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January 18, 2021

A light at the end of the tunnel

2020 is over and though 2021 has already shown us the tough times aren’t yet in the past, things are looking up. While public health and government officials remind us that we have a long way to go before definitively putting COVID-19 behind us, vaccine deployment across Canada and around the world is signalling the eventual end to shutdowns and limitations on activities, interaction, and movement.

While it’s tempting to talk about a “back to normal,” it’s clear that we need a new “normal”. We are facing the largest climate crisis of our generation; many Canadians are still un-and-underemployed; small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges; and women and Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) are still disproportionately affected by poverty, violence, and face greater barriers to success. Though many challenges remain, we have an optimistic vision for a more equitable and diverse 2021. Here are some key files we’ll be monitoring this year:

Pandemic recovery

No doubt the biggest item on the global agenda this year will be pandemic recovery, but what that actually means may be varied. In Canada, the government’s plan revolves around “Building Back Better,” or working towards a recovery that is inclusive, sustainable, and creates good jobs for Canadians. To read in 2021:

Gender equality and diversity

If 2020 challenged us to confront systems of inequality and the work we must do to expose implicit and unintentional biases, 2021 is the year to drive meaningful change toward universal, inclusive growth. To explore in 2021:

Mental health

Burnout, depression, and anxiety are still top of mind as the mental health ramifications of the pandemic lingers. More important than ever, January 28 is Bell Let’s Talk Day and encourages Canadians to break the stigma, spread the word, and start a conversation about mental health and illness in schools, communities, and workplaces. To participate in for 2021:


As the United States welcomes a new administration and the United Kingdom solidifies its separation from the European Union, there will be big implications for international trade, foreign policy, power, and diplomacy in 2021. And, as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to ebb, we expect the market for global skills will see new light. To watch for in 2021:

  • Delayed last year, our new Outbound Student Mobility program is set to launch in the spring and will provide post-secondary students with additional opportunities to study and work overseas, strengthen their global competencies, and enrich Canada’s economic prosperity.

Sustainability and climate action

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported earlier this month that 2020 was the world’s warmest year on record, underscoring how plans for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic have become a “make-or-break moment” for the health of the planet. This year, we’re focusing on sustainability as one of the most important challenges and biggest economic opportunities of our age. To inspire in 2021:

Connectivity and equal access

As online learning and working are here to stay, connectivity will be key this year, especially as it pertains to rural, remote, and Indigenous communities across the country. To re-commit to in 2021:

A new model for skills

As businesses continue to transform and new industries emerge, one of the biggest skills-related questions this year will be: what do employers and workers want, and how do we adapt educational approaches to meet that need? This year we’re watching for an increase in quickly-earned, flexible, and “stackable” micro-credentials; life-long approaches to learning, different models for recognition of prior learning; and accelerated programs to reskill or update skills and get workers back into employment. To deliver in 2021:

  • The Final Report of the Future Skills Council recommends priorities for inclusive growth and sets an ambitious vision for a dynamic workforce. We’ll be watching to see how its recommendations are implemented.

The past year challenged us to confront systems of inequality, to reflect on sustainability, to redefine our objectives and indicators of success, and gave us an opportunity to build a better future. In 2021, we’re looking forward to many exciting prospects on the horizon!

Perspectives LIVE: “A skills plan for our new reality”

In times of great change, it becomes increasingly important to look at skills and workforce development with an eye to the future. As we re-evaluate our global priorities, many sectors and jobs are changing dramatically; both employers and workers now need to think about competencies, technologies, and ways of working to meet the evolving demands of the labour market.

How can we collectively leverage training opportunities and partnerships between postsecondary institutions and industry to stimulate a future-focused economy and help more individuals find meaningful work? 

Register for free and join us on Wednesday, January 20!

In this episode, our expert guests will look at how innovative, diverse, and flexible pathways to education and training can better meet the unique needs of learners while responding to the current and future needs of employers.

COVID-19: the latest updates for post-secondary institutions and international students

For institutions welcoming international students, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continues to update its list of designated learning institutions (DLIs) with approved COVID-19 readiness plansThe list was most recently updated on January 12.

As always, we continue to work with IRCC, other government departments and stakeholders to advocate on your behalf.

Share your institution’s commitment to sustainability with the SDG Accord

Did you know that in September 2020, CICan officially signed the SDG Accord: the education sector’s international and collective response to the Global Goals? The accord inspires, celebrates, and advances the critical role that education has in delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and commits learning institutions to doing more to deliver the goals, to reporting on progress, and to sharing learning nationally and internationally.

We encourage all CICan members to sign on – Congratulations to Selkirk College and Nova Scotia Community College for leading the way! Learn more online and reach out to Judi Varga-Toth for resources to support your institution’s commitment.

Showcase the impact of your applied research partnerships with NSERC’s Synergy Awards

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is now accepting applications for its 2021 Synergy Awards for Innovation! The annual awards recognize examples of collaboration that stand as models of effective partnerships in natural sciences and engineering between industry and post-secondary institutions.

The Synergy Awards are an opportunity to show the world what Canadian ingenuity and collaboration can accomplish and promote approaches that increase the advancement of women and other under-represented groups in natural sciences and engineering, as one means to foster excellence in research and training! Nominate an individual, a team, or an institution before April 15

Fund your innovative projects through CFI

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has launched an open call for submissions for its College & Industry Innovation Fund (CIIF) which seeks innovative projects that support innovation in Canada by providing businesses with state-of-the-art, industry-relevant research infrastructure. Stream 1 is now open!

Under Stream 1, CFI is looking for proposals that demonstrate a well-established track record of private-sector partnerships for joint projects that respond to important industry needs; contribute to enhancing business innovation; and focus on an area of institutional priority. Submit a proposal by May 15 or a notice of intent before March 15.

Eureka! Moment

Did you know that the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) recently received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to improve the institute’s Praxis system? Praxis is JIBC’s online, interactive simulation-training environment that delivers experiential learning through scenario- and problem-based exercises. The system is used in applied research as well as sectors including public safety and emergency response, education, government, finance, energy, and property management. And, to meet its obligations under the Emergency Management Act and in response to challenges posed by COVID-19, the Public Health Agency of Canada is now using Praxis!


We are thrilled to welcome Marketa Evans to CICan in her new role as Vice President, Government & Stakeholder Partnerships! Marketa joins us from WoodGreen Community Services, Toronto’s largest community agency where she served as vice president, Community Programs & vice president, Innovation.

  • Marketa takes over the role from Christine Trauttmansdorff, who after serving more than five years as Vice President of Government Relations and Canadian Partnerships, has decided to shift out of full-time employment to make more time for family, friends, and other important pursuits. Please join us in wishing her the best in her new journey!

Mohawk College appointed two new vice presidents: Cebert Adamson as vice president, Students, International and Alumni; and Kim Watkins as vice president, Corporate Services. Adamson joined the college in 2014 and has since expanded his oversight and responsibilities with an ever-increasing portfolio. Watkins joined the college in 2016 and has held numerous positions within the Corporate Services division.

Northern Lakes College appointed a new vice president, Academic. Dr. Faisal Arain will take on the role with extensive experience in both construction and academia in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Canada.

Loyalist College announced the appointment of Elizabeth Lancaster to the newly created role of vice president, People & Culture. In her new role Lancaster will provide strategic leadership for college’s organizational development, human resources, and employee relations.

Niagara College appointed two new vice presidents: Sean Coote as vice president, International; and Rick Anderson as vice president, Student Success. Coote has held various positions at the college for more than 25 years and will start his new role in January 2021. Anderson has held senior roles at both Mohawk College and St. Lawrence College.

Send Us Your News

One of our main goals at Colleges and Institutes Canada is to champion and share the innovations and awesomeness of our members. You can help! We want to hear about your new applied research, industry and community partnerships, international education, important financial investments and more. Add to your media mailing lists! We’ll share member institution News Releases and other upcoming announcements online and with our national media contacts based in Ottawa.