Canadore College in North Bay has a simple approach – a strong business community means a very strong college.
"The business community employs our graduates and the stronger the economy, the stronger our partners are, and that is better for our graduates," said college president George Burton.
With a vested interest in successful businesses and industries, Canadore has developed partnerships throughout the region it serves. These ensure that the programs it offers are in line with the marketplace and the curriculum is meeting the needs of industries and remaining relevant.
"It allows the sectors to actively participate with the college. Because without the sectors, we don't have a reason to exist, so the partnership is fundamental to our being," he said.
"Going forward, partnerships are going to become more important given the speed of change that occurs in the marketplace. You can't leave it to any one part of the sector, being education, to do all of the heavy lifting. And we can't expect the companies to do all the heavy lifting with training their workforce."
With a widening skills gap, Burton said the only way to close that is through partnerships and focusing together on resolving the issue.
"I think the country that closes the skills gap the fastest, and most efficiently, will have a competitive advantage."
Earlier this year, the college launched its Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Production (ICAMP) to help companies gain an edge in the marketplace.
When it opens this fall at its Commerce Court Campus, it will bring together manufacturing companies by providing leading-edge technology they might not otherwise have access to.
It will support the development of new products and processes, product and materials testing, development and commercialization of prototypes, refinement of existing processes, and the development of new businesses.
"ICAMP is about how do we solve a problem," said Burton. "When discussing with businesses and industries about their challenges, what we found is that we needed to expose them to technologies they don't have, and may not know if there is a business case for them to incorporate into their operation."
With business as the central core of ICAMP and not students, Burton said Canadore flipped the whole paradigm upside down.
"Traditionally the college would decide it wanted some technology developed, put programs around it and then produce some graduates.
"What we are saying is no, let's build business and industry first, and the spinoff from that will be growing markets and making them stronger."
That will lead to expanded opportunities for the students and will also drive some program development.
The response from the business community has been overwhelmingly supportive, even though it went through some growing pains once they realized it wasn't a purely academic project.
"It's a very serious sand box for business to come play in," said Burton.
The college could be viewed as a business as well, since Burton said it is in the business of helping individuals start to get where they want to go. But without the support of its partners, the community and its staff, none of what it does would be possible.
"It takes a real partnership at all levels and all sectors to make us work really well. We do appreciate them."