Canada’s Community Colleges throw light on new opportunities for VET providers to contribute to social and economic prosperity.

Applied research is an intriguing prospect for Australia’s VET sector. It’s where small-scale innovation in products, services and business processes makes material reductions in costs, lifts revenue and engages customers. Applied research is also a test bed for innovative training designs.

In Australia, we’re at the front end of shaping and establishing a VET presence in applied research. It can be difficult to get a sense of what it looks like in practice. But others have been here before and can offer grounded insights. For more than a decade, Canada has nurtured innovation through structured, funded applied research involving VET providers, teachers and students.

Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) draws together the country’s publicly supported and VET-focused colleges, institutes and polytechnics. A visit to CICan’s website reveals the richness of VET’s applied research contribution to social and economic wellbeing at regional, provincial and national levels.

Brief case studies demonstrate the benefits of applied research in VET

CICan’s Innovation Showcase lists around 140 projects that demonstrate how provider-industry partnerships have created market tested, market ready solutions. Links lead to a brief description of each project’s purpose. The descriptions vary in length, but all are short – about 300-600 words. Three examples convey the depth and diversity of project activity.

Algonquin College, Ontario – Using radar for outdoor perimeter security:

  • Algonquin College student researchers have been key players in designing and testing a 3D radar system that an Ottawa security company is developing for perimeter surveillance of military bases and pipelines. The Chief Scientist at 3D Sentry Corporation said, ‘The success of the project has led to a system that can be demonstrated to customers and potential venture capital people.’

Grande Prairie Regional College, Alberta – Diagnosing the health of honey bees:

  • The National Bee Diagnostic Centre is a state-of-the-art laboratory at Grande Prairie Regional College. It opened in 2013 through a partnership with Agriculture and AgriFood Canada. The Centre trains students and works on applied research projects with beekeepers and researchers. The Centre provides new diagnostics to Canadian provinces. It was recently chosen to lead a National Honey Bee Health Survey aiming to establish the nature, extent and incidence of endemic and exotic pathogens affecting bee colonies.

La Cité College, Ottawa – One goal, two perspectives:

One group comprises students with developmental disabilities. One group comprises students training to work in community services. Both groups need work experience. Neither of them could have better teachers than the other. Both groups share work placements. The project aims to facilitate integrating young people and adults with developmental disabilities into the community and the labour market

You can view projects by themes, which include agriculture (16 projects listed), life sciences and health (20 projects), manufacturing (15 projects), renewable energy and conservation (13 projects), and social innovation (34 projects).