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to succeed

Three weeks after finishing his first year in mechanical engineering at Queen’s University in Ontario, Neil Pandya was in a remote area of northeast Alberta at Cenovus Energy’s Christina Lake oil sands project. “I was nervous,” he remembers. “I was 19, with a week of safety training and eight months of introductory engineering courses, but this was my first exposure to engineering in the real world.” Naturally, he had lots of questions. “Some things aren’t covered in 8:30 a.m. lectures. Why are you putting valves in these locations? What do these instrumentation values stand for? How does this fit into the broader business model?”

By the time his four-month work placement wrapped up, Pandya had moved on from asking questions to answering them. “When I came back after another year of engineering classes, I brought what I learned back to Cenovus. That summer I drove across Alberta, visiting 10 sites and developing a tracking system to monitor flared and vented natural gas.”

Now a full-time operations engineer at Cenovus, Pandya is a beneficiary of work-integrated learning (WIL) – an umbrella term for co-op placements, internships and other programs that combine classroom theory with practical on-the-job experience. Over the past few years, WIL has become a hot topic on Canadian campuses and among corporate recruiters. Spurred by rising demand for work placements, employers and educational institutions are working to increase the supply of WIL programs – a trend that seems likely to accelerate thanks to an innovative partnership conceived and launched by the Business Council of Canada.

The growing interest in work-integrated learning is not hard to understand. Students who participate in WIL programs say the combination of theoretical learning and practical experience helps them develop skills, explore career options and demonstrate their capabilities to potential employers. For their part, companies that offer WIL placements say they do in part because it gives them a chance to assess the skills and suitability of students before they graduate. By contributing to graduate employability and workplace readiness, WIL also allows employers to play an important role in developing the workforce of the future.

Dave McKay, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Bank of Canada, is one of many Canadian business leaders who understand the benefits of WIL for students, educational institutions and employers alike. In the early 1980s, he was a young computer science student at Waterloo University in Ontario. A co-op work term at RBC, he says, “opened my eyes to a world that involved strategy, people and the finance I was studying, and I never looked back.”

Today, McKay is a passionate believer in the power of WIL to prepare students for successful careers. On top of that, he says, WIL helps to bridge the gap between employers and post-secondary institutions. It also improves labour-market access for people from disadvantaged communities who don’t have the necessary social networks to help them get jobs. “Rightly or wrongly, one’s first big job often depends on who you know,” he wrote in a 2016 article for The Globe and Mail. “Work placements get students in front of employers and act as a social leveller.”

As coop students, we’re hungry to prove ourselves.

Amy Zhou

By the numbers

of university students
of college students

have access to some form of work-integrated learning. Most programs are in fields such as health and computer sciences, business, engineering and technology.

For the Roundtable and for other proponents of high-quality, work-related learning opportunities, a major milestone was the launch in April 2017 of an ambitious pilot project to create 10,000 new WIL placements by 2020 with some of Canada’s leading banking and insurance companies. The Toronto Financial Services Alliance is overseeing the project – called ASPIRE – with support from 10 major employers and seven Ontario colleges and universities. “This is very much an investment in our future,” explains RBC’s Dave McKay, who helped lead the charge for ASPIRE as head of the Roundtable’s work-integrated learning task force.

Over the coming year, Business Council members will be laying the foundations for similar pilot projects in other regions and other industries, including construction, mining, advanced manufacturing and aerospace. Step one in each case is to identify a high-profile CEO who can act as champion for the program. Step two is to find a partner organization that understands the industry and can work with different stakeholders to deliver the program. Step three is to create an advisory group of experts from the public and private sectors to develop a program that meets the needs of students, post-secondary institutions and employers.

Although it’s still early days, the business leaders who have stepped up to help create more WIL opportunities are optimistic about their ability to succeed. “If we act in a coordinated fashion, the potential scale is really quite profound,” says Roundtable member Tom Jenkins, Chair of OpenText Corporation. “Canada’s business leaders understand the value of investing in young Canadians, and are rising to the challenge.”


In 2013, under the leadership of then-Chair Paul Desmarais, Jr., the Business Council launched a multi-year research and advocacy initiative called “Taking Action for Canada: Jobs and Skills for the 21st Century.” One of its key goals was to find ways of helping young Canadians transition successfully from school to work – an objective that, by implication, required closer cooperation between employers and post-secondary institutions. To that end, in 2015 the Council announced the creation of the Business/Higher Education Roundtable, a national body representing some of the country’s leading companies and schools from coast to coast.

Over the past year, the Business/Higher Education Roundtable has spearheaded a series of initiatives to bridge the classroom and the workplace. The goal: to provide hands-on learning and career-boosting opportunities for students, while helping Canadian companies stay competitive in the global economy.

Currently, an estimated 60 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students participate in some form of meaningful work-integrated learning experience before graduation. The Roundtable wants to increase that to 100 per cent. In October 2016 it published a report that focused on seven main types of WIL, ranging from apprenticeships (in which most learning is done in the workplace) to applied research projects that students pursue at school but in conjunction with an industry or community partner. The report set out a series of best practices for WIL programs as well as recommendations to ensure their success.

Canada’s major banks and financial-service companies are lining up behind an initiative to ensure that every postsecondary student has a work-integrated learning experience before they graduate, hoping the strategy will create a pipeline of work-ready employees.

The Globe and Mail, April 19, 2017


By the numbers

of current students and recent grads want more work-integrated learning
Believe students who participate in will have an easier transition from school to a successful career

SOURCE: Abacus Data survey for the Business/Higher Education Roundtable, September 2016.

Interning opened my eyes to the kind of skills employers need.

Andrew Aulthouse

Timeline of Success

I chose this program in part because it had so many ties to industry and new technologies.

Mike Robinson

Rocky Mountaineer



a difference

For many people, the words “corporate philanthropy” conjure up images of dark-suited executives handing over giant cheques to charitable causes.

To be sure, Canada’s leading companies do give generously to a wide variety of charities and community groups. But corporate philanthropy comes in many other forms too, from encouraging volunteers and mentoring new immigrants, to organizing sports and fitness events across the country.

A 2008 survey by Imagine Canada, a national charitable organization, found that 76 per cent of all Canadian businesses donate money to nonprofit groups. But among larger firms — those with revenues of $25 million or more — the rate was 97 per cent. The same study found that two-thirds of large companies match their employees’ donations dollar-for-dollar, compared with nine per cent of the wider business community. And three in every four large firms give their staff paid time off for volunteer work, compared to fewer than half of all businesses.

The following pages highlight some of the many ways Canada’s largest companies give back to the communities that have made their success possible.

In 2008, Imagine Canada asked a representative sample of companies about their philanthropic activities. The survey found that companies with revenues of at least $25 million were significantly more likely than other firms to donate to charitable and non-profit organizations, and to support their employees’ charitable efforts.

of larger firms contribute funds to non-profit organization


of all firms
of larger firms support employee volunteering


of all firms
of larger firms conduct fundraising among employees


of all firms
of larger firms engage in regular, ongoing charitable campaigns and initiatives


of all firms

was the median total contribution of larger firms


for all firms

of larger firms match employee contributions to charities


of all firms

SOURCE: Imagine Canada survey of Business Contribution to Community. Survey of 2,181 companies with revenues of $100,000 or more.


In a typical year, more than 12 million Canadians perform some form of volunteer work. Large employers across the country have harnessed this enthusiasm to organize and support a vast array of worthy causes.

Power Corporation

“We believe that strong communities create strong businesses,” says Paul Desmarais, Jr., Chairman and co-CEO of Montreal-based Power Corporation of Canada, whose holdings include Great-West Life, Investors Group and several other leading Canadian financial services companies.

Power has supported more than 800 charities and non-profit organizations in fields as varied as Paralympic sports, helping students with homework assignments, and protecting Mount Royal, one of Montreal’s most recognizable landmarks.

Almost a quarter of Power’s community spending in 2016 was earmarked for arts and culture. Power and its subsidiaries were the largest private-sector contributors to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. Among other institutions that have benefited from Power’s generosity are The National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, the National Music Centre in Calgary and the Glenn Gould Foundation in Toronto.

Canadian Tire

There’s nothing like teamwork to teach children valuable life skills such as discipline, confidence and compassion. That’s part of the thinking behind Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart charity, which gives thousands of underprivileged kids across the country a chance to take part in organized sport and physical activities.

Sport and fitness

Philanthropy often encompasses activities that promote a fit and healthy lifestyle. Business Council members are prominent supporters of events that raise money for the treatment of harmful or terminal diseases.

The CIBC Run for the Cure is an annual run or walk that raises money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. The event, which draws more than 100,000 participants across the country, has raised more than $17 million since its inception in 1992.

In Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, Enbridge sponsors the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day, 200-km endurance test. The ride has raised more than $250 million since 2008 for Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, recognized as a world leader in cancer research and treatment.

Scotiabank sponsors annual marathons in six cities, from Halifax to Vancouver. The events have raised more than $50 million for 550 charities since the challenge began in 2003. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon alone raised $3.2 million for 182 charities in 2016.

Bell has trained 8,000 of its own managers in mental health support. It has also adopted a voluntary standard for workplace psychological health and safety.

Bell Canada

An average of 11 people commit suicide every day in Canada – a shocking statistic that underscores the toll mental illness takes on society. Mental illness also lies behind almost a third of all workplace disability claims and 70 per cent of disability costs.

Fort McMurray fire

The fire that swept through Fort McMurray, Alberta, in May 2016 destroyed thousands of homes and buildings. More than 80,000 residents were forced to flee the city, causing widespread disruption to schools, businesses and day-to-day life. The fire is reported to have been the costliest natural disaster in Canada’s history.

Jamie Germain, a Suncor firefighter, working to save his brother’s home in Fort McMurray

Beyond Canada’s borders

The philanthropic efforts of Canada’s leading companies do not stop at Canada’s borders. Many have far-flung international operations where they actively encourage managers and employees to lend a helping hand in local communities.

Barrick Gold, the world’s top gold producer, employs 14,000 people at mines in nine countries outside Canada. Barrick’s Pueblo Viejo project in the Dominican Republic provides work for 2,000 people and has spawned more than 200 new local companies, while generating 45 per cent of the nation’s corporate tax revenues since it opened in 2013. A community partnership, one of many, has brought Internet access and technology to more than 600 students and 50 teachers in schools near the mine.

Half a world away, Royal Bank of Canada employees organized and took part in a five-kilometre family fun run around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London in 2016 to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital, one of the world’s premier children’s hospitals. The event was part of the RBC Race for the Kids, held each year in a dozen cities around the world, including Hong Kong, New York and Sydney. The races support RBC Kids Pledge, a five-year, $100 million program to improve the well-being of one million youngsters around the world.

A Manulife subsidiary in Indonesia gives high priority to promoting financial literacy. It has partnered with a local news channel to build Studio Metro Manulife which focuses on educational programming. By 2015, Gaya Hidup Masa Depan (Future Lifestyle) had broadcast more than 110 episodes, while Cerdas 5 Menit (Being Smart in Five Minutes) had produced 550 segments.

Elsewhere in Asia, Manulife supports Urban Angels, an annual medical mission to the Visayas region of the Philippines organized by St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Volunteers of Urban Angels provide medical consultations, ophthalmic surgeries and physiotherapy to local residents. In a single week in 2015, they completed nearly 4,000 check-ups, 200 eye exams and 40 surgeries. Other volunteers distributed more than 8,700 spectacles to residents of Toledo and Bacolod City. Manulife employees fluent in the regional dialect act as translators for the Canadian doctors, Manila-based volunteers and local patients.

Syrian refugees

Canadians have earned widespread praise for welcoming more than 40,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015. Businesses across the country have played a significant role in resettling the new arrivals and helping them transition to life in Canada.

Shortly after the federal government launched the resettlement initiative, Manulife donated $500,000 to a fund that helps refugees with transitional housing, language instruction and skills training. Canadian National Railway subsequently chipped in $5 million. General Motors Canada and HSBC Bank Canada also contributed to the fund, providing support through local charities in 27 communities. For its part, Air Canada flew thousands of Syrian families to Canada. Its employees then raised $57,000 for refugee programs, with donations matched by the Air Canada Foundation.


Active and respectful engagement with indigenous communities is a high priority for many of Canada’s large companies. In practice, that can mean buying products and services from indigenous entrepreneurs, providing investment and social funding, and supporting local employment and training programs.

Spending on indigenous-owned businesses, in millions of dollars


Factories of

the future

Think “manufacturing” and what comes to mind? A large factory full of clanging machines? Brawny workers in overalls performing repetitive tasks? Increasingly, the modern face of manufacturing looks more like the new General Motors of Canada technology centre in Markham, Ontario, just north of Toronto.

Wander around inside and you’ll see casually dressed men and women in their 20s and 30s peering into computer screens, sipping coffee and tapping out lines of computer code. Clusters of white modular desks are interspersed with designer sofas and open-concept meeting areas. Large windows let in plenty of sunlight, creating a bright and airy workspace.

No, traditional factories haven’t disappeared. But manufacturing is changing, driven by shifts in consumer demand and breakthrough technologies such as 3D printing, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence. In the era of advanced manufacturing, new concepts and ideas are powering smarter, leaner factories. Computer-driven tools allow companies to create prototypes and ramp up to full production at speeds that were once unimaginable. The products themselves are changing, too. In many cases, the physical properties of an object matter less than the software and cloud-based services that allow digitally enabled products to deliver value to the customer.

Manufacturing is changing, driven by shifts in consumer demand and breakthrough technologies such as 3D printing, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence.

At GM’s new Markham facility, for example, the focus is on developing advanced systems for future generations of autonomous and Internet-connected cars. “We’re excited to be giving Canada’s best and brightest software engineers opportunities to help define some of the most important mobility technology changes in a generation,” says Stephen Carlisle, GM Canada’s President and General Manager.

GM’s decision to invest in the facility – and to hire 700 new highly skilled employees – is in part a testament to the quality of Canada’s education system and labour force. “Canada’s focus on innovation, talent development and partnerships with the academic sector all bode well for the future,” Carlisle says.

Paul Boothe, a former senior federal public servant who now runs the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, says there are encouraging signs of growth in Canada’s manufacturing sector after a long period of decline. Between 2000 and 2009, real manufacturing output in Canada fell by 22 per cent and exports by 40 per cent. In contrast, between 2009 and 2015 output rose by 13 per cent and exports by 35 per cent.

Those numbers may actually understate the extent of the turnaround, since they don’t include a wide range of services –from software development to accounting, legal services and marketing – that make up an increasing share of manufacturing activity. “In some manufacturing industries, more than half of all employees work in service roles, such as R&D engineers and office-support staff,” a recent McKinsey & Company study found.

One thing is certain: over time, manufacturing has become more knowledge-intensive and less reliant on low- or semi-skilled manual labour. That’s potentially good news since it plays to Canada’s strengths as an advanced economy with one of the world’s highest post-secondary graduation rates.

Still, success is far from guaranteed. To survive and thrive in the face of intense international competition, companies need a strong commitment to innovation both in the products they create and the processes they use to make those products.

For their part, governments need to embrace the future of Canadian manufacturing as a priority, with policies that enhance Canada’s ability to attract manufacturing investments and win global mandates.

The following pages offer several examples of advanced manufacturing in Canada, as practiced by member companies of the Business Council of Canada.

Cool electronics

3M Canada researchers have developed a liquid cooling system that reduces the need for air-conditioning and saves energy.

3M Canada

As Canada’s advanced manufacturing and digital technologies industries heat up, researchers at 3M have an important task: cooling them back down. The electricity consumed by large computer data centres causes thermal buildup, forcing companies to blast equipment with cool air to keep everything at a safe temperature. At 3M Canada’s research and development lab in London, Ontario, researchers created a new type of liquid that works quickly, cleanly and efficiently to put out fires in overheated computer systems. Dubbed Novec 1230, the fluid is non-conductive so it will not damage electronics or paper. It can be used for open bath immersion cooling of servers, reducing the reliance on air conditioners, saving energy and minimizing the size of data centres.

Five things governments can do to promote advanced manufacturing:
Help equip young Canadians with the technical and business skills they need to succeed
Support business investment in R&D
Ensure a cost-competitive business environment
Invest in trade-enabling infrastructure such as ports, railways and border crossings
Pursue regulatory harmonization and market-access agreements with major trading partner

By the numbers

Top three manufacturing industries in Canada:

Transportation Equipment
Food Products
Energy Products

Canada is home to more than 90,000 manufacturing firms

Manufacturing sales reached
$609.8 billion
in 2015

Canada exports close to $350 billion worth of manufactured goods annually

Top three markets for Canadian manufacturing exports:

United Kingdom

Source: Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

Machine learning

The rise of advanced manufacturing creates increasing demand for employees with the knowledge to design, operate and maintain complex machinery. Siemens Canada recently announced a partnership with British Columbia’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University to teach advanced manufacturing skills and concepts. The result is the new Siemens Mechatronics Systems certification program, offered by the university in association with Siemens’ own Engineering and Technology Academy in Oakville, Ontario.

Mechatronics is the combination of mechanical, electrical and computer software technologies as well as control and systems theory into a single system used in production and manufacturing. Graduates from the program can choose to pursue careers in a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, materials processing, machine building, automotive, transportation, building technologies and mining. “By partnering with Siemens, a world leader in engineering and manufacturing technology education, KPU reaffirms its commitment to a future-­focused, high-quality and globally relevant advanced manufacturing training program,” said Dr. Salvador Ferreras, KPU’s Provost and Vice President Academic.

Siemens Canada

Clean power

When hydrogen – the most abundant element in the universe – reacts with oxygen it creates heat that can be used to generate clean electricity. That’s the underlying principle behind a hydrogen fuel cell. In Burnaby, B.C., a joint venture between Ford Motor Company and Daimler AG is working to commercialize fuel-cell technology to power zero-emission cars. Established in 2008, Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation Corp. is a world leader in automotive fuel-cell development, with technology that delivers best-in-class cost, performance and durability.

Fuels cells work by converting the chemical energy from hydrogen gas into electricity. With no combustion and no by-products other than heat and water vapour, fuel cell vehicles are two to three times more efficient than today’s most advanced internal combustion engines.

Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation Corp.

Energizing the workplace

ABB Canada’s new headquarters and research and development centre in Montreal harnesses a range of emerging technologies, including the industrial Internet, artificial intelligence, robotics and clean tech. The $90-million facility consolidates all of ABB Canada’s assembly, manufacturing, research and development and testing under one roof. It also houses the company’s North American Centre for Excellence in e-Mobility, a program that focuses on energy solutions for electric buses and trains.

By the numbers

Manufacturing employs more than 1.7 million Canadians

Source: Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

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