Invest Deeply in Education
Community colleges in Ontario have been the training grounds for a range of trades and professions for more than 40 years. To keep pace with demand from high school graduates, university graduates and mature students, we've been building and expanding campuses while adding to the programs we offer.
For more about Fanshawe and other Ontario colleges,
see "Colleges, Considered," from TVO's The Agenda:
Fanshawe College's enrolment, both graduates and mature students, has been rising by three percent a year over the last two years.
We're stretched to the limit just when the need to take more students is most urgent.
Ontario in the Creative Age, the recent report prepared by urban thinker Richard Florida and Roger Martin, dean of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, frames our future in terms of education.
Twenty-four researchers worked on the report, which proposes boosting college and university attendance for 18- to 24-year-olds from 40 percent to 60 percent.
It also proposes increasing from 30 percent to 50 percent the number of Ontario workers in jobs of intellectual rather than physical rigour by 2030. It's worth noting that the Ontario government commissioned the $2.2-million report before the current recession was even on the horizon.
Recent budgets, both here and in the U.S., have included huge banking and auto sector bailouts, but they haven't focused as much as they could have on education, which this report says will be the cornerstone of the 21st century.
So where do we go from here?
If Ontario is to be transformed into a magnet for the world's best and brightest, as the report proposes, we have to start with the best and brightest we have now and that start has to be in education.
It's no secret more and more people are being turned away from universities and colleges because demand for spaces is outstripping supply. That's a shame.
When a laid-off worker from the manufacturing sector, say the Sterling truck plant in St. Thomas, comes to us for retraining, we want to have the capacity to take that worker in and provide the opportunity that education uniquely offers: a chance to advance on the ladder of fulfilment and prosperity.
Ontario's community colleges, including Fanshawe, have benefited from government support programs and the generosity of the communities where our campuses are located and, increasingly, the generosity of millions of college graduates who remember us with their support.
We want to meet the needs of people who find themselves in this transition from the manufacturing age to the creative age. It's a transition we've seen before and a transition we've met before.
The difference now is we have a more literate, more connected world, which does actually allow for better estimations of the future.
If Ontario is to participate fully in the creative age that some of our best thinkers say is upon us, we're going to have to take a harder look at all the classrooms and all the programs and open those classrooms to everyone who wants to take their place in this creative future.
We're not blind to the possibilities. To meet the future half way, we have to be prepared to invest and invest deeply in education.
Maybe we could think of it as a bail-up, rather than a bailout.
President, Fanshawe College