TGAO 2015: Cities and Higher Education Connect for Success

City streetscape with grass, road and tall buildings
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 11:10am
Blake Eligh

The 2015 Town and Gown Symposium attracted participants from across the country to explore the important connections between municipalities, businesses and higher learning institutions.

Hosted jointly by U of T Mississauga, Sheridan, the City of Mississauga and the Town & Gown Association of Ontario, the two-day conference explore the idea of “Connecting for Success” with sessions about such topics as the link between economic development, universities and colleges; how to better connect domestic and international students with their local communities; and innovation success stories like UTM’s Master of Biotechnology Program

The symposium opened with a leadership panel featuring Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie, Sheridan CEO and president Jeff Zabudsky and Professor Deep Saini, vice-president, U of T, and principal, U of T Mississauga. The panel discussed how academic institutions and municipalities can best partner for success.

For Crombie, working with local learning institutions is key. “It’s important to collaborate with these institutions and have them engaged in a partnership role,” Crombie said, adding that UTM and Sheridan are two of the city’s most important stakeholders.

“We have an obligation to work together,” Saini agreed, noting that UTM contributes about $1.3 billion annually to Peel region’s economy in jobs and spin-off investments. “The post-secondary pipeline of ideas and products has a profound impact on the economic and social well-being of a host community.”

Working with the local business community is also important, Saini continued. “Our job is to educate students for future roles in the economy, however it’s critical to address the question of value and be responsive to the needs of industry such as facilities, education and ideas. We can be responsive and help to meet their needs.”

It’s also important for both government and academic sectors to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit of new immigrants. “That is the next frontier,” Saini said, pointing to the success of the young workers of Silicon Valley as an example of a globally mobile and educated workforce.

“By being more global, we’ve created an incredible connection to economic growth and development, and partnerships around the world,” Zabudsky said. “That’s an identified need that Canadian academic institutions can serve.”

Attracting international students also helps to strengthen the community, Zabudsky continued. “Education is now the on-ramp to permanent residency and citizenship. I think it is a wonderful synergy to see students use this access to become permanent Canadians.” 

Crombie said she was committed to encouraging an environment where local industry partners with higher education institutions to provide co-ops, internships and apprenticeships. She noted that symbiotic partnerships with post-secondary institutions can help students to gain valuable skills, while giving industry partners access to a highly trained local talent pool of current and future workers.

“The role of academic institutions is to educate youth; mine is to find them jobs so they can find success and stay in our community,” Crombie said.

See photos from the conference below >