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If you Google “education for professionals in Canada,” no fewer than 522 million results will appear. This of course doesn’t represent how many opportunities are available to would-be or fledgling executives, but it does suggest enough programs are in operation to suit virtually anyone’s needs.
This is not lost on education providers. “There are more options than ever for learners in a world that’s become just one click away,” says Rodrigo Porto, director, recruitment and admissions, Robert H. Lee Graduate School, at the UBC Sauder School of Business. “This coincides with an increasing demand for knowledge. People realize the value of a professional degree. So in turn, we’re motivated to be increasingly progressive in our offerings.”
It’s not a simple task, but those undertaking it are passionate about the potential outcomes. Jackie Howard, director of client engagement for executive education at UBC Sauder, points out that “the market is demanding all sorts of things for which we’re still developing solutions. Executive education and professional development in general is being disrupted. For example, there is an enormous amount of content available online, much of it for free. But simply consuming information does not mean that you’ve acquired knowledge and can apply the learning. That learning still needs to be tied to outcomes and we still need to be able to measure the impact. So while technology is disrupting the way we deliver content, it also represents an opportunity to transform how we foster learning communities and ensure the outcomes are achieved.”
The bustling landscape of education for professionals is benefitting smaller institutions too. “We used to think of ourselves as the best kept secret in town, but that’s no longer the case as we have grown over our past 10 years in Vancouver to the point where we’ll soon have to locate to a bigger facility,” says Sinan Caykoylu, associate dean for New York Tech – Vancouver’s MBA program.
Brock Dykeman, president of University Canada West, says the popularity of his institution’s MBA programs has contributed to its success—and necessitated a move next year to a bigger campus in downtown Vancouver. “Currently we’re enjoying great feedback with our focus of fusing tech elements into our MBA courses via Salesforce, Tableau, IBM Design Thinking and so forth,” he says. “It’s another way of ensuring that when our students graduate and get jobs, they will have the hands-on skills required to hit the ground running.”
Stephanie Howes, dean, KPU School of Business (Kwantlen Polytechnic University), describes Kwantlen, which has grown to accommodate 21,000 students, “as a big institution with small-institution benefits, coupled with the polytechnic ethos of thought meeting action. In addition to offering new and updated diplomas, we’re focused on making our programming even more accessible to adult learners, in order not to disrupt their jobs or lifestyle.”
If there is a common goal linking the diverse program offerings from Sauder, New York Tech – Vancouver, University Canada West and KPU School of Business, it is preparing would-be professionals with practical work experience and advanced skills, and in that regard Porto describes several new initiatives at Sauder as being “the most exciting things that have happened with our full-time MBA programs in years.”
Porto is referring to the Technology and Analytics Leadership (TAL) track, which brings a unique skill set to MBAs with a solid understanding of technology and business, setting students up for success with firms that have advanced technology products or services. TAL-track students learn the fundamentals of business administration and technology and their applications in several industries, including FinTech, healthcare, automation, customer analytics, and much more. “Our MBA students with a TAL track will be adept in technology and business analytics, which is critical to leadership in today’s business world,” says Porto.
Another initiative is Sauder’s exclusive Global Network for Advanced Management, which allows MBA students during their second year to study business at one of the institution’s 34 global partner schools around the world, with no extra tuition cost. “We’re the only institution in Canada with this partnership, and it’s a great way for students to be exposed to other offerings and professors,” says Porto.
New York Tech – Vancouver is equally dedicated to preparing its students for the professional world, and it also welcomes enrolees who have only one or two years of work experience. “This is important, because many of the bigger, iconic universities only accept people into their MBAs who have four to 10 years of experience,” says Caykoylu. “In short, we take a chance on those with less skills and aptitude, and we prepare them to be job ready as quickly as possible. It’s a measure of our success that 98 percent of our graduates secure jobs shortly after leaving our campus.”
Plus, New York Tech – Vancouver is more affordable than the larger institutions. “We don’t charge $80,000 tuition fees,” says Caykoylu. “We also waive some courses—for example, basic accounting skills—if the student has experience and displays an aptitude that would make them redundant. Students also get credit for undertaking projects with clients in the business world.”
New York Tech – Vancouver recognizes that in a landscape choked with so many MBA programs, getting a leg up during a job interview is of vital importance, “Which is why we persuade our students to become professionally certified—whether the designation is CPA, CFA or something else,” says Caykoylu.
At KPU School of Business, fine-tuning her institution’s offerings to make adult learning more accessible is a personal passion for Howes. At 19 she obtained an office administration certificate from KPU and worked for five years in different law firms. She then returned to KPU and obtained an undergraduate degree in nursing. After a few years working in the health-care field (during which time she also worked towards obtaining a master of education at UBC), she accepted an offer to return yet again to KPU to work at its Wellness Centre. This led to an 11-year teaching stint, followed by time as associate dean of health and associate dean in the School of Business. Earlier this year, she was named dean of the School of Business.
Howes, who will be starting her Doctorate of Business Administration in 2020, says, “My adult education allowed me to climb the ladder and attain this amazing position in a respected institution. But it was terribly difficult to juggle work and life with schooling, and many people simply feel they can’t do it.”
Hence, if adult learners take KPU’s newly updated Public Relations diploma this fall, they are automatically linked to obtain a BBA or Bachelor of Arts. “That’s just one example of how we’re making things more accessible,” says Howes. “We’re also offering open registration and no cohorts.”
Another example: KPU’s new Green Business Management and Sustainability as well as the new Global Business Management business graduate diplomas give learners the option to finish their MBAs online at their choice of international universities. “This is how we specialize our MBAs, and it’s a unique offering,” says Howes. This is in addition to many other offerings, including KPU’s Post Baccalaureate programs in technical management and services as well as operations and supply chain management, plus a certificate in Legal Administrative Assistant Studies (which recognizes the fact that such assistants are among the highest-paid office assistants in B.C.)
At the University Canada West, the ACBSP-accredited UCW MBA degree challenges students in areas vital to business operation and administration. It develops core competencies in critical thinking, persuasive communication, system analysis, leadership, and business ethics. Emphasis is placed on the application of theories, teaching students case studies relating to a large variety of industries in Canada and around the world.
University Canada West also understands that some students do not have the professional or academic qualifications but wish to pursue the MBA program; therefore, they have the option of completing the three MBA Foundation courses. “We’ve enjoyed steady growth since being founded in 2004 because we’re constantly evolving, and as we make the transition to our new downtown Vancouver campus next spring, we will have three specialities: marketing; finance and leadership; and technology,” says Dykeman.
Regardless of the institution, the ability to offer distinguishing features is prevalent. Porto says, “For example, Emotional Intelligence—EQ—is one of the most in-demand competencies employers are looking for, and we offer EQ assessments and development opportunities in partnership with RocheMartin, giving students a comprehensive interpretation of their leadership potential based on an assessment of their emotional intelligence.”
One of New York Tech – Vancouver’s distinguishing features is that it is AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) certified. “All of our campuses earned that prestigious certification in 2015, and only 5 percent of the top business schools have it,” says Caykoylu.
One of University Canada West’s many distinguishing features is its size. “We pride ourselves on having class sizes of typically about 20 students,” says Dykeman. “This, combined with the fact that many of our faculty members are still working in industry or consulting, provides superior one-on-one learning experiences for our students.”
At KPU, the operational philosophy “is for students to do several semesters, get into the working world, and come back and get a bachelor’s or another diploma,” says Howes. “We promote lifelong learning, and our differentiator is our polytechnic component of learning something, practicing it, then going to the next step—in an atmosphere where class sizes are small and the instructors know your name.”
For her part, Jackie Howard is excited by the changes that are happening in the area of professional development when it comes to learning opportunities. “Obviously it’s impossible to predict how we’ll be accessing these learning assets in a few years, but look at how quickly we’ve all adapted to using our smartphone to access a two- to three-minute video so that we can apply what we’ve learned to a challenge or issue we are experiencing at that moment. Concurrently, we’re also seeing a push for access to faculty members outside of the formal learning experience and we are exploring the use of technology to enable this.
“I strongly believe that the need for just-in-time access to relevant and practical learning assets will continue to drive our business, and we’re working with our director of digital learning to ensure we are achieving this. The bottom line is lots of interesting transformations lie ahead for all of us.”