The perfect storm of unsustainability

It’s not too surprising that sustainability can be a difficult sell. Because even though the need to become sustainable is the most important thing facing each of us on this planet, sustainability runs counter to the human experience over many millennia.

Only in our day have we realized that we’ve reached the perfect storm of environmental threat. All the things we once took for granted have now grown to be global threats. Population growth, industrial expansion, modern agricultural practices, acquisition and use of natural resources – none of these are essentially evil, but at the scale they have reached, they have combined to produce an unsustainable environment.

Industry, agriculture and resource development all must continue for our economies to be sustainable – but they must be done differently, for our world to survive.

Siemens’ new branding statement “Ingenuity for life” is a fundamental commitment that the company has made, world-wide – a commitment to fostering and adopting innovation that will create a healthy and sustainable environment wherever we are involved.

I’m very pleased that two of our most recent renewable energy projects are located in the province of Alberta, the heart of Canada’s energy industry.

In western Alberta, Siemens is working with AltaLink; we have partnered to create the Western Alberta Transmission Line, which has been built to allow the province to fully harness Alberta’s abundant wind power.

We’ve also collaborated with ATCO in a similar project in eastern Alberta – the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line, which has the same purpose: to utilize the province’s wind power and distribute this new, green energy, reliably and economically.

In both cases, the new transmission lines feature bidirectional flow of power – they can transmit energy from the north to the south, but also from south to north. The latter will come largely from wind power, and for the first time, this new infrastructure will allow wind energy to be distributed throughout the province. The new systems are up to 50 per cent more efficient than their predecessors.

In practical, sustainable terms, I’m told that these new systems have an impact equivalent to taking tens of thousands of cars off the road. I applaud the Alberta energy industry for showing such leadership.

Clean energy must be a priority, everywhere in the world, including in countries and communities where we have traditionally relied on carbon-based energy. Siemens Canada is perfectly placed to understand and facilitate this transition as we have worked successfully with organizations with a variety of energy sources, including both traditional and renewable.

We’re poised and prepared to work with partners across the country – and around the world – to ensure sustainability – in the energy sector, in our communities, and in our world.

We all must do our part to protect and nurture our fragile environment, or we risk perishing in the perfect storm of unsustainable practice. It is essential that industries, communities and countries become carbon neutral; it is essential that we cease to do damage, and work tirelessly to undo the damage already done.

Our projects with ATCO and AltaLink are just two examples of the real impact of Siemens’ commitment. That’s Ingenuity for life.

 

 

Building technological and innovation ecosystems with digitalization

In 1869, Robert McLaughlin founded the McLaughlin Carriage Company in a blacksmith’s shop. The company soon grew to the point where it was manufacturing 25,000 horse-drawn carriages a year, grossing $1 million in 1898 – that’s about $30 million in today’s dollars.

But when Robert’s son, Sam McLaughlin became President a few years later, he looked to the future – and it didn’t involve horse-power of the four-footed kind. In 1907, Sam moved to the forefront of innovation, and started making automobiles. Eventually, the McLaughlin family business was making Buicks and Chevrolets.

Imagine where that company would be if Sam had insisted on sticking to blacksmithing.

We’re at a similar point today. Unless we embrace and adopt digitalization, every company, world-wide, is the equivalent on that blacksmith shop, circa. 1907.

You may reply, “No problem. We already have digitalization.” Sure, today, every successful company has an element of digitalization – our IT departments. But having it, or using it effectively to innovate and grow, are not at all the same things.

Perhaps surprisingly, for many of us, this function is almost entirely inward-facing – it serves the internal communication needs of our employees, and it builds firewalls to ensure corporate security.

What it doesn’t do is enable collaboration and communication on a broader – even global – scale – collaboration with stakeholders, potential stakeholders, customers, potential customers, creators, and even competitors who have a shared challenge or opportunity that we all could benefit from.

There is a new report from McKinsey & Company that addresses this contradiction very effectively. And, not surprisingly, the report calls for a change in approach to IT and digitalization in general. The McKinsey report notes, “To fully benefit from new business technology, CIOs need to adapt their traditional IT functions to the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology “ecosystems.”

The report stresses that the common, inward-facing approach – which it terms “business as usual” –will not lead to success. It says, “In an ecosystem environment, an exclusive focus on ‘protecting the center’ can limit a company’s ability to capitalize on emerging opportunities. To adapt their complex business-technology architecture to function in a world of ecosystems, CIOs will have to figure out how to simultaneously draw external technologies closer while managing security issues and getting a handle on the accelerating stream of technological innovations.”

In fact, there are several layers to this digitalization shift. McKinsey suggests that we must move from being internally-focused through the stages of being “customer-facing” and “bilateral” (collaborating with supply chain providers, manufacturing partners, government agencies and others), to what they term “Ecosystem IT”, which involves collaboration with vendors, other industries, new and future markets, and much more.

This is the future. As the McKinsey report suggests, “The future of integration into external ecosystems will force companies to interact with many more partners covering a broad range of functions, ranging from customer sourcing to social advertising to payment solutions.”

There are enormous advantages for companies that move quickly toward digitalization on an ecosystem level – and perhaps they can be most simply summed up in three words: “survival, sustainability, and success”.

In very practical terms, this open concept IT allows vastly improved “end to end” customer service; integration of suppliers, partners and customers into an instant collaborative ecosystem; creation of new partnerships; and destruction of internal silos that are barriers to collaboration, among many other benefits.

Moving into a digital future requires an investment of time and resources; more importantly, it demands an investment of willpower – it will never be enough to accede reluctantly, because that will leave our companies well behind the curve.

Digitalization – your new IT Ecosystem – must be embraced with enthusiasm and supported with all the resources necessary. You have to get behind it, completely, in order to stay ahead.

I’m not suggesting this is an easy change; but I am insisting it is an essential one. If we do not embrace outward-facing digitalization, we will indeed find ourselves alone in an empty blacksmith shop. With no horses in sight.

 

Ingenuity for Life, in the heart of Toronto

I’m very pleased to share the story of one of our innovative collaborations, one that is making a powerful difference in the bustling centre of downtown Toronto. Enwave Energy Corporation operates three energy facilities in the heart of the city, including its flagship steam-heat plant on Pearl Street. Enwave provides heat to about 150 buildings – including Toronto General Hospital, City Hall, universities, arts and cultural landmarks, condo high-rises and office towers.

The Pearl Street plant has been operating for about 60 years and it was time to replace its electromechanical control technology. In the words of Joyce Lee, Enwave’s VP of System Operations and Asset Management, “we needed to move into the digital era.”

That kind of statement is music to my ears. I’m proud to lead a company that is setting an international example in the move to digitalization. As I have often said, digitalization is not simply a means to more efficient corporate operations; it is the essential route to environmental sustainability.

We were delighted when Enwave chose Siemens as its technology partner. We were responsible for supply, engineering, installation, maintenance and support of the cutting-edge Process Automation control system, and the intelligent field instruments connected to it.

To quote Joyce Lee once again, she described our proposal as “a unique solution… we cannot find it anywhere else.” And – to my great delight – she praised our team for their continued commitment to service and support, after the project was completed, and going forward.

That’s all very good news – for Siemens and for our partners. There is nothing more powerful than a genuine testimonial from a satisfied partner.

From the very important sustainability perspective, there is more good news. The new Process Control System we brought to the Pearl Street operation reduces Enwave’s carbon footprint and emissions.

Siemens is a world leader in energy systems, and our trusted partnership with Enwave is in no way ended. We’re working together to accomplish the kinds of results that will make all the difference in our challenging environment. The signs of success are already there – although it is more than 60 years old, the Pearl Street steam plant is now operating at a level of efficiency that exceeds most newly-built steam plans.

Leveraging the companies’ shared passion for innovation, plans are now in the works on some amazing new possibilities. For example, for the Combined Heat and Power program, the objective is to take automation to the next level of sophistication. It’s expected to not only be fully controllable remotely, but also able to proactively calculate the exact timing of when electricity should be dispatched.

I was quite moved when Enwave representatives stated their appreciation, not only for a successful partnership, but for Siemens’ overall commitment to “doing something so valuable for society.” That’s Ingenuity for Life.

To learn more about our partnership with Enwave, please click here.

 

Fueling Innovation

“Innovation” has become a buzzword in our business world. We all claim to embrace innovation – but is that true? Because the foundation of innovation is change, and change is one of the most threatening things that can happen to us as human beings. We do not like change.

I was intrigued by a Huffington Post blog by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D.; she’s the Associate Director of Columbia Business School’s Motivation Science Center.

Dr. Halvorson wrote, “If you are going to be an advocate for change, it might help you to start by understanding what you are up against, psychologically speaking.

“Change and innovation requires that we not only convince others that new can be good, but that we address their (often unconscious) assumption that what’s been around longer looks, works, and tastes better.”

If you – and your organization – are going to embrace innovation, you need to deal with the fear factor. First, fear of change. And, then, even for leaders who are convinced of the need to innovate, fear of failure.

But I want to suggest that we look at this in a new way. Innovation could, possibly, lead to failure – not every new idea brings success. Just look at the number of start-ups that crash and burn. That’s reality.

But the overriding reality is, failure to innovate will, without question, lead to failure. That’s 100 per cent certain.

Innovation is the best – the only – chance we have to survive and thrive in our ever-changing corporate world. In fact, innovation is our only chance in the world, period! If we don’t innovate for sustainability, all will be lost.

This is not easily done, because it involves change, with all the consequences I have mentioned. And it may be change at a very significant level – large organizations may, in fact, need to transform their entire business model in order to create the right environment for effective innovation.

Here at Siemens, we have taken our commitment to change and innovation right outside our normal business channels. Of course, we are innovating and changing at every level, but we’ve also created a new unit – next47 – to foster disruptive ideas more vigorously and to accelerate the development of new technologies. Through next47, Siemens becomes not only an innovator, but we are acting as a venture capitalist, a collaborator, a coach and an advisor to other innovators developing the next big thing in electrification, automation and digitalization.

Jerome S. Engel is an innovation expert and senior fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. He recently said, “There is still room for improvement in the open innovation model with regard to the interaction of large companies and recently established market participants. Large companies have to learn to operate ambidextrously, and continue to pursue their core areas of expertise while experimenting elsewhere.”

The future rests with intelligent, forward-thinking people. I’m proud that we have many such people within our Siemens organization, in Canada and internationally. But we don’t have all of them. Not even close. You have them, too, in established companies and brand-new start-ups.

We absolutely must look outside the box; we must support and collaborate with innovators, wherever we find them.

 

Corporate Sustainability should be as natural as breathing

One of the most significant international corporate rankings has just been announced by Corporate Knights: the Global Most Sustainable Corporations list. All of us at Siemens are thrilled that our company earned the number one spot in the 2017 rankings.

I am delighted to see Siemens honoured for its cutting edge commitment to sustainability.

In 2017, making sustainability a corporate priority is exactly like making breathing a personal priority. If you stop breathing, you can’t live. And if corporations fail to become sustainable, they too can’t live.

It is no longer simply a good or noble thing for corporations to be environmentally responsible. It is an absolutely essential part of any corporation’s business plan – as essential as breathing.

It’s clear, from the Corporate Knights’ list, that many, many companies are doing just that. The Sustainable Corporations ranking process this year started with 4,973 listed companies; the magazine published the top 100.

Sustainability is not simply an “add-on” idea for corporations. For a company to be truly sustainable, environmental and human concerns have to be at the very heart of all of its operations, its planning, and its decision-making.

I am pleased to say that sustainability has been at the core of Siemens’ culture since Werner von Siemens founded the company 170 years ago, and continues to be a driver for Siemens companies around the world, including here in Canada.

Our new branding tagline –Ingenuity for Life – focuses directly on sustainability; our innovations and developments must contribute to human life at its healthiest.

Our sustainable business model makes three areas of sustainable development – environment, business and society – the cornerstone of all corporate activities.

Clearly, energy is one key area for all corporations to consider. At Siemens, this is one of our core competencies, as we work with clients to develop sustainable energy systems. But it also needs to be an internal commitment for every company. For example, Siemens is committed to cutting our company’s carbon footprint in half by 2020 and to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Corporate sustainability does not come about by accident, or through wishful thinking. Corporations need to develop a clearly defined organizational structure and a sustainability strategy, and then to work – and work hard! – to be sure this strategy is understood, accepted, and carried out at every level of corporate activity.

It’s one thing to claim to be green; it’s another to make sustainability the foundation of your investment strategy, your planning, your research and development, your supply chain, your day-to-day activities, and your entire eco-system. But this is what we all must do.

Never before in history has corporate efforts to protect and improve our global environment been so important. Corporations that drain resources and put nothing back are, frankly, the enemy of our world – and of all of us who are working to save it.

I applaud the efforts of the companies honoured by Corporate Knights – and I am glad to use this opportunity, provided to us by Corporate Knights, to call on all corporations to join together in this drive toward sustainability – which is in reality, a drive toward survival.

With digitalization, space is truly without frontiers

Siemens is deeply invested in the aerospace industry, world-wide, and we are expanding our commitment to the industry, right here in Canada.

Space is no longer “the final frontier.” Of course, in one very infinite sense, space will always present frontiers to be explored. But when it comes to the aerospace industry, space is not the great unknown – space is our lab and our factory floor. It is the environment in which we work, every day.

The “great unknown” is not “space” – the great unknown is what new challenges and opportunities tomorrow will bring us.

These challenges sweep right across the aerospace industry. Like every other modern industry, we must be concerned with environmental issues and sustainability. We are faced with the need to improve fuel efficiency, to achieve noise reduction. We have to become increasingly flexible in how we do business, and how we meet the changing needs of our customers. We operate in a world of fierce competition. Open markets and low cost players are driving cost and productivity pressures.

The aerospace industry must meet the challenge of building more and improved aircraft with a shorter time to market. This means we have to get better, and quicker, at every stage from product design through engineering and execution, to service.

We must be ready to conquer new frontiers – both in the exploration and utilization of space, and in the R&D and production aspects of carrying out our aerospace enterprise right here on earth – and to productively share in the unfolding visions for new space missions. We will be going to Mars; we will be building new space stations, launching new and improved satellites for telecommunications, defense, security and science.

By its nature the aerospace industry has a proud history of discoveries and innovation that has shaped our modern world. However, in our age of destructive innovation, and the challenges and new frontiers I have just noted, every industry must continually re-invent itself with new, innovative approaches. We have to be fluid, and – in every way – “smart”.

At Siemens Canada, we are determined to be “smart”. We are committed to running ahead of the pack, embracing change and disruption, and driving innovation. And we are very involved in driving innovation in the aerospace industry.

Siemens has a strong reputation as a system provider of automation solutions, and in that role, Siemens supports the aerospace industry through all phases of the product and production life cycle.  Siemens collaborates with all the major companies in the aerospace industry, and as a long-established partner of the industry, we offer a comprehensive range of products, systems and solutions, from new technology applications for aircraft engine production to the final stage of the paint process.

We have introduced and rigorously implanted Industry 4.0 in our R&D, design, production, and operations areas. We use our own unique Product Life Management (PLM) software, factory automation and advanced data analytics capabilities. We combine the virtual with the real world by creating “digital twins” of every product. As we use this digital technology, space is truly without frontiers.

We have been a partner in the Mars Rover missions with NASA, where Siemens PLM software was used throughout the development process to digitally design, simulate and assemble the Rovers before any physical prototypes were built. Siemens is also supporting SpaceX in their new disruptive approach to space democratization, with their stated mission, “to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” As with the Mars projects, SpaceX is relying on our powerful Siemens PLM Software to create a managed development environment.

Our commitment to Canada’s aerospace industry is to bring this technology to Canada in collaboration with our customers and partners. We need to work together in R&D, to shape government policies, and especially, to market Canadian expertise to the world.

Canada has always been a significant player in the aerospace industry. We need to collaborate in all the areas I have just mentioned, but perhaps more importantly, we need to work together to develop more effective educational programs, programs that will provide the optimal benefit to work-ready graduates, and to our industry. This has become one of my passions – we must work with colleges, universities, colleagues in the industry and government to re-shape our training and education programs.

This is absolutely essential if Canada’s aerospace industry is to meet the challenges of the next frontier.

Ingenuity for Life

When you log on to the Siemens Canada website, I’m sure you will notice that something has changed. The “Siemens” logo is still proudly there, but there is a new tagline: “Ingenuity for Life”. I had the pleasure of introducing this significant new element of our corporate brand at the Ontario Economic Summit a few days ago.

We chose this new tagline because of the two key pillars invoked by these words. “Ingenuity” captures the truth that we at Siemens aspire to be highly creative, that we continually innovate, that we execute with excellence and that we act responsibly in everything we do.

The “for life” portion means that we at Siemens are always connected to people. It means that our solutions will create a lasting, positive impact on people’s lives, on the society in which we live, and on the precious environment of our planet. We do this not because we have to, but simply because it is the right thing to do.

“Ingenuity for life” is a very forward-looking concept – it promises that we will work to develop solutions for Canada’s challenges and opportunities today, tomorrow, and in the next 150 years of this great country, and that we will continue to foster life-changing innovation as long as we exist as a company. And that will be a very long time, indeed.

Our new brand also has roots in our past; Siemens has launched “Ingenuity for life” globally, this year – the 200th anniversary of the birth of our founder, Werner von Siemens. We stand on a strong foundation of historical success – success built on the unchanging core values of high quality products, innovative strength, and reliability – but we take none of that for granted, and we recognize that change is a reality we simply have to embrace.

Over the next few months, you will hear from our customers about how we have supported them with our ingenuity. I’m looking forward to sharing some of their stories.

One such story that demonstrates “Ingenuity for Life” is the ongoing partnership with New Brunwick’s NB Power.

We are working with NB Power to create a paradigm-changing system of managing and delivering electrical energy. As electrical utilities around the world can attest, this industry is in the midst of profound change.

NB Power decided to be spectacularly proactive, and called on Siemens and the University of New Brunswick to partner with them on what can only be called a full-system transformation. Approximately 150 smart grid initiatives are underway, including the introduction of intelligent load management software that allows customers to lower energy costs by reducing and shifting electricity demand.  We are supporting utility transformation through innovations in data analytics and other software to provide more consistent service – and power source sustainability. The path ahead must be green.

Siemens Canada is investing in “Ingenuity for Life” in New Brunswick, through the Global Centre of Competence in Fredericton, and by funding smart grid research projects at New Brunswick universities. And we have worked to create something that also might be called a “smart grid” – a network that links researchers at the University of New Brunswick, at Siemens and at NB Power, enabling researchers to develop and test sustainable electricity innovations, and then prove them sustainable and market-ready.

Clearly, our new tagline is no mere marketing exercise. I believe “Ingenuity for life” will speak to our partners, our stakeholders, and our customers – but first and foremost, it will speak to our people, as a constant reminder that our mission is to use technology and our digital expertise to improve the lives of Canadians, and to foster sustainability and environmental health, in this country and across the globe.

The Power of Open City Data

I had the pleasure of being in the great city of London, England, recently to attend the Power of City Data conference. This event felt like a double win for me, because it was co-hosted by the Siemens Crystal and by the World Council on City Data.

The Siemens Crystal is our company’s innovative centre for sustainable urban development, opened in London in 2012. It’s a busy exhibition, conference and education facility, and has attracted a quarter of a million visitors in only four years.

And as to the co-host, I am proud to be a member of the World Council on City Data, a global hub for creative learning partnerships across cities, international organizations, corporate partners, and academia to further innovation, envision alternative futures, and build better and more liveable cities.

The conference attracted hundreds of delegates from around the world, leaders from the private and public sectors, academia and government. It was inspiring to learn more from these international leaders about their work and their unfolding vision for sustainability.

The focus of the conference was on the importance of city data and how standardized data can help build prosperous, resilient and investment-ready cities. It also considered the question of what technologies are required now and in the future from companies like Siemens, and others, to make this vision possible.

One of the key speakers at the conference was Dr. Patricia McCarney, Director of the Global Cities Institute, and also President and CEO of the World Council on City Data. Patricia is an inspiring individual, a much-respected collaborator and a friend.

She contends that cities have everything to gain by sharing open city data. Patricia points out that all cities are interested in improving prosperity for their citizens, livability, environmental quality and safety.

What cities have not done effectively until now, she said, is share information that will help other cities to learn from best practices.

Patricia says that when we get data allowing cities to make apples-to-apples comparisons, everyone can find ways to improve their sustainability.

WCCD was a prime mover in creating ISO 37120 certification, an international standard for city services and quality-of-life indicators – the information that cities need to make decisions that will improve quality of life and sustainability.

Our cities around the world must become smart cities and shared data on best practices is crucial if this is to take place. The entire range of data about our cities – from energy efficiency to safety – becomes a more effective resource when anyone can access it.

Cities must work together, sharing data, learning best practices, even sharing failures so we can all learn from them. And companies – including my own – must be enthusiastic collaborators with the urban centres who are our partners, our clients – and the very communities we call home.

Our cities have to be smart, or they will see their infrastructure utterly fail to meet the needs of their citizens. This is true on the macro level – city-wide – and on the micro level, building by building. Smart cities will develop smart buildings – that’s one reason the Siemens Crystal was the ideal locale for our conference.

WCCD started with 20 cities. By March 2017, we hope to have 100 cities certified. Patricia McCarney is optimistic. She says that cities “are very keen on open data.”

Speakers at the conference pointed out that, for cities to prosper, they must have information – about urban challenges and potential solutions – and the best sources of information are other cities that are facing – or have conquered – the same problems.

I’m a great believer in breaking down silos. Open data accomplishes this, creating communication between cities and among the citizens of cities. Building a culture of open data is the doorway to a culture of innovation.

Moving faster than the speed of light! Embracing innovation and welcoming disruption in the energy sector.

From the time when primitive craftsmen first used fire to forge tools and weapons, through the era of water-powered mills, right up to today, industry and energy have had a fundamental, essential relationship. Without energy, there can be no industry.

But today, that relationship is changing at the speed of light. We are living in an era of continuous disruption; we adapt, we innovate, or we die. There’s usually no third option. Nowhere is the necessity to adapt and innovate more clear than in the area of energy – an area that touches the very heart of all of our industries.

What can we say for sure about the future of energy in Canada? Can I tell you what is going to happen to oil prices or if certain pipeline projects are going to be approved or if scientists are going to solve issues around fracking or extraction? No.

But I can tell you with certainty that nothing about energy – supply, transmission, and usage – is going to be the same, ever again. The emphasis on renewable power generation will continue to grow. The science supporting sustainability will grow with it, creating disruptive innovation at every turn.

In the meantime, we will continue to draw from our valuable and extensive oil and gas supplies, but in this industry, too, innovation will work to our advantage – and it is incumbent upon all of us as stakeholders in the energy field to be enablers of innovation.

We have already begun to experience the impact of disruptive innovation in our urban cityscapes. Cities are changing in dramatic and disruptive ways. Cities are becoming “smart”. Utilities are becoming “smart” as well. Siemens Canada has partnered with NB Power to develop world-leading innovation in power transmission distribution, smart grids, and other smart applications. This is where the creation of smart cities intersects with innovations in energy – because smart cities, smart energy systems, and intelligent buildings all impact on the sustainability of our energy supply.

What did energy mean for industry, a few decades ago? Essentially, it was a commodity we needed to drive our business; we accessed the most available and reliable energy source, we powered our factories, we built the financial cost into our financial equations – and that was basically where it ended for most of us.

Today, we still want a reliable power supply and, of course, the economics will always be important to bottom-line-driven, for-profit enterprises. But today, we are equally concerned with economic efficiency, with resource efficiency and with climate protection.

That’s disruption for you. Where once the environmental impact of obtaining energy was just seen as “the cost of doing business” – a cost borne by everyone on the planet, incidentally – today, job one is to mitigate and if possible eliminate any impact on the environment.

For a while, businesses talked about being green, but worried more about being in the red. Today, that no longer flies. It’s essential to be green. At Siemens, for example, we are committed to being carbon neutral worldwide by 2030 by focusing on more energy-efficient vehicles, on green facilities, and on decreased consumption of fuel.

We must do our part – and that means looking at energy from a new, 21st century perspective. Today, we are perfectly placed to provide the answers to these problems. We each must embrace the opportunity. Get re-charged with the sustainable notion that driving disruptive innovation is the path to greatness for each of our companies. When we embrace disruptive innovation, we are serving the best interests of our planet, our customers, and our people and our business. Profit, people and planet are in sync!

A different way of thinking

In my previous blog, I reflected on the skills gap in this country – and on the fact that both students and employers believe college and university graduates are woefully unprepared for the careers they hope to follow.

I wrote about the need for collaboration between industry and education – and suggested that the German model, where training and apprenticeship are part of the fundamental educational program, should be part of the solution.

I was honoured to be recognized last month by The Learning Partnership for the education initiatives we have implemented at Siemens Canada which I will describe below. The Learning Partnership is a national charitable organization dedicated to support, promote and advance publicly funded education in Canada. Please click here to view my remarks from The Learning Partnership Tribute dinner.

In February of this year, I attended the official opening of the new Mechatronics Simulation and Demonstration Centre at Seneca College, the first such facility in Ontario. It’s a collaborative effort of the government of Ontario, Seneca, and Siemens Canada that will offer students an applied learning environment and ultimately, a certification that will help prepare them for success in Canada’s top industries.

During the opening ceremonies, Seneca College President David Agnew said that the new facility exists to train “the highly skilled workforce Ontario needs to take our manufacturing sector to the next level.

I was very honoured when he added, “When you partner with Siemens, you are partnering with the gold standard… an absolute global leader in advanced manufacturing… This is all about getting our students ready for the economy of today and tomorrow.”

Siemens is deeply committed in every way to fostering a new way of training. That’s why we have developed SCETA – Siemens Canada Engineering & Technology Academy. This unique initiative is designed to equip Canadian engineering and engineering technology students with the educational and professional foundation they need to forge successful careers – careers that hopefully will see them become vital members of the Siemens Canada team. We’re working with colleges and universities across Canada toward this objective. We are partnering with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters on the program, because we agree that these efforts hold benefits for the entire Canadian manufacturing sector.

It’s a win-win-win program. The students participate in an enhanced co-op program at Siemens Canada, and are paid a full-time salary throughout their enrollment with SCETA during their final two years at university or college. Siemens also pays their tuition for those two years. Siemens wins, because we offer full-time positions to select students. The colleges and universities win, because expectations about job-readiness among graduates are now more closely aligned.

It’s working. The second term of SCETA is now underway. This particular cohort is spending four weeks of this term at our Siemens Mechatronics partner school, Sheridan College, in Brampton, Ontario. The students will obtain a Siemens Mechatronics Level 1 Certification, the first group in the country to accomplish this.

The Chamber of Commerce report I cited in my last blog acknowledges that there are some promising, individual efforts where business and industry are collaborating with educational institutions. I believe SCETA is a shining example of this.

But the report says this is not enough. It calls for “a more open approach to sharing information in an understandable and comparable way, a more system-wide approach to address gaps and barriers, policy incentives to encourage more collaboration between employers and educators where it makes sense, and work to build the tools needed to help all this happen.”

I could not agree more. The efforts of a few corporations such as Siemens, and a few educational institutions, will not solve the systemic problem that graduates are coming out of educational institutions, unprepared for the jobs that await them. The Chamber report was considerably harsher in its assessment: it says that the disconnect between education and job requirements is one of the causes of the “skills gap, which is said to be costing Ontario around $24.3 billion each year in lost GDP and British Columbia $6 billion.”

While there may be signs of improvement, in general our system is failing to produce job-ready, properly trained graduates. Well, enough of such failure. It’s being proven that a solution can exist. I am writing to you, my business colleagues, leaders, and educators, to encourage you to be part of the solution that leads to success. Let’s work together, literally and immediately, to build an educational model that produces the team members we need for all of our futures.

Akeela Peeples, The Learning Partnership, Sam Sebastian, Google Canada and Robert Hardt, Siemens Canada
Akela Peeples, The Learning Partnership, Sam Sebastian, Google Canada and Robert Hardt, Siemens Canada

Seneca Mechatronics Demonstration and Simulation Lab 4 Seneca Mechatronics Demonstration and Simulation Lab 6