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How business schools are adapting to the changing world of work

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Forget about accounting class and marketing 101. 

Canadian business school leaders say soft skills such as creativity and agility are now cornerstones of business education, as universities and colleges adapt to a world where many of the jobs graduates will hold don’t even exist today.

They say there’s still a role for those business basics, but they’re no longer enough to satisfy workplaces that prize employees who can adapt to swiftly changing industries, disruptive technology and the thorny issues facing humanity in the years to come.

“The goal of a university education is to teach people how to deal with uncertainty, how to be a critical thinker, how to be okay when things are changing,” said Darren Dahl, associate dean of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in Vancouver.

“The notion of going to work for the big corporation, and the jobs that we traditionally do, are evolving and changing,” said Dahl. That’s put a lot of pressure on business schools to change what and how they teach, he said.

To keep on top of what employers are looking for, staff at the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., recently completed 250 interviews with leaders in government, business and non-profits around the globe, said acting dean Mark Vandenbosch.

Mark Vandenbosch, acting dean of Ivey Business School, seen in this March 25, 2015, file photo, said today’s job market prizes soft skills. (Ivey Business School)

“Although people do need to have technical literacy that’s probably higher than before — the skills that are really demanded are the soft skills that will allow them to adapt,” said Vandenbosch.

‘Embracing creativity in a big way’

These include the ability to bring alternative viewpoints to a problem, he said, as well as things like creativity, grit, teamwork, communications effectiveness and decision-making skills.

At UBC, Dahl said the MBA program includes a required course in creativity. “That surprises some people,” he said. “Traditionally, you might think of a business school as beating out the creativity in students.”

The creativity class curriculum isn’t centred around business innovation, such as coming up a new product. “It’s more base creativity,” he said.

Creativity is a muscle.  How do we strengthen that muscle for you as a leader, whether you work in corporate or a non-profit or your own entrepreneurial venture?– Darren  Dahl , associate dean, UBC’s Sauder School of Business

“Creativity is a muscle. If you stopped exercising it years ago — some people say you’re the most creative when you’re five or six years old and then it’s just downhill —  how do we strengthen that muscle for you as a leader, whether you work in corporate or a non-profit or your own entrepreneurial venture?

“That’s a fundamental tool in the toolbox, and I think society has just woken up to that in the last five years,” said Dahl.

Joe Musicco, who teaches at Sheridan College’s Pilon School of Business in Toronto, said “business is certainly embracing creativity in a big way.”

There are a number of factors contributing to the business world’s increasing interest in creativity, said Musicco.

“You could point to things like technology and AI [Artificial Intelligence]. You could point to things like the changing nature of work and being more of a thinker and a consultant, and expectations of people in general that [graduates] are going to be able to bring innovation and creative problem-solving skills to the table.”

Students have more diverse goals

What students want has changed, too.

“The younger generations today are very much interested in having impact,” said Dahl.

“That could mean anything from having an impact by building their own business, to having a positive influence on society.”

In the past, most business school students would strive for the same jobs at large, branded international corporations, he said

While some still do, others want to work for non-profits, and some want to be their own bosses, said Dahl.

Students are seen in class at Ivey Business School. (Ivey Business School)

Preparation for the entrepreneurial world

Dahl said there’s also been “a sea change in respect to the importance of entrepreneurial activity in the economy.”

To meet that need, course material is now taught differently, he said, moving away from “the classic lecturing on the stage” to methods that involve more action and applied learning. 

Business school classes could be challenged to partner up with engineering students on a project, or to work with start-ups, for example.

At Ivey Business School, Vandenbosch said “a huge percentage of our graduates run their own businesses.”

The typical route they take, though, is to work for somebody else for a few years after graduation to get on-the-ground experience, then return to the school to take advantage of the entrepreneurial incubator it offers for alumni, he said.

“We provide a lot of support post graduation for those who want to come back at a later time to start a venture two, three or four years later.– Mark Vandenbosch, acting dean, Ivey Business School

“We provide a lot of support post graduation for those who want to come back at a later time to start a venture two, three or four years later.”

One of the ways Ivey prepares graduates for a more entrepreneurial world is by throwing out the traditional undergraduate schedule where students make their own course selections then keep that schedule over a semester.

Instead, starting when they join Ivey in third year, students show up at expected times each day, then programming is varied all year long, said Vandenbosch. 

“Our focus is primarily on building experiences for students so they can build the capabilities to adapt to a future world, rather than, ‘Here is what you need to know about subject X.'” 

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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