Concordia University announced the launch of a new national network of universities focused on speeding experimentation and scaling effective approaches to skills development. FUSION, the Future Skills Innovation Network, will explore new ways to ensure that students graduating with a university degree will be ready for a world marked by rapid change.
FUSION comprises six member universities: Concordia, which initiated the network's formation, along with Simon Fraser, Calgary, Saskatchewan, Carleton and Memorial. The Government of Canada's Future Skills Centre is investing $2.5 million to support FUSION's network model for an initial two years.
The network's pilot projects focus on building more inclusive forms of skills development through its three priorities: integrating more skills development into formal and informal learning; creating more flexible learning formats to better facilitate skills acquisition; and increasing access to, and success within, post-secondary education for underrepresented students, targeting such groups as indigenous, disabled students and women in the STEM fields.
FUSION's work will benefit approximately 1,500 students enrolled in for-credit programs in its first two years. The network also aims to open pathways into university education by partnering with primary and secondary schools, colleges, employment centres, non-profit organizations and government-funded programs. Finally, FUSION will contribute research, data, methodologies and program formats to the Future Skills ecosystem.
Concordia University Provost and Vice-President, Academic Graham Carr explained, "In today's rapidly changing, globalized economy, many employers are shifting toward skills-based hiring. Universities have to better equip students with the technical know-how and 'soft skills' they can translate into success. FUSION is an important experiment to advance such outcomes. It aligns perfectly with Concordia's long tradition of building educational pathways that prepare students for the realities of life after graduation."
For her part, Sandra Gabriele, Concordia's Vice-Provost, Innovation, Teaching and Learning and the university's campus lead for FUSION, commented, "The network's goal is to innovate and share new skills-training methods, but the network itself is also novel and fills an important gap: It's Canada's first cross-institutional sharing initiative focused on developing the workforce skills that are so critical to Canada's international competitiveness and, therefore, the employment of our next generation. We're proud to have started this network and are already collaborating with our partners to co-design future projects."
Melanie Wright, Interim Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre, commented: "The Future Skills Centre is thrilled to be partnering with Concordia University and universities across Canada on their project 'FUSION'. This project will work towards supporting young Canadians in gaining access to new skills and will contribute to a growing evidence base in skills development research."