Canadian Studies Bureau
We originally established a Canadian Studies Bureau (CSB) in 1972 to “encourage college personnel to develop Canadian content and teaching materials for college courses, and to help disseminate such materials.” With a focus on nation-building, we supported colleges and institutes in carving out a distinct Canadian identity in educational materials, particularly as colleges were adapting to an increasingly globalized world. In 1979, the federal government announced funding of $325 000 annually over three years through the Secretary of State for our Canadian Studies Bureau. In the 1979-1980 fiscal year, the Canadian Studies Office administered 23 different grants amongst 15 different institutions, and that substantially increased in the following year. However, as the Canadian labour force expanded and diversified, and as colleges and institutes began to prioritize applied research and technological innovation, the priorities of the Canadian Studies Bureau shifted to our exchange programs and publications. We rebranded as the National Services Bureau in the 1987-1988 fiscal year to emphasize our focus on increasing our advocacy to the federal government and to demonstrate how colleges provide unique and critical solutions to many issues on the national agenda. The Canadian Studies Bureau was eventually rebranded as our mandate evolved, with some initiatives being absorbed into our current Government and Stakeholder Partnerships division.
Internships and Experiential Learning Supports
We have always strongly believed in promoting the immense value of Canada’s diverse post-secondary education system. Our former Canadian Studies Bureau administered our earliest student and faculty exchanges, including interprovincial, interlinguistic exchange programs between students at different Canadian colleges, as well as college exchanges between Canada, the US, and the UK. By 1982, over 2000 college students, in addition to faculty, participated in and experienced the work of colleges in different provinces. We received funding for this program from the Secretary of State for 10 years. We continued inter-institutional exchanges throughout the years, including the 2006 Pan-Canadian Student Mobility Program for Canadian Colleges and Institutes, funded by Heritage Canada.
Colleges and institutes are renowned for offering extensive opportunities for applied and experiential learning to their learners. Through the 1996 Student Connections program, which we managed for well over a decade in partnership with Industry Canada, HRDC, and the Association of Universities and Colleges (now Universities Canada), college students were hired to deliver computer, Internet, and e-business trainings to small and medium-sized enterprises. By its 10th anniversary, 200 000 students had participated.
Today, we continue to work with our member institutions and the federal government to support employers in delivering internship opportunities to students in growing sectors of the economy, such as tech and the environment. Our Career Launcher program, launched in 2017, supports employers in hiring students for internships in Clean Tech, Digital Tech, Natural Resources, and Sustainable Development Goals awareness. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for more flexible learning opportunities, we launched a brand-new program in 2021 to develop new ways to deliver hands-on experiences using the latest available technologies. In collaboration with Simulation Canada, The Virtu-WIL initiative helps provide new and innovative virtual ways for healthcare students in nursing, medical laboratory sciences, and paramedicine to acquire competencies and make valuable connections with employers. This is only one way in which we continue to support our members and their students for the future as the sector continues to grow and adapt.
Supporting immigration and a diverse workforce
Having always championed the role colleges and institutes play in responding to the human resource needs of industry and the federal government, we realized early on that immigration needed to be a part of that conversation. In 1984, we submitted a project proposal called “Making Canada Productive” to the Minister of Employment and Immigration, examining the role of colleges in supporting job creation and economic competitiveness. By the end of that decade, we began to look specifically at the role colleges and institutes can play to support immigrant integration into the labour market. As we advocated for better transferability of student credits within the Canadian college system, we also identified a similar need to make international credits and training transferable and recognizable.
As college and institute campuses became more diverse, it became clear that Canada’s economic growth and diversifying labour market depend first and foremost on skilled workers, regardless of where they come from. In 2005, we testified to this reality in our report, Valuing the Knowledge, Skills and Experience of Canada’s Immigrants, which we delivered to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. The following fiscal year, in close partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and with funding from Human Resource and Social Development Canada, we launched the Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) in China, India, and the Philippines. Our objective was to improve the outcomes of skilled newcomers to Canada through pre-arrival services delivered in their countries of origin. The program was immediately successful and by March 2010, 7000 clients had received CIIP services. Due to the resounding success of the program, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism announced plans to expand CIIP from three to 25 countries. The program was also recognized by the IPAC Deloitte 2013 Public Sector Leadership Award and was extended again in 2015, ensuring that pre-arrival services for Francophone newcomers were strengthened and expanded.
With renewed funding of $18 million dollars over four years, CIIP was rebranded as Planning for Canada in 2018-2019 and it was made available worldwide through online services. Since 2007, we have provided services to 55 000 clients while also supporting economic expansion and job creation, as 81% of graduates found employment in Canada within 6 months.
We also remain strongly committed to the values of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), that continue to guide our efforts, both as an employer and a partner. In 2020, we signed on to the Government of Canada’s 50-30 challenge, committing to achieving 50% gender parity on our board and senior management team; as well as at least 30% representation of other underrepresented groups, including Indigenous people, racialized persons, people living with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ2+ community. Those goals were surpassed just seven months later with the nomination of new board members.
More recently, we launched ImpAct-EDI which is based on three main initiatives: a new National EDI Advisory Committee that provides guidance to the association, a CICan Centre of Excellence on EDI, and the creation of a new community of practice that will spearhead national cross-sector partnerships and will lead on mobilization and calls for action to create a movement of stakeholders working together to advance EDI.
Working with DND and Veterans Affairs Canada
We have always been committed to supporting members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and we have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the Department of National Defence providing training opportunities to service members through our colleges and institutes. In 1982, twenty colleges were approached by DND to determine the possibility of offering training in basic electronics to Canadian Armed Forces members, in order to prepare members for the new technological needs of the CAF and to mitigate high turnover rates within the Forces. By 1986, 42 institutions expressed interest in a training program.
In 2008, we signed another 3-year partnership for the Canadian Forces Colleges Opportunity Program (CFCOP) to accredit colleges and institutes to provide courses and programs to meet CAF training requirements and to address recruitment and retention issues. Enrollment in the program quadrupled by the next year and more than half of CICan’s member institutions were seeking accreditation. By 2013, fifty-nine member institutions participated in the CFCOP, and 124 programs were recognized by the Canadian Armed Forces.
In partnership with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), we also led a collaborative project with our member institutions to provide work experience training and job placement opportunities for college graduates as Veterans Services Agents and Case Managers. With the goal of meeting VAC’s projected staffing requirements, this program aims to ensure that veterans and their families receive supports and services without delay.
Working towards meaningful social impact
Throughout our history, our programs have always meant to deliver a positive social impact. Whether by supporting students, or empowering our members to better serve diverse communities, including underrepresented groups it has been a cornerstone of our activities.
That commitment has only become clearer with time as new programs were launched recognizing the varied pathways and different sources of knowledge available to students. We realize the importance of tailoring training opportunities and support services that meet the needs of learners of all ages, abilities, racial background, and locations. That was the inspiration behind our Essential Skills Social finance program which wrapped up in 2018. That innovative program, the first of its kind to leverage the potential of social finance helped test new models of delivery of essential skills training, including literacy and numeracy, to underemployed Canadians looking to enter the workforce.
More recent programs, like our Skills Compass and Unlocking Inclusive Pre-Apprenticeship Pathway, were designed specifically to support underrepresented and disadvantaged groups, including Indigenous learners and new immigrants to Canada. Guided and inspired in large part by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, we have the potential to help many people with these initiatives. Expect this type of program to continue as we look ahead to a fairer and more inclusive future for all!