What will the jobs of the future look like? What skills are needed? And how does Canada compete in the digital world?

Ensuring the country can successfully answer these questions will preserve Canada’s future businesses, future jobs, and economic prosperity. To prepare for this technology-driven future, Canada’s universities and colleges are encouraging student entrepreneurs across the country.

In an October 12 Globe and Mail article, researchers Alejandro Adem and Victoria Lennox identified a host of entrepreneurial programs occurring outside university and college classrooms. As students learn technological skills, these additional programs give them an introduction into turning technological mastery into market-friendly products and/or services.

For generations post-secondary institutions have produced well-educated graduates and scientific research. Adem and Lennox found Canada’s universities are now setting themselves up as on-campus labs aimed at encouraging student entrepreneurship. This approach supports students, graduates and early-stage innovators in learning how to flourish in a changing economic landscape. Campuses have launched incubators, accelerators, sandbox programs, co-ops and a range of other programs to give students experience in testing ideas, launching companies, and, ultimately, envisioning themselves as entrepreneurs.

The best-known of the post-secondary incubation programs include:

  • Ryerson’s DMZ, which was ranked by UBI Global, a research and ranking organization, as the world’s top university-managed business incubator for 2018; and
  • The York Entrepreneurship Development Institute (YEDI), Entrepreneuriat Laval, TECEdmonton and the Accelerator Centre at the University of Waterloo placed first, second, third and fourth, respectively, among the top university-linked business accelerators.

These early incubators reflect “an important but little known fact: that Canada has the highest rate of early stage entrepreneurship among all developed countries,” Adem and Lennox pointed out. They added that almost half the graduates surveyed in 2013 saw themselves starting a business.

“Even if they don’t become entrepreneurs, graduates who have pitched to angel investors or tried to bootstrap a business will bring a crucial outlook to employers of all sizes. They’ll have an invaluable experiential understanding of the agility and risk-taking outlook that defines the entrepreneurial career.”

Study author Alejandro Adem is CEO and scientific director of Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada. He is also a professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia. Co-author Victoria Lennox is the CEO of Startup Canada, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and competitiveness through entrepreneurship promotion and programming. She is a serial social entrepreneur in Ottawa and the President of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs in Britain.