With Canada needing to fill a reported 216,000 highly skilled IT positions by 2021, governments and organizations across the country are looking for ways to lure talent.
Mitacs, a national not-for-profit research and training group, has been doing just that with its unique internship program, Globalink, which is meant to foster international research links while boosting the national economy.
The 12-week research internship has allowed 500 international students, from countries such as Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Germany, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, to conduct research at 45 Canadian universities this summer. The students work under the direction of Canadian professors and in collaboration with local researchers to solve complex problems facing businesses in industries such as healthcare, robotics, aviation, communication, and the environment.
The number of international students studying in Canada has increased by 92 per cent between 2008 and 2015, according to Alejandro Adem, CEO and scientific director of Mitacs, who says that Canada is considered “a top research destination” by both the academic and business communities.
“The top three reasons foreign students choose to study here are the quality of Canada’s education system, our reputation as a tolerant and non-discriminatory society and our reputation as a safe country,” he continues, adding that students in the Globalink program receive hands-on experience while contributing to important research.
Some of the “groundbreaking” projects underway include:
- Autonomous wheelchairs that operate on the same principles as self-driving cars and can be easily operated by users with severe upper body mobility impairments (University of Toronto).
- A wearable mobile electrocardiogram (ECG) for heart monitoring, created using smartphones and expected to save lives through continuous, seamless monitoring of patients (University of Victoria).
- An air traffic management system that removes the need for ground control and increases air traffic safety and efficiency, allowing aircraft to broadcast their position and monitor the surrounding airspace for traffic using GPS and advanced data transmission systems (University of Calgary).
- A basketball playing humanoid robot poised to participate in an upcoming international tournament that is being programmed to successfully throw a ball into a basket, helping to advance real-world robotics applications (University of Manitoba).
- A first-of-its-kind web portal called WalkAlong that is helping to reduce the stigma associated with mental health by using social media and other online platforms to give young Canadians a safe, easily accessible place to explore their mental health issues (University of British Columbia).
- A smart transit recommender system based on the Internet of Things (IoT) that gathers useful insights from mobile device users — such as behaviours, ideas and ratings from other users — to make proximity-based and context-aware (sensing the physical environment) recommendations about which transit method is the best to reach a specific destination (University of New Brunswick).
- Gecko-inspired dry adhesives capable of capturing space debris when launched towards a target, helping to address growing concern over the potential for floating objects to negatively impact on future space missions and satellite launches (University of Alberta).
Globalinks, which is funded by the Canadian government and Canadian universities, began in 2009 with just 17 students, and has since expanded to almost 600 students per year. To date, more than 3,000 international research collaborations have been supported through Globalink.