Universities critical to Manitoba’s success

Student studyingBy David T. Barnard and Annette Trimbee, on behalf of the Council of Presidents of Universities in Manitoba
Published in the Winnipeg Free Press, April 27, 2016

 How can we create opportunities for our young people, especially those from Indigenous communities? What will climate change mean for Manitoba’s communities and what should we do to prepare? What types of construction materials are scientifically proven to last in our extreme climate and how can they reduce the long-term costs of our infrastructure? How can we ensure that we have a ready supply of medical isotopes, which are essential in diagnosing cancer? How can we sustain, grow and diversify our rural and urban communities so that they are safe and economically strong?

These are a few of the questions that are guiding the work of some of the world’s best
researchers right here in Manitoba. Almost everyone will agree that education is integral to the future success and prosperity of Manitoba. It was clear in this provincial election that education is a top priority for most Manitobans.  Post-secondary education is not just about preparing students for future jobs; universities also provide the space and infrastructure to collaborate with government, private and non-profit sectors to solve some of our society’s most persistent challenges.

University research drives innovation and strengthens our economy. According to Statistics Canada*, universities performed more than $13 billion in Research and Development in 2014, accounting for 40 percent of total Canadian R & D. That includes research in the business sector to improve competitive advantages as well as in the non-profit sector.  Sound research can and does improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

Manitoba universities are also leaders in working with Indigenous communities and building pathways to higher education. Currently there is a gap between the graduation and employment rates of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Manitobans.  First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth are the fastest growing population groups in our province and their full participation in our society is essential to Manitoba’s future prosperity. This is critically important. According to federal government estimates, 70% of jobs created in the coming decade will require some post-secondary education.** Our collective path forward includes a skilled and educated Indigenous workforce. Manitoba’s universities are working with Indigenous people to accomplish this goal while creating an environment that integrates Indigenous history, perspectives and knowledge.

The new Progressive Conservative government in Manitoba has articulated a vision to become the most improved province in Canada – a vision that includes opportunities for young people, so they can stay in Manitoba and build their careers, while contributing to our economic  strength.

As Manitoba’s economy continues to evolve, graduates from our institutions are able to consistently adapt to ever-changing environments. Our students learn an important set of skills that have immense value no matter where they are applied. In learning how to solve problems and think critically, we are equipping Manitoba’s graduates to lead, innovate and be successful no matter what changes the future may bring.

Manitoba’s universities are ready to work in collaboration with the new provincial and federal governments, municipalities, Indigenous communities and the private and non-profit sectors to propel Manitoba forward.

*Statistics Canada* (Gross Domestic Expenditures on R&D in Canada, 2014)

 **(Employment and Social Development Canada: Canadian Occupational Projections System, 2013-2022).

Barnard is the current Chair of COPUM and President,  University of Manitoba; Trimbee is incoming Chair of COPUM and President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Winnipeg


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