The pandemic caused a seismic shift in many sectors. This has awakened ingenuity and seems to be expediting technological advancements in society – especially peoples’ willingness to embrace those advancements.
One sector hit particularly hard: higher education.
Canadian universities, dependent on foreign students, are facing financial struggles, according to a recent Reuters report.
Due south, universities in the United States are reeling from financial impacts that are projected to exceed $120 billion, per a recent Forbes article.
The situation is dire – and the same creative, think-outside-the-box reasoning that universities are known to teach is now needed by those same universities.
“Canadian universities need to pay attention to what is happening in the United States; not just the bad news, but also the good news,” said Canadian entrepreneur George Scorsis. “What the Florida Institute of Technology is doing is an excellent example of a strategic pivot.”
He is referring to Florida Tech’s $18 million health sciences research center set to expand biomedical programs. Having recently broken ground, the 61,000-square-foot facility is set to be completed in December 2021, according to a Florida Today article.
Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay said universities are at a “crossroads” during the groundbreaking for the new facility.
“National student populations have decreased and consumers have questioned the value of a college education, making it difficult for colleges to maintain their enrollment and revenue,” according to Florida Today.
Some smaller private universities are struggling to the point of being shuttered while those with multiple campuses are looking at consolidation. Few are currently looking at significant investment and building new facilities.
“This move by Florida Tech is an excellent example of forward-thinking and finding opportunities,” said Scorsis.
Florida Tech is banking on a spike in demand in the biomedical sciences field. The 60,000-square-foot facility will effectively double the size of the program and include “20,000 square feet of classroom and training space and include a variety of specialty equipment.”
That specialty equipment will include a range of cutting-edge tools, including synthetic cadavers and virtual reality training equipment.
“One of the great laws of entrepreneurship is that you try to fill a need. This effort by Florida Tech will do just that,” George Scorsis said. “What else will the world need in years to come? The power to pivot extends beyond just people and businesses – and Florida Tech is proving that.”
However, McCay said that many of the new ideas and technologies came from Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, which partnered with Florida Tech in 2020.
“Expansion during a pandemic and dealing with pressures of enrollment will no doubt bring some struggles, but I truly believe that more universities should see Florida Tech’s example and think about what they can do,” Scorsis said.
McCay explained that getting students ready to step into medical school will not only help the students get higher-paying jobs but will also help the greater community. Medical experts are needed in this rapidly changing environment.
“This pandemic has demonstrated that not only the U.S. but the whole world is not equipped well enough to try to handle this kind of an issue,” McCay said, noting the future is bright at Florida Tech.
A Migration From Hospitality
Scorsis notes another pandemic-driven phenomenon – the move to skilled trades. The industry is seeing a boom after a significant portion of the workforce was faced with job insecurity.
Students previously employed in the restaurant, airline, and hospitality industries are now training at the Skilled Trade Colleges of Canada, according to Director Mike Di Donato. He noted that these sectors have been particularly hit hard from provincial lockdowns and have an uncertain future.
“People who were in these industries which are struggling are looking to retrain,” Di Donato told Daily Commercial News. “One of the things that have been constantly in the news is that construction never closed…and there is definitely a demand for it, so people are seeing that and looking to get into the trades.”
This movement is great news for the construction industry, as there was a developing shortage of skilled tradesmen, according to Scorsis.
“The appeal of good jobs with excellent pay and steady work – even through a pandemic – is bolstering the construction industry. Opportunities abound for people who need good jobs and are willing to pivot,” he said.