This op-ed was initially published in Diplomat Magazine on April 11, 2017
There has been much talk about closing borders and the uncertain future of our unquestionably globalized world; however, Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) has been busy working across borders with Kenya’s ministry of education to get our latest international program off the ground.
The Kenya Education for Employment Program (KEFEP) will help national post-secondary institutions across the East African nation develop new or enhanced competency-based programs in the agriculture and energy sectors in order to increase employment and economic development opportunities for local youth. In total, 1,200 Kenyan students are expected to graduate from KEFEP-supported programs over the next five years. They will be equipped with the skills they need, not only to build a meaningful life for themselves and their families, but also to support economic growth in their communities.
This is just one of many ongoing international projects involving Canadian colleges and institutes, whose expertise is in increasing demand around the world. They are also active in the Caribbean, South America, Asia and in several other African nations, where their successful approach to technical education and training is seen as a strong model for success. In total, our association has been involved in more than 800 such programs in more than 100 countries over the past 40 years, and that doesn’t include the countless other projects initiated by our members on an individual basis.
This includes partnerships with an increasing number of developed countries, which are turning to Canada as they seek to enhance their professional and technical education and training. Our approach to applied research is also of particular interest, as is the diverse Canadian offering of degrees and postgraduate certificates.
The Canadian college and institute system has earned a growing international reputation as one of the most relevant and high-quality professional and technical education systems in the world — a fact that is better known internationally than at home.
Several high-profile institutions have taken notice, including the Asian Development Bank, which recently concluded that Canada’s system was one of the two most relevant Professional and Technical Education and Training systems (sometimes known as TVET) for emerging Asian countries. As a result, CICan was selected to implement activities needed to strengthen the Indonesian network of post-secondary schools.
The success of Canadian colleges and institutes can be attributed in large part to a hands-on and collaborative approach to teaching, which seeks input from employers and key partners within their own communities. Thanks to advisory committees, comprised of local employers who align program requirements to their employment opportunities, colleges operate on the leading edge of skills identification, economic trends and market shifts.
This approach is appealing to educators in many countries where emerging markets or industries are generating demand for an increasingly qualified workforce with sector-specific skills and expertise. In that context, exploring post-secondary education and training models with a proven track record is often the quickest way to implement real change and generate rapid progress. By adopting a truly bilateral approach, Canadian colleges and institutes also ensure that whatever expertise is transferred, the new curriculums will be adapted to the reality on the ground and the needs of institutional partners, students and local employers.
Canadian colleges and institutes also provides support to a variety of international projects, including pre-arrival services for immigrants to Canada through Planning for Canada, an initiative delivered by the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program and the Organization for Migration’s Canadian Orientation Abroad program. The initiative provides in-person and online orientation services to economic immigrants prior to their arrival in Canada. It also helps in accessing language classes and other training and education programs, credential recognition, as well as job market information in their respective fields.
Our members also contribute to greater exchanges between countries by hosting more than 50,000 international students every year on campuses across the country. Since they offer a huge range of specialized credentials, including degrees and postgraduate certificates, they attract many international students with a prior degree looking for a more hands-on learning experience or to perfect their professional skills. In fact, more than 20 per cent of students at colleges and institutes have attended university.
The increasing popularity of Canada’s colleges and institutes with international students, as well as their ongoing collaboration with institutions around the world, places them in an enviable position as true global leaders in post-secondary education. As Canada continues to work hand in hand with international partners in a tumultuous global climate, the success of these collaborations is one of our best arguments for greater global engagement and dialogue.
Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada