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Boosting Canadians’ employability for the clean economy

How educational institutions across Canada are partnering to deliver job training that bridges skill gaps in equitable and inclusive ways.

Created for Mohawk College, secretariat for Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery

As careers continue to evolve in step with our emerging green economy, Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) is providing valuable opportunities for workers to future-proof their job skills, and for businesses to meet the changing labour needs.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 29 per cent of jobs in this country will experience significant changes due to technological progress, globalization and population aging. At the same time, climate change is forecasted to significantly impact the Canadian economy in the coming decades, which will undoubtedly affect the employment landscape.

To help Canadians easily upskill and re-skill for the shifting job market while also accelerating the country’s transition to a sustainable economy, 14 colleges, CÉGEPs, institutes and polytechnics joined forces to introduce Quick Train Canada, a set of fully funded, concise and flexible microcredentials focused on six key areas: agriculture and agri-food; natural resources and environment; transportation; clean tech; construction; and industry development. Launched in February 2023, with $46.5 million in funding from the federal government’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program, these 143 portable, stackable courses are available in varying formats—as in-person, online or hybrid options—at select colleges across Canada. 

“As smart technology advances and the clean economy rolls out across the country, existing industries are adapting to remain competitive and new industries are gaining a strong foothold in the economy,” says Ron J. McKerlie, president and CEO of Mohawk College and chair of C2R2. “Quick Train Canada gives workers an opportunity to prepare themselves today to be forerunners in the workforce of tomorrow.”

Mohawk College and its partner institutions launched C2R2 in the fall of 2020 as a way to help Canada respond to and recover from the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 while helping to meet the federal government’s goal to create more than one million jobs to restore employment to pre-pandemic levels. And C2R2 is approaching the challenge with the earth in mind. “By working together, colleges can help lead the transition to a clean economy. With a vision to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis, colleges are positioned to quickly develop thousands of training and research opportunities to help Canadians access good jobs, support the transition to the low-carbon economy, and foster inclusion, diversity, and equity,” reads the coalition’s website.

What’s next for C2R2

Quick Train Canada is part of a multi-pronged approach by C2R2 that also includes driving business and industry innovation through applied research opportunities. This involves helping industry partners develop, test and improve technologies that will be vital to helping Canada meet its 2030 carbon-reduction targets. C2R2 is also focused on ensuring that Canadians have opportunities to gain meaningful work experience in the low-carbon economy. To this end, the coalition is working with industry partners from diverse sectors to support paid internships, work placements and employer incentives so that workers can access good jobs and contribute to innovations in vital areas such as renewable energy, green construction, water conservation, electric vehicles, carbon sequestration and forest stewardship.

One such initiative is Resilient Housing and Upskilling for Canada’s Communities, which will support workforce development in Indigenous and rural communities across Canada. With the federal government providing $3,036,000 in funding through its Community Workforce Development Program, six C2R2 institutions are consulting with Indigenous communities to identify and co-develop building solutions, and train Indigenous workers in the trades and sustainable building. The project is expected to benefit 204 workers in up to 20 communities.

This national housing project aligns with C2R2’s key priority to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion across all of its activities. The coalition is dedicated to enhancing access and opportunities for learners and workers from under-represented groups, and mitigating barriers, that could hamper their success, such as child care, housing and tuition. 

“The members of C2R2 share a commitment to removing barriers and applying a national approach so that we can respond to match the needs of a quickly changing economy,” says Paul Armstrong, chief operating officer at Mohawk College and co-chair of the C2R2 steering group. “By 14 institutions acting as one, in concert with industry, we have the power to make a large impact.”

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