Higher Education Reform The Benefits of Cost

Rabat – As more and more nations move to a post-industrial knowledge economy that is driven by information technology and professional service sector jobs, the need for post-secondary education that promotes portable and transferable skills will become critical.Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani recently reassured the Moroccan public that the government has no plans to abandon free education in public institutions. He described media reports to the contrary as “completely untrue.”The future for public higher education institutions in Morocco, on the other hand, likely includes inscription (enrollment) fees and other fees that may slightly resemble tuition. It is likely that family income will be a main determinant of just who pays how much. Any potential enrollment fees should be returned as investments in the higher education system – staff, learning resources, adjunct faculty from the business, arts and science communities. The public should welcome a new paradigm that creates obligations for the education system to serve students while also creating new expectations for students to better visualize their professional career in Moroccan society. Morocco’s services sector accounts for half of the kingdom’s annual GDP. Many of these service sector jobs, from information technology consultants to marketing professionals, will become an increasingly important component of the kingdom’s economy. In many nations, there is excitement for the professional service sector and its role in creating jobs. This year for the first time, Moroccan tech startups will participate in the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), the premier consumer technology trade show held in Las Vegas and a showcase of small-firm innovation. Maghreb Arab Press reported in October that Morocco had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China to establish an economic zone in Fez, primarily for professional or service sector initiatives.The traditional mission of training Morocco’s civil servants, teachers and lawyers is going to continue but as the economy diversifies the university as private sector employee incubator will become critically important. Beyond the change that is required to meet new demands from a dynamic economy, partnering enrollment fees with new investments in higher education will help Moroccan public universities become even more invaluable public resources. As a byproduct, enrollment fees/tuition can create buy-in, a heightened sense of connection and obligation by faculty and students alike. Incurring some debt is a tradition for most American college students. It often creates stress, but it prepares students for a dynamic US economy where career change – planned and unplanned – is increasingly common.In 2015, the Higher Council for Education Training and Scientific Research introduced a strategic vision roadmap that outlined the future for Moroccan schools. Equality in access, increased standards for education/teacher training curriculum, and increased support for vocational training were all main components of the new strategic vision. Admirable in that the plan sought to re-engage young people, particularly those from rural Morocco and those who are Amazigh in ancestry.Large American land-grant public universities faced similar challenges related to affordability, cost, workforce development and public duty in the wake of the Great Recession (2007-09). Beyond the unpopular practice of raising tuition and other programming fees, these institutions gradually expanded innovative programs that may also find meaning in Morocco. Citizens are more supportive of increases in enrollment fees, tuition hikes and other payments when they perceive that there are direct benefits for the student and their respective community. Some of the post-recession priorities of public higher education include:Public-private partnerships – The connections between academics and vocation (jobs) have been getting stronger in the US since the Great Recession (2007-09). Employers want and need college graduates with required skills, from literature majors who can write compelling and coherent content to landscape architects who are as comfortable with GIS software as they are in the field. Many journalism students in American universities do internships at local media outlets to gain experience and insight from working journalists. MBA students can participate in the management of market funds to better understand market investment and fund management. Real world experience. A 2016 PayScale survey of hiring managers in the US found 60% of the managers believe newly hired graduates within their organizations do not have sufficient critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Job skill competency and workforce development are high priorities for the Moroccan government, too.Inside-Outside classroom experience – From lawyers who lecture regularly in law schools to retired government officials who lead policy issue seminars for public policy students, interacting with practitioners from the non-academic world gives students a sense of how their studies relate to real-world situations. During graduate school, one of my professors was a retired US Foreign Service officer. His homework assignments required students to write three-page memorandums on a given issue, not a twenty-page research thesis. It introduced me to concepts like brevity and rapid decision-making.Community connections – How does the university serve the people and the community beyond turning out college graduates? That question faces every college and university in the US, particularly public institutions that require state government aid. Bringing academic knowledge into the community, town and duar is critically important to create a sense of value in the view of the general public as well as a sense of citizenship among young graduates. It’s not just about getting “that job.” Since higher education is free for a majority of young Moroccan college students, engaged citizenship should also be an expectation. Student-led and university-led field research exist across Morocco. Regularizing engagement efforts in diverse fields like land use, public health outreach and micro-enterprise development creates strong bonds between academia and regular citizens.The American model need not be seen as a default template. According to the College Board, the average total cost of one year at an American public university for an in-state student is $20,090 ($9,000 for tuition alone). Additionally, American students rely on college loans (government-funded and private loans). Though many students are eligible for academic scholarships and tuition discounts that reduce the final cost significantly, 44 million Americans held $1.3 trillion in student debt last year. But college is worth the costs: the average starting salary for new American college graduates is now $49,700. The high per capita income levels of college graduates help promote home ownership and a broad middle class.Morocco’s tradition of free university education is a noble endeavor, nurturing a modest middle class of administrative civil servants, teachers and community leaders. Importantly, it’s also a cornerstone of national pride and cohesion. Students from around the world come to study at Mohammad V University in Rabat and Cady Ayyad University in Marrakech. The diversity that exists in many Moroccan universities is one of great attributes of the kingdom’s higher education system. Those legacies can be maintained while acknowledging that there are drawbacks to nearly unlimited free higher education in an era where Morocco’s growing economy is increasingly tied to the economies of nations where private enterprise is the largest driver of job creation.The good news: an increasing number of the new jobs being created in Morocco, from IT to tourism management to automotive sector light manufacturing, require vocational education (1-2 years of post-lycee training, or less). New legislation that will provide several thousand dirhams in scholarship support to student trainees in the National Office for Vocational Training and Promotion (OFPPT) is the kind of critical support that students and families need. The current Al Akhawayn University strategic plan describes broad expectations for students that feature personal characteristics like “communication, collaboration, open-mindedness, proactivity, and professional curiosity.” Indeed, required skills for students and university administrators alike.Connecting higher education to workforce development is priority challenge for nations across the globe. Navigating the transition to a more competitive and fee-based higher education system will pay dividends in the future. Scholarships are wonderful and provide an opportunity that previously may not have existed. Equally important in the new economy is cost sharing, public-private partnerships and academic innovation. Supporting student success beyond the classroom. read more

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Facing another tough winter Brock scientists help grape growers prepare for fight

Jim Willerth collects samples of grape vines for CCOVI’s VineAlert program. Amid new predictions for another deep-freeze winter, scientists at Brock University are taking steps to help Ontario grape growers avoid millions of dollars worth of cold-weather damage.Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) has reinstituted VineAlert, a program that measures the cold hardiness of grapevines and warns growers when to turn on their frost-fighting wind machines. As another tool, CCOVI is also partnering with Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc. (OGWRI) to produce a best-practices manual to help growers avoid devastating injury to grapevines.This comes as a new economic impact study says VineAlert helps Ontario’s grape industry avoid up to $13.8 million in lost sales from a single severe cold weather event, as well as $11.7 million in lost sales while damaged vines recover in subsequent years, and $29.1 million in vine renewal and replacement costs.The study by the Goodman School of Business consulting group also found that, last winter alone, VineAlert helped growers save as much as $2.3 million in fuel costs just by knowing when it was not necessary to turn on their wind machines.Ontario’s $3.3-billion grape and wine sector represents half of the Canadian industry, and CCOVI director Debbie Inglis says preventing winter injury is a constant concern.“It only takes one cold event where vines are not protected, and you can have serious crop loss and ongoing costs associated with that loss,” she said. “Our cold hardiness program gives growers the knowledge to make informed decisions, which results in savings of time and money.”Niagara-on-the-Lake grape grower Trevor Falk says VineAlert helps local growers by providing distinct information for different micro-climates within a single Ontario region.“To have research done on representative vineyards is invaluable when making business decisions in the vineyard regarding wind machine use,” said Falk.VineAlert tracks a grape bud’s ability to survive severe cold during the dormant season from October to April, signalling at what temperature different varieties would sustain damage.“The key is to know when to turn on a wind machine, to warm up the local air so the vine never experiences the cold temperatures,” said Inglis. “You cannot tell that just by looking at the vine. We actually go out and sample buds from grapevines, bring them back and use our freezer systems to measure how cold tolerant they are before they die.”Besides considering the vine variety and vineyard location, VineAlert researchers also factor in the conditions and lateness of the preceding growing season, and how deep into the winter a cold snap is occurring.“If a vine’s cold hardiness in autumn has been delayed due to a late start in the spring growing season, or a cool growing season like we had this year, then a minus-15 spell in late November has more impact than a minus-15 event two months later.”Beyond economic savings, there are social and environmental gains from knowing when wind machines are required. Benefits include noise reduction in areas where vineyards border urban developments, and reduced running time for wind machine engines.CCOVI scientist Jim Willwerth, supported by colleagues Kevin Ker and Inglis, developed the new best-practices manual, which is based on five years of cold-hardiness research.VineAlert is currently supported through funding from the Grape Growers of Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation’s (MRI) Ontario Research Fund’s Research Excellence program. Funding from MRI and OGWRI supported the development of the best practices guide and the VineAlert database. read more

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Developing Health and Safety in mines

first_imgAccording to Global Mine Design Ltd: “The phrase ‘Zero Harm’ is a widely used strapline throughout the mining industry as we try to combat having reached, statistically at least, a safety plateau. Internationally the number of injuries recorded decreased from 3,138 in 2015 to 2,662 in 2016, but this rate has slowed compared to previous years. The major causes of fatalities were still fall-of-ground incidents at 33%; slip and fall, falls from heights and fires together accounted for 21% and transport factors accounted for 14%.Global Mine Design Ltd says it is working to positively change the approach to mine design. “Our approach, of using integrated monitoring networks to reinforce safe working conditions and provide input for ongoing data-driven mine planning decisions, is based on experience we’ve gained from years of monitoring excavation response in challenging active ground conditions. Our expertise is used to help mine sites design ground support systems and create safe work protocols.”When talking about Health and Safety in general it would be fair to shine the spotlight on South Africa, where the legacy from earlier attitudes to worker safety still resonates in the drive to continually improve safe mining conditions. The South African Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) shows fatalities falling from 112 in 2012 to 93 in 2013, 84 in 2014 and 77 in 2015; 73 deaths were recorded in 2016.Warren Beech (Head of Mining at Hogan Lovells in Johannesburg, South Africa), in his recent interview with Mining Weekly, explained his belief that two major factors are behind poor health and safety performance in South Africa’s mining industry: “The primary issue is behaviour – the attitude and approach to health and safety at mining operations. The key to addressing behaviour is internalising a sense of safety. Health and safety at mines needs to go beyond implementation on site only, and needs to be embedded as common practice by all mine staff [regardless of whether they are at home or at work]. For example, vehicle speed limits, although mostly adhered to at mine sites, are quickly disregarded as soon as personnel leave the site, as enforcement is drastically reduced and the threat of being caught is less probable.”He adds: The second issue is the general instability in the mining sector, which affects the morale of mine management and staff, including political insecurity nationally and job insecurity as well as general commercial insecurity in the mining industry, with depressed commodity prices and variable demand from the once thriving primary markets… The mines went through major restructuring as a result of the international commodities downturn . . . in terms of demand and prices. Restructuring impacts on work teams, including supervision, the sense of camaraderie and smooth workflow.”Global Mine Design believes it can see elements of these issues throughout the global mining industry. In the UK, for example, the Health and Safety Executive published revised Mines Regulations in 2014 with emphasis on producing a single, modern set of regulations that are focussed on the control of risks from major hazards in mines. This is a timely update of the regulations, with the recent opening of Wolf Minerals’ Drakelands Mine and several other exciting mining prospects in the UK, such as Strongbow Exploration’s work to re-open the South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall, and Galantas Gold Corporation’s expansion of the Cavanacaw Mine in Northern Ireland. In Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Labour published a Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review in March 2015 that focussed on continuous improvement of occupational health and safety needs in the mining sector.So, while great inroads are being made in terms of legislation and policy making, there is a long journey between legislation and ‘boots on the ground’ worker safety. “Global Mine Design always has an eye for the practical application of safe, economic, and productive mine design, and part of that comes from seeing the implementation of safety practices across multiple mining jurisdictions around the world.”Global Mine Design gets involved with Mine Standards in three very important ways. “As auditors, we help mines review their current Ground Control Management and Mine Design standards to determine if they are up to date and effective in the workforce; if standards need improving, we help the site adopt Change Management procedures to track important changes in protocols. As technical and subject matter experts we help mines understand the critical and influential ground conditions and material properties that influence the rockmass response to mining; understanding how the mine may respond to the extraction plan allows the risks and benefits associated with different options to be considered before committing. As members of Technical Advisory Committees in various mining jurisdictions around the world our staff help share best practice; technical groups and committees are critical to feed ideas and information amongst peers – communication of good and bad experiences helps raise the overall standard of mine safety standards.”last_img read more

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