By Krista Steeves

What happens when we all come together? This can be a powerful question, depending on the reason you have been brought together, but as an eternal optimist, I tend towards the positive. When we all come together, I see the capacity for meaningful conversations, tremendous achievements, and exciting change.  As a big “E” extrovert I selfishly, see the opportunity for in-person discussions, belly laughs and philosophical questioning. 

This past month I attended the Workforce Summit in Saint John, New Brunswick, a two-day conference that brought together individuals from industry, community, post-secondary education, government, and students to discuss how the province will tackle some of the challenges with regard to labour, education, and the workforce.  

New Brunswick is not alone in facing challenges in the workforce as we all globally experience a time of great disruption.  As I describe some of the things that were discussed, maybe you can imagine them being discussed in your own province.  What can be done about the shortage of trained staff in healthcare? How do we support newcomers in the province to transition to the workforce and make them want to stay here? What skills will we need to think about and train our youth in so they can be future proof? What does remote work mean for small and local businesses?  What does remote work mean for big businesses? What will modern workers demand? 

New Brunswick has been asking themselves these questions for a while and in 2018 a program was created called Future NB that committed dollars to universities to help to make New Brunswick more experiential in the delivery of education.  In January 2022 funding was granted to the college sector and capacity funding continues to be granted to forward the movement to make New Brunswick education more experiential.  The funding supports capacity in institutions, funding for employers to support experiential education and work-integrated initiatives, and funding to support the experience of international students in work-integrated learning environments. 

The word movement is one the Future NB folks use themselves; they say, no one owns this movement, it is a collective of organizations trying to help solve the problems, the big problems that exist in the province.  The individuals involved would tell you there have been tremendous learnings along the way but there remains a commitment and recognition by the collective that there must be change.  Some of the changes will be uncomfortable.  

The final component of the Workforce Summit was a call to action, an ask, what will you do to support the challenges we are facing?  I am confident the answers around the room were diverse, but I was encouraged, I thought this is what can happen when we all come together.  Together we will ask the best questions, together we will identify the big problems, and together we will find the best solutions.  What could happen in your community if your department, your division, or your institution came together and asked the challenging questions?  With the power of together….so much is possible.