage deeply with the challenge, amplifying our collective impact. 

The Path Forward 

The impact of this year’s challenge underscores the vital role knowledge and action play in creating a sustainable future. Let’s carry this momentum forward. Together, the college and institute network can make a lasting difference for our planet and future generations. 

March 8, 2024

By the Numbers: Exploring Women’s Presence in Canadian Colleges and Institutes

Canada has undoubtedly made significant strides in advancing gender equality, yet the journey towards full parity remains ongoing. Access to and representation in post-secondary education is critical here. Alongside global efforts to empower girls and women, Canadian colleges and institutes are at the forefront of cultivating inclusive learning environments, encouraging women’s entrepreneurship and supporting women in Canada in non-traditional fields.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, let’s explore some data to understand our progress and inspire the work yet to be done!

Celebrating a Decades-Long Trend in Female Enrolment and Graduation Rates

In the early 1990s, a significant shift occurred in Canada as women started earning more degrees than men. Since then, female graduation rates in Canadian colleges and institutes have consistently remained above or around half, marking a lasting and positive trend (Statistics Canada, 2022). The most recent data from 2021/22 reveals women represent 55% of college and institute enrolment and nearly 60% of graduates across various disciplines.

So, we achieved total equality? Not quite.

Despite this trend, men continue to dominate the high-paying, sought-after STEM fields, such as mathematics, computer and information sciences, engineering, and related technologies. And, while 34% of Canadians with a STEM degree are women, they only constitute 23% of Canadians working in science and technology roles (Statistics Canada, 2019). This persistent gender gap underscores the need for targeted interventions that bolster women’s participation and success in these critical areas of study and employment.

Empowering Women on Campus

Colleges and institutes have launched various initiatives to address current statistics and advance women’s empowerment on multiple fronts. For example:

  • Saskatchewan PolytechnicNorthern Alberta Institute of TechnologyBritish Columbia Institute of Technology, Nova Scotia Community CollegeMohawk College, George Brown College and many others, champion programs to enhance female representation in trades and technology vocations. These initiatives provide women with the requisite training and backing to thrive in traditionally male-dominated sectors. 
  • Seneca College, in partnership with College of the Rockies and NorQuest College, offers a Herizons program that breaks down gender barriers to empower women in their careers by providing women-focused support, mentorship, and networking opportunities to empower women in various aspects of their professional lives.
  • Sheridan College, St. Clair College, Fanshawe College and Durham College have come together to spearhead initiatives focused on elevating awareness and providing opportunities for women to explore career education, networking, and apprenticeships within the Red Seal skilled trades.   
  • Dawson College has several awards and scholarships to recognize its female students’ outstanding achievements and contributions.   
  • Collège Boréal has created a training program entitled Mining Potential to promote the presence of young people, women and newcomers to Canada in the mining sector.
  • Bow Valley College’s Centre for Entertainment Arts proudly displays a Wonder Woman statue, acknowledging that more women than men are enrolled in the college’s game development program, and that a statue representing female empowerment, fierceness and determination served as a fitting tribute.
  • Cambrian College’s Women’s Resource Centre offers its students various services, including seminars and workshops that examine women’s safety, health and wellness, financial and legal issues, substance abuse, and sexuality.

Initiating Change from the Top Down 

Beyond enrolment rates, women are increasingly assuming leadership roles within Canadian colleges and institutes, driving innovation, fostering inclusivity, and shaping the future of higher education. Approximately 40% of CICan’s member presidents are women. Yet, the question arises: how can we surpass the 50% mark?   

Initiatives like CICan’s 50 – 30 Challenge Project are making notable headway. Through our two Knowledge Mobilization and Dissemination Centres and five regional hubs, we provide comprehensive resources and tools to empower participants throughout their equity, diversity, and inclusion journeys. At CICan, initiatives like this have contributed to a management team of 68% women, and two consecutive female CEOs, underscoring our steadfast commitment to gender diversity and equitable representation across all decision-making levels.

Thinking Beyond Enrolment Rates

While we celebrate the progress achieved in post-secondary education, it’s imperative to recognize that our journey towards true gender equality is far from complete. Merely focusing on enrolment rates does not provide the full picture. We must also consider attainment rates and dive deeper into the nuanced challenges women face in fields where gender imbalances persist. By prioritizing empowerment, creating equal opportunities and challenging biases and stereotypes, we can shape a more inclusive future for everyone.

March 7, 2024

Commuting is Community

Did you know that cars and trucks are responsible for approximately 17% of global CO2 emissions? Transportation is an important part of our lives, yet it contributes substantially to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Vehicles powered by fossil fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, emit mostly carbon dioxide (98%) and small amounts of methane and nitrous oxide. Beyond GHGs, they release pollutants causing air, soil, and water contamination, leading to 7 million deaths a year from car-related air pollution.  

Changing the way we get around is an important part of embracing an eco-friendly future. 

Set your institution up for success!  

For colleges and institutes, transportation falls into the category of Scope 3 emissions. That means emissions that are not directly produced by an institution itself, but are instead emitted by activities it is indirectly responsible for – such as commuting to and from campus.  

Our new guide Commuting and Campuses: A Guide to Sustainable Transportation Solutions can help reduce Scope 3 emissions on your campus. The guide shares valuable lessons learned from across the sector, resources to start new initiatives, and ideas to inspire others to make a bigger impact. 

10 ways to use the guide: 

No matter where you are on your sustainable transportation journey, use this guide to encourage your staff and students to travel in more sustainable ways. 

  1. Organize a commuter survey. Commuter surveys are a method of gathering information about how students and staff are travelling to and from campus, their reasons for choosing certain modes of transportation, and typical travel times, and gauging levels of interest in shifting to more sustainable modes of transportation. 
  2. Optimize your transportation systems. Transportation Demand Management (TDM) is a strategic plan to make the most of your current set upsetupcouraging people to use more efficient modes of transportation. TDM plans can provide strategies for reducing the reliance on single-occupancy vehicles, and improve overall transportation efficiency. 
  3. Support bicycle purchasing. One way to encourage a shift in transportation on campuses is financial support for students and staff who would like to purchase a bicycle. This can be in the form of loans, grants, or subsidies. 
  4. Start a bike share program. Bike share programs are a great way to make bicycles available for shared use to students and staff on a short-term, as-needed basis. 
  5. Invest parking revenues in sustainable transportation incentives. Allocating revenue from things like parking fees can increase available funding for sustainable transportation initiatives. 
  6. Open end-of-trip facilities and protected bicycle parking. End-of-trip facilities are amenities provided at the destination point of a cycling trip. They make commuting by bicycle more attractive, convenient, and comfortable by addressing common challenges and concerns cyclists face.  
  7. Connect to active transportation infrastructure. Connecting or creating active transportation corridors that connect to your campus can help more students and staff use active modes of transportation. 
  8. Minimize trips to and from campus. Providing services on campus or situating the campus in a central location, providing student housing, and offering flexible work and study arrangements can help reduce motor vehicle congestion to and from campus. 
  9. Strengthen relations with government. Building a strong working relationship with decision-makers in your local government means having a government partner who knows your transportation needs and goals. They could also help you discover potential funding sources to support initiatives and help your ideas become reality. 
  10. Celebrate and create awareness. Creating a fun, supportive, and informed culture around sustainable transportation can encourage more students and staff to get out of their vehicles and try out other modes of transportation.  

The guide was developed as part of the ImpAct-Climate program, funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada. 

March 4-8 is SDG Week Canada. 

SDG Week Canada is a national collaboration to increase awareness and encourage progress towards to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on college, institute, and university campuses.  

  • In that context, use this guide to advance your institutions commitment to SDG 13 Climate Action!  

SDG Week Canada is organized by the Sustainability Hub at UBC, SDSN Canada hosted by the University of Waterloo, and Colleges and Institutes Canada. 

Your institution can take part by organizing a panel, workshop, or other events on campus. Each event helps create a supportive national environment in which post-secondary institutions work together and across disciplines to advance the SDGs, to better integrate the guiding values of the SDGs across programming, and to build long-term momentum for SDG action across the sector.  

November 16, 2023

Building for Tomorrow: A Diverse and Dynamic Future in Trades

First published in November 2023, and authored by Dina McNeil, Director of Projects and Programs, Colleges and Institutes Canada 

Canada’s rich diversity is unmistakable. Yet, as the country faces an urgent need for more tradespeople, there’s a noticeable lack of representation in the skilled trades. Career opportunities in construction and manufacturing—rewarding occupations with good pay—exist across the country. Colleges and institutes are playing a pivotal role in addressing this shortage and reshaping the landscape by creating programs and partnering with industries to pave the way for a more inclusive future in the trades.  

Central to this endeavor is our commitment to outreach events aimed at making the trades an inviting space for everyone. Our Explore Trades and Technology program is a testament to this, where colleges and industry leaders provide high school students with a comprehensive view of the trades, challenging traditional stereotypes. These hands-on events inspire the next generation to see the skilled trades as more than just jobs, but ambitious and fulfilling career choices, accessible to all. 

We’ve made remarkable progress in creating opportunities for women in the trades over recent years. Initiatives like Conestoga College’s Engineering, Technology, and Trades for Women convey to women that the trades are not only open but welcoming. Dynamic recruitment campaigns further this narrative, depicting a career in the trades as compelling and rewarding—a message that is finding resonance with an increasing number of female learners.  

Knowing that recruiting a diverse pool of workers is just the beginning, we emphasize the importance of supporting these learners, ensuring their sustained success in the trades. Saskatchewan Polytech’s Women in Trades and Technology initiative embodies this approach, positioning mentorship at its core. By connecting students with experienced professionals, we’re fostering an environment where guidance, support, and a sense of belonging are paramount. 

Pre-apprenticeship programs tailored for underrepresented groups is another way we’re supporting a more diverse skilled trades sector. For instance, Lethbridge College’s Pathways to the Trades program prepares newcomers for the Alberta Apprenticeship entry exam while enhancing their integration into Canadian workplace culture. Participants discover a range of trades and visit job sites, build job search strategies and professional networks, and improve their trade-specific English language skills. 

Programs like these serve as catalysts for change in the trades. By providing these opportunities, there’s a cyclical impact: the more women, newcomers, Indigenous people, visible minorities, and 2SLGBTQI+ people we usher into the trades, the more it’s seen as a suitable sector for them.  

We’re also helping the construction and manufacturing sectors create positive and inclusive work environments through our new ApprenticeConnect platform. Developed in partnership with seven colleges and institutes across Canada, this platform provides tailored tools and resources such as inclusive hiring strategies, tips on fostering a supportive workplace culture, and access to diversity and inclusion training. Our aim is to ensure these businesses have the necessary tools to not only recruit but also retain and elevate a diverse workforce.  

Having equipped businesses with the tools to foster inclusivity, it’s equally essential to provide tangible incentives that drive diverse hiring decisions. Our Career Launcher Apprenticeships program, funded by the Government of Canada, rewards employers who champion diversity in their hiring practices. Employers double their incentive, from $5,000 to $10,000, when they hire a new apprentice from an underrepresented group. Impressively, more than half of new apprentices hired through the program belong to one of these groups, highlighting its tangible impact.  

At colleges and institutes, we’re not just educators; we’re change-makers. Every new program we create, recruitment drive we conduct, student we enrol, and mentorship initiative we introduce edges us closer to our vision: a trades sector mirroring Canada’s diverse population. But there’s still a lot of work to be done and achieving this vision requires collective action. We urge businesses, educators, policymakers, and the general public to join us in this transformative journey. Support these initiatives, invest in the future of trades, and together, let’s build a more inclusive and prosperous future. 

November 13, 2023

The Urgent Need for Investment in On-Campus Mental Health Services for a Resilient Canada (SDG 3)

Life on campus can be a thrilling and transformative experience for learners. But it can also be a time of intense stress and pressure. The demands of coursework, social expectations and the challenges of newfound independence for youth can take a significant toll on a learner’s mental health. These challenges are even more pronounced for older learners as they juggle existing careers and family responsibilities. 

In recent years, stress related to factors such as climate change, the pandemic, and digital culture have intensified mental health conditions and placed them at the forefront of the wellness conversation. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reports that young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group (CAMH, 2023). We also know that every 1 in 2 students accesses mental health services through their post-secondary institution, but students cite wait times as the biggest barrier to accessing these supports (CASA, 2022) 

In an ever-evolving world, the well-being of Canada’s future leaders – its learners – is vital. This is underscored in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, ‘Good Health and Well-Being,’ which accentuates the role of well-being in shaping our collective future. 

Our Commitment: 

Recognizing its vital importance, colleges and institutes are eager to enhance their efforts in fostering a safe and supportive environment for students facing mental health challenges. For instance: 

  • North West College announced it will provide comprehensive tutoring and mental health services for students, thanks to a funding boost from Cenovus Energy. 
  • Holland College recently celebrated the launch of the Thrive campaign to support the establishment of a visible and accessible centre for student wellness, resilience, and success today. 
  • Red River College ‘Healthy Minds, Healthy College’ program is at the centre of their college-wide mental health strategy, delivering essential resources for stress management, counselling services, and mental health workshops to support their students’ well-being. 
  • Kenjgewin Teg has introduced a new program that equips learners with a diverse range of foundational skills, while supporting their emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental health. 
  • Georgian College has a robust mental health and wellness strategic plan that includes counselling services, workshops, and events to promote mental well-being.  
  • Cégep de Saint-Laurent has implemented a mental health strategy encompassing counselling services, workshops, and awareness campaigns, along with a ‘Psychosocial Support’ program to aid students in managing their mental well-being.

Colleges and institutes have also been advocating for on-campus mental health services and a stepped-care model that ensures students receive the right support at the right time. We want to see a holistic approach, combining counselling with various mental health supports, connecting students with their communities, integrating cultural practices, and supporting research. Furthermore, our involvement in initiatives like the National Standard for Mental Health and Well-Being underscores our commitment to creating safe and supportive learning environments.

The Need for Urgent Action: 

While colleges and institutes are dedicated to supporting their students, addressing the severity of mental health challenges requires government commitment and coordinated efforts with adequate resources. 

The Liberal Party of Canada’s 2021 platform commitment to invest $500 million over four years for on-campus mental health counsellors is a significant step in the right direction. However, we are eagerly awaiting action. 

Our Call to Action: 

CICan and its members are urging the Government of Canada to fulfil its commitments as soon as possible, recognizing that Canada’s success hinges on our learners’ ability to receive the personalized mental-health support they need. It’s important we act now to ensure the strength and resilience of our learners can propel Canada forward. You can learn more about our recommendations in Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance – Pre-budget Consultations in Advance of Budget 2024.