Fred Meier: A bold new vision

Heritage Group meeting of April 21, 2022

Thank you all for inviting me to join you. I’m Fred Meier – president and CEO of RRC Polytech.

I want to begin by respectfully recognizing that RRC Polytech campuses are located on original lands of Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation, and the water that we drink at our campuses in Winnipeg, comes from Shoal Lake 40.

Acknowledging the land we are on, and where our resources come from, is an important part of our commitment to a renewed relationship and dialogue with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples based on the principles of mutual trust, respect, and reciprocity.

I look around the room today and recognize that we wouldn’t be at this exciting juncture in our journey, the bold new path laid out in our new strategic plan, without the invaluable contributions each of you have made during your time at the College. Your support makes all the difference in this transformative time, as we move towards the future of learning and the future of work in Manitoba. It is a future that positions our students, alumni and partners In Front of What’s Ahead, and builds off the success and momentum we’ve experienced throughout the last 80 years. 

I’m excited to join you today because as retirees and members of this group, you are some of RRC Polytech’s most loyal supporters – thank you for your continued interest and dedication.  You each have a story to share about your experiences working at the College, and I hope to learn from you as I get to know the Heritage Group better over the years.

Today, I’d like to share the cornerstones of our bold new vision, including: 

  • the new name for our institution,
  • the new strategic plan to guide us through the next five years, and
  • our In Front of What’s Ahead campaign.

RRC Polytech

I’m proud to say that since October of last year, we’re now known as Red River College Polytechnic – or RRC Polytech. This new name reflects our evolution into an institution that blends deep, theoretical learning with applied, hands-on experience. It highlights the important role our graduates play in growing Manitoba’s economy as our province recovers from the pandemic and looks to the future.

By working on the cusp of what Manitoba needs next, our evolution from a community college to a college of applied learning has helped us grow into the polytechnic we are today. The term, polytechnic, is used around the world to describe institutions, like ours, that focus on strategic workforce development

However, unique to Manitoba, our educational model combines a wide variety of credential programs – from micro-credentials to degree programs with invaluable work-integrated learning opportunities and industry-driven applied research. 

For students, polytechnic education means more choices, flexible options, and opportunities to gain highly sought-after skills at state-of-the-art facilities. For employers and our industry partners, working with a polytechnic means access to a pipeline of top talent. It means they’ll be able to hire people who can think creatively and critically. People who can contribute on day one, and are poised for leadership opportunities in the future.

And it means opportunities for research collaborations that position Manitoba businesses at the forefront of innovation and growth. Polytechnics are agile. And RRC Polytech is built to respond nimbly and meaningfully to fluctuations in our labour market. As Manitoba’s polytechnic, our top priority is preparing students to thrive in a rapidly changing world of work. We know our future, just like our present, will be one marked by continual change and disruption. Across Canada, technological, environmental, and social evolution continue to radically transform labour markets. 

Especially over the last two years we’ve seen that the way we work is constantly evolving. In every industry, jobs are changing, disrupted by emerging technologies and the demand for new skills. 

We thrive on the cutting edge. We embrace disruption, diversity, and emerging fields to overcome the challenges facing our communities and our world. And we look to our past to understand the role we must play to build a better tomorrow. Driven by our strong ties to industry, we know what’s around the corner – because we’re already there. 

By leaning into our strengths in polytechnic education, we will grow in pace with the needs of our students, our society and our economy.  Together, we will transform today’s workforce into a force for change. To do this, we need to keep our eyes on the horizon ahead – and that means creating a roadmap to guide our way forward.

Achieving this required us to tighten our ties across all sectors of industry, including new and emerging fields, we needed to leverage our research and development strengths into innovation and global impact.

We also need to embed Truth and Reconciliation, equity, diversity, and inclusion into every aspect of our work.  To build this roadmap we consulted with staff, students, partners, and communities with emerging needs – listened to their advice, guidance, needs, and observations. 

The result is our new five-year strategic plan:

In Front of What’s Ahead

RRC Polytech now has a mission to elevate people, industry, and community in Manitoba through future-focused polytechnic education, research and partnerships.

Committed to the future, we approach all our work with humility and desire to improve the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of all Manitobans. RRC Polytech has a shared vision of being your partner in shaping the future. And finally, our values shape how we work with our community, provide clarity and tell us who we are. 

To be bold, we need to embed our values into our work at every level, including learning, respect, integrity, sustainability, inclusiveness, and collaboration. To stay in front of what’s ahead, we need to focus on our priorities and align our efforts – to do that, we’ve created three commitments.

Transform our learning model

First, we will transform our learning model to meet emerging needs, and that work has already started with the launch of our Academic Plan and Research Plan just last week.  Our current learning model is a traditional one – cohort based, time bound, Monday to Friday, 8-4 over two terms. It’s not working for many of our learners, or our partners.  Our partners said that we need to build more flexibility and agility into our entire learning model to meet the needs of the workforce and needs of our students. This doesn’t mean that we are stopping traditional modes of delivery, but that we will expand our high-quality academic programming to include more flexibility – to provide students with what they need, when and how they need it. 

This means more micro-credentials that meet short term needs for reskilling and upskilling, created around what employers need now. More flexibility in terms of time of day, time of year, location, and method of delivery. More attention to increasing pathways for students to the college – from high school, Indigenous communities, adult learners, and people already employed and ready to take the next step in their careers. There will be a focus on the integration of human skills and cultural competency development across our programs.

Part of this – which was made clear in our new Academic Plan – is that we will deliver Work Integrated Learning opportunities to every student who attends RRC Polytech – this is our WIL Promise and is a centrepiece of our new Academic Plan. This is so that each and every student experiences a seamless transition from classroom to career. Our new learning model will put the needs of students first, embed flexibility across all our programs, and adapt to the changing needs of industry and employers to meet the requirements of rapidly changing labour markets.

Commit to Truth and Reconciliation

Second, we are renewing our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, and we will pursue Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in everything we do.  We cannot pursue equity, diversity and inclusion without doing the work of reconciliation – this work is parallel and mutually reinforcing. 

Our partners look to us for a diverse talent pipeline with strong inter-cultural competencies and human skills that reflects the diverse population of Manitoba. We must be more deliberate about increasing diversity, creating an anti-racist culture, and one that is inclusive for our staff, students and partners.

We must open our doors and invite new perspectives and diverse ways – including traditional Indigenous ways of learning and teaching – into our academics and operations. 

This means dedicating ourselves to reconciling a broken trust in our education system and supporting the key role Indigenous peoples must play for our province to reach economic reconciliation. We will work to remove barriers to access and participation, and establishing or revising systems, policies, and practices to create a place where all are welcomed for who they are, and for what we can build together. 

Recently we opened RRC Polytech’s newest building at the Exchange District Campus – Manitou a bi Bii daziigae. The College was graciously gifted the name —which means, Where Creator Sits | Brings Light, in Ojibwe —by Elder Paul Guimond and Miss Una Swan. This name, as well as the process of consulting and walking alongside the Elders in Residence, is an important part of Truth and Reconciliation at RRC Polytech. 

The building incorporates beautiful Indigenous art from Anishinaabe artist Jackie Traverse and Cree artist KC Adams, as well as piece inspired by Anishinaabe artist Stephen Snake. The representation is meant to inspire Indigenous students and create a sense of belonging.

If you have not had a chance to visit, the building is now open to the public and I encourage you to step inside when you have a chance. 

Deepen partnerships

Our third priority is to deepen partnerships to maximize prosperity across industry and community.  We need to maximize the value of our partnerships. Our partners are the core of our success.  We will do this through program creation and meeting labour market needs – and also through leveraging our partners’ strengths, and continuing our progress in innovation and research to expand our reach. 

We will work to elevate our applied research enterprise

RRC Polytech will increase capacity to create applied, solutions-focused research than can help Manitoba stay steps ahead of the incoming changes —positioning us for success in a globally-competitive environment in the decades ahead. 

We will strengthen the partnerships and collaboration across the post secondary system, to have credentials recognized and students be able to move across institutions.

The foundation of this future is built a culture of philanthropy, one that allows us to work alongside our partners to develop solutions and reach our full potential. Getting in front of what’s ahead will position us to fulfil that mandate and prepare our graduates to challenge the future.

More than that, we want to grow, and we want students, industry, and Manitoba to grow with us. We want our graduates to become tomorrow’s leaders, innovators, and problem-solvers. Together, we will face the inevitable disruption facing our economy and create the change that we want to see in Manitoba.  

With our eyes on the horizon, we are ready to move the province forward – economically, socially and culturally.  As Manitoba’s only polytechnic institution, we play a pivotal role to equip students with real-world skills and certifications, with training on new technologies and in building creative and critical thinking skills. 

RRC Polytech prepares graduates to contribute to the workforce on day one and be poised for leadership opportunities in the future.  We’ve been doing this for 80 years – however past decades have introduced new challenges and today, these disruptions are occurring faster and more frequently than ever before. 

From technological disruption to social and environmental change – we need an urgent and agile response now to get in front of what’s ahead. 

We must adapt quickly to change. 

We must reconcile a broken trust in an education system. 

And We must seize on the opportunities this disruption presents, so that all learners – including those new to this country and those original to these lands – can succeed in a dynamic and vibrant workforce. 

As a part of our fundraising campaign, we have identified three priorities that represent where RRC Polytech is best positioned to address Manitoba’s labour market needs, helping learners and leaders in Manitoba’s workforce stay in front of what’s ahead. 

  1. Enhance student life – We want to position RRC Polytech as a first-choice institution for learners
  2. Transform our spaces – We want to keep pace with the rate of change of our businesses and societies
  3. Amplify our impact – We want to attract instructors and researchers in-tune with an ever-changing economy. 

We know that all of Manitoba stands to gain from supporting and investing in RRC Polytech’s vision. 

Fundraising campaign

To chart a bold new course for the future and be well positioned to meet tomorrow’s needs, in November 2021, we launched RRC Polytech’s $60 million dollar fundraising campaign, to bring to life our In Front of What’s Ahead strategic plan.  I’m excited to report, in partnership with our College community, we have raised $15.8 million dollars to date. This includes scholarships, awards and bursaries. 

As Heritage Group members, you may also be interested to know that we have started to engage and educate our staff & faculty about our fundraising campaign and how they can get involved. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have already supported this important campaign. 

I look forward to sharing more as the campaign continues to grow. 

Thank you again for being an important part of the RRC Polytech community. Together, we will shape the future: delivering what’s needed for the future of learning, the future of innovation and partnership, and the future of social and economic prosperity in our province.

I appreciate your time today and look forward to learning more about your experiences and hopes as we move forward and how together, we can get in front of what’s ahead.

Categories: All, Guest Speakers

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