The number and quality of Nova Scotia’s post-secondary education (PSE) institutions gives us a huge competitive advantage that can help to revitalize our province. A thriving innovation economy depends on talented people with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes to make Nova Scotia stronger economically, social and culturally.
There are approximately 56,000 students attending post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia, with about 22,000 coming here to study from other provinces and countries. We challenge these institutions to play an even greater role as regional innovation hubs that connect with surrounding communities and strengthen opportunities for students to benefit from experiential learning.
There are three ways to advance these objectives:
- 3.1Enhance the role of institutions as anchors for regional economic and social development and innovation
- 3.2Support R&D and commercialization partnerships between PSEs and the private sector
- 3.3Develop student talent and skills through co-ops and experiential learning and create environments that promote innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship
3.1 Regional Innovation Anchors
PSE institutions should develop their roles as innovations hubs within their regions to help strengthen regional networks, build human capital and utilize their expertise to support community objectives. They should:
- Become even more active partners in economic planning and revitalization efforts by helping to mobilize knowledge in communities
- Enhance innovation ecosystems, with particular focus on strategic sectors
- Provide expertise to community development initiatives to enhance outcomes
- Promote entrepreneurship, especially among youth, and provide research-based advice in shaping business strategy
- Amplify the effectiveness of P–12 education by tutoring and mentoring vulnerable youth or underperforming students to help close the achievement gap
A strategy focused on these areas is required to build our PSE institutions into places where students and entrepreneurs create dreams that work.
3.2 R&D and Commercialization
Bringing ideas to life is everyone’s responsibility. PSE institutions, the private sector, and government must work together to enhance business-led R&D and commercialization. In Nova Scotia, business performs only 11 per cent of research, with the rest being performed by PSEs (74 per cent) and in federal labs (15 per cent).
We recommend increasing research funding to high-quality graduate students, focusing funding in areas of provincial priorities, and encouraging business-led partnerships with universities and NSCC. Provincial funding for R&D should be increased and it should also be leveraged to encourage more business-led research investment, with a focus on commercialization.
3.3 Co-ops, Experiential Learning and Entrepreneurship
Students need to connect to employers at every stage of their education in order to maximize work placements, co-ops, and experiential learning. Exposure to business and the workforce creates environments that promote and facilitate entrepreneurship, which will be critical to Nova Scotia’s economic revitalization.
While every program is not automatically linked to available work, students should nevertheless be assisted by PSEs in determining how their field of study relates to potential career paths after graduation.
We believe Nova Scotia should act now to become the province that offers the most co-ops and experiential learning programs per student in Canada, and translate these successful, engaged working students into permanent residents.