World Politics

Mitacs turns to post-secondary students to fix innovation sector

Mitacs turns to post-secondary students to fix innovation sector

Statistics Canada recently reported there are more jobs than workers available to fill them. This unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio is at an all-time low.

Mitacs, a research and development company is meeting the challenge head-on by matching post-secondary and graduate students in need of work experience with employers in need of their expertise.

The innovative program is not only filling labour gaps, it’s also giving students an opportunity to fine tune their skills making them even more marketable. At the same time, the program is boosting Canada’s lagging innovation record.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada currently ranks 13th out of 16 peer countries when it comes to innovation. Countries with the highest overall scores tend to have national strategies around innovation.

While Canada has good universities, engineering schools, teaching hospitals and technical institutes, it continues to experience innovation challenges that impede competitiveness in the global market and keep it from being a technology leader.

Mitacs credits Canada’s lack of innovation competitiveness to waning business investment in research and development, struggles to scale firms, and poor adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies among other things.

To help this sector transform, Mitacs has been sourcing internships from tens of thousands of college, undergraduate, and graduate students, as well as postdocs. These paid internships cover a broad cross-section of disciplines.

“Giving post-secondary students, postdocs, and recent grads much-needed workplace experience is key to helping them develop skills that are critical for the future workforce and which they just can’t get in the classroom,” said John Hepburn, Mitacs CEO during an interview with

“At the same time, with more jobs being filled with capable students, we’re helping to improve Canada’s productivity and innovation. It’s a win-win for students, post-secondary institutions, industry and the country’s prosperity as a whole,” Hepburn added.

Hepburn believes solving the innovation problem is going to take teams of people with different, but complimentary, skills and knowledge. Mitacs has projects that require students from such diverse disciplines as engineering, life sciences, math science, fashion, art, and marketing.

Cultivating confidence

Hepburn emphasized that still more needs to be done to support students’ skills development in Canada. A recent…

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