In the aftermath of the far-reaching economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada stands at the brink of a transformative post-pandemic recovery. Amid unparalleled job losses across numerous sectors, the ongoing climate crisis, and increasing socio-economic inequality, a resilient and sustainable long-term economic transition will mean training a workforce poised to take on these urgent challenges.
With a commitment to ’building back better,’ both public and private sectors are now concentrating their efforts on cultivating jobs, infrastructure, and growth aligned with the imperatives of a 21st-century green economy. From Alberta’s burgeoning hydrogen sector to Ontario’s developing electric vehicle manufacturing industry, the future rests on training and upskilling workers to stay current in a rapidly shifting economy.
Building back better with C2R2
The Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) — a nationwide coalition initiated by Mohawk College — has formed to facilitate that recovery. With 14 member colleges, institutes, cégeps, and polytechnics across the country, C2R2 is in a position to fuel Canada’s clean economy transition and help furnish a green, sustainable future. The goal isn’t merely a return to economic growth but a strategic pursuit of sustained future prosperity.
“Colleges across the country are already doing amazing work with business and industry, but we all have different areas of expertise,” says Paul Armstrong, Chief Operating Officer Mohawk College and Co-chair, C2R2. C2R2 members’ respective specialties span across sustainable forestry, construction, agriculture, clean energy, and the circular economy — to name just a few areas. “We thought, how could we bring together a coalition of leaders to leverage our collective knowledge and accelerate access to education on a national level? The result is C2R2.”
Fully funded microcredentials across a range of industries
Following a substantial investment of $46.5M by the Government of Canada, C2R2 introduced Quick Train Canada. Through this initiative, workers and their employers can access fully funded microcredentials from accredited institutions across the country, with a specific focus on upgrading skills in sectors critical to Canada’s low-carbon economy.
“Our collective network and deep relationships with industry led to a breadth of understanding about what’s needed when it comes to workforce development across the nation,” says Dr. Christine Watson, Vice President, Academic, Red River College Polytechnic and Co-chair, C2R2. “Again and again, employers expressed that they need access to flexible, short-term training. That’s why we centered our initial focus on microcredentials.”
Courses are offered in a wide range of formats to accommodate working professionals, including hybrid, in-person, online at your own pace, or online scheduled. Through Quick Train Canada, 160 microcredentials were developed and there are currently over 80 open for registration with more to launch in January in areas like construction, clean tech, transportation, natural resources and environment, and Indigenous engagement.
Upskill to stay relevant in the coming low-carbon economy
“Regulatory and technological changes come about rapidly in this day and age,” says industry expert Kevin Nilsen, President, ECO Canada. “Professionals who don’t regularly upskill to stay current will quickly become obsolete.” In one of many possible examples, auto mechanics trained as recently as five years ago may not have been trained in electric vehicles. Today, it’s an essential skillset—but mechanics may not have time to go back and complete another two-year diploma. Instead, they can opt for a course focused on EV from C2R2 members Mohawk College, British Columbia Institute of Technology, Nova Scotia Community College, Red River College Polytechnic, or Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
Available courses offer a mix of hard skills and high-level overview, giving workers a chance to become well-versed in both the theory and application of cutting-edge innovation. “It’s not just about staying competitive locally,” says Watson. “It’s broadly about staying competitive as a country and making sure we have the talent and skills to drive economic growth and innovation on the international stage.”
Inclusion, equity, and diversion built into the coalition
All C2R2 founding members are committed to bringing underrepresented voices to the table, and to collectively understanding barriers to participating in the emerging green economy. “The diversity of our coalition and the local knowledge each of our members’ bring to the table help us center inclusivity as a key part of the work we do together,” says Watson.
In its second major initiative since the launch of Quick Train Canada, the coalition recently announced a specialized training program focused on resilient housing and sustainable building. Offered to more than 200 workers in Indigenous and rural communities across four provinces, the project entails consultation with Indigenous communities to identify and co-develop housing opportunities and training needs. It will also develop resources, certification, and training to support the building and upskilling process.
In the pursuit of a resilient and sustainable post-pandemic recovery, the Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) stands as a beacon for hope and progress. As the coalition continues to expand its offerings and address critical issues, it’s poised as a major catalyst for meaningful, nationwide economic recovery.