The right tools to navigate a changing world

It’s often acknowledged that universities aim to offer students a transformational personal experience. This is a noble goal, and one we should strive for. However, I frequently remind myself that universities also have an obligation to transform the world around us, for everyone. That may sound like a lofty claim, but I genuinely believe it to be true.

Successful universities are increasingly publicly engaged and firmly fixed on actively building a better future. I know this to be true here at UNB.

As a public university, we are dedicated to the public good and public interest. We are motivated by a desire to share our advances in research as broadly as possible. Our performance in research and our teaching is crucial for a province that faces a future marked by disruption and change.

New Brunswick’s future will be shaped by the community’s capacity to be adaptable, educated, and skilled. That makes a university education a smart investment for students and for our society as a whole – a fact borne out by many measurements. We know, for instance, that UNB graduates who were active in the provincial workforce in 2013-14 generated another $949.9 million in added income through their higher earnings and the increased productivity of their employers.

UNB has an important role to play in supporting economic growth in the province whether through supporting economic innovation, contributing to the vibrant startup culture or fostering entirely new employment sectors. UNB has been successful at this in the past in areas such as aquaculture and geomatics, and more recently with opportunities like smart grid and cybersecurity. Our culture of entrepreneurship creates real change for New Brunswick, and this is something we should acknowledge with pride. New Brunswick needs more UNB innovation and entrepreneurship.

Many of you have heard Premier Higgs speak of the projected 120,000 job vacancies that our province must address over the coming decade, triggered by retirements in an aging workforce. Ten years from now, our economy and the jobs that propel it will look very different than they do today, due to technological advancements, environmental change and social progress.

At UNB, we are committed to developing and delivering programs that are excellent and relevant for the future. We absolutely need to prepare our students for the challenges they will face in the future, both economic and non-economic.

Responding to this poses a worthy challenge for us as a university. We plan carefully with our limited resources to deliver the right number of seats and programs to fill those vacancies. We see this as a remarkable opportunity to reshape New Brunswick’s workforce for a more adaptable and competitive future.

New Brunswick needs people to fill job vacancies and grow our economy, and we will rise to this challenge. But jobs alone are not enough to secure a prosperous future. We also need to protect our environment, nurture the health of our people and communities, and strengthen our democracy. Similarly, our responsibilities to the future are not restricted to workforce preparation. Universities do much more than train students to be future workers. We are also preparing them for a full and rich life, one that involves navigating the world’s histories and cultures, sorting truth from misinformation, becoming leaders, and fulfilling our civic duties to each other and the community. We’re working hard every day to build a UNB where teaching, innovation and outreach serve all of these goals, for all New Brunswickers. We welcome everyone to join us in this cause.