Policy thought leader on Canadian innovation, higher education and skills
Nobina Robinson was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Polytechnics Canada in May 2009. She has held progressive appointments in the federal government and non-profit sectors since 1990.
As a Foreign Service Officer she was posted to the Canadian Embassy in Havana from 1994 to 1997.
Mrs. Robinson was appointed to the Expert Panel on the Review of Federal Support to Research and Development, and published the report “Innovation Canada: A Call to Action” in October 2011.
In her capacity as CEO of Polytechnics Canada, Mrs. Robinson supports a number of other like-minded groups, including the Business Higher Education Roundtable, the Human Resources Committee of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and is a patron member of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.
The goals of Canada's New Infrastructure Plan are not just to grow our infrastructure, but at the same time to harness new and emerging technologies to make it cleaner, greener and smarter. For the government's hallmark policy to date -- the Innovation Agenda -- we hear the consistent message that we need to support the people that innovate.
To cope with technology's impact, those in the skilled trades are adopting models of life-long learning that merge the technical, the technological and the mechanical; the toolbox of today is brimming with technology and so too are the classrooms in which apprentices train.
Weak growth necessitates that we use all of Canada's assets to reignite our economy. Yet, data are assets that have yet to be effectively leveraged. While we fixate on the numbers of startups or high growth firms, do we really have adequate data with which to build a resilient labour force or an innovative economy?
What can be done to tackle the employment obstacles facing Canada's youth? Plenty. Too often, government reports and media accounts wax poetic over our fine universities as a source for solutions to our youth employment challenges. Our equally impressive polytechnics get lost in the discussion.
If our economy is shifting, how much emphasis do we really need to place on filling predicted shortages and attracting more young people to the trades? While we focus so much on the digital space, we can't forget that Canada is about to make massive investments in physical infrastructure.
The Liberals floated the idea of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) during the election campaign, but scant notice was taken by the media or the business community. But SBIR can be a very powerful catalyst for innovation and we must not allow this idea to be relegated to the policy back burner.
Our labour market is not evolving to help companies compete globally. Modernizing our labour market requires two things: a talent pool equipped with the appropriate skill sets, and an up-to-date approach on collecting and sharing labour market data.
Until we open up our minds about what "talent" and "best and brightest" should really mean in the context of the labour market, we are leaving many skilled people out of the innovation agenda. Right now we have an exclusive mindset when it comes to talent, linking it too much to spending a long time in higher education.