Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Trade Complacency in Nova Scotia, at NSCC and Canada?


Welcome to connect on linkedin. costello_daniel @

I have no real figure to estimate what percentage of, for example, Nova Scotian graduates must leave the province to look for work. But I imagine it to be close to half or more. That leaves from 40% to 60% of people who have NEVER had to leave their hometowns or regions to look for work.


These are the people with the best local network to continuous advancement as they have never been required to be more mobile out of necessity. I would also imagine, they are among the least trained for their positions on the whole. It would also be a reasonable expectation that since they've never left their hometowns or regions, they have the lowest quotient of international experiences and the highest perception of risk associated with hiring people from other regions or provinces let alone those trained and experienced in foreign countries.

Canadians are often self-described as risk averse; I would hazard to say this is correct. The only international trade teaching they appear to allow are from those retired or laid off, fired or quit from Canadian corporations. A long line of ex-bankers and ex-accountants who might never have set foot in a foreign land to work or do business. There are definitely many more career paths and perspectives on international trade and management that are equally valid or of equal or greater value to the learning of rural Nova Scotians or Canadians. It is a myth that older is wiser. It is a myth that gut instincts in business experience can substitute theoretical and proven knowledge in business based on a humanist foundation. 

What Canadian international business strategies at national, provincial and regional levels largely prove are two basic concepts; the winner's curse and dynamic overconfidence

The first is for logic based thinkers. Common sense dictates (in Canada where common sense is not that common) that allowing 10% of Canada's working population abroad to remain largely un-networked by its embassies, either through lack of federal and policy initiatives or foreign nation all institutional alumni associations, gala events, dinners, and marketing opportunities (other than a few stale sandwiches) would be an extremely cheap way to engage Canadian expatriates in Canada's international trade strategy.

The second, career bureaucrats abound in Canada's national innovation system. "We've never done it like that before," is costing Canadians jobs, jobs, and more jobs (to quote Deming). The "experts" in international trade in Canada who are getting paid good salaries to come up with ideas can gather 90% of the information they need to make decisions on foreign markets sitting in cozy offices in Canada. But it is the extra 10% of knowledge coincident to the Canadian expatriate population abroad which holds the keys to unlocking Canadian innovation potential in my opinion. These bureaucrats sit on good ideas rather than implement them. Instead of creating a culture of creativity, Canadian businesses, governments and perhaps society itself have created a great example of the hazards of organizational slack. It appears to be extremely important to present the image that elephant-sized Canadian businesses, governments and agencies look like they care about growing the bottom line. But in reality, the spin takes precedence over substance. 

Otherwise, logically the economy would already be trade barrier free between provinces, and Canada would not be the laggard in signing free trade agreements around the world, the human resource functions would be the best in the world, the provinces would trade with foreign nations at a higher rate than they do with each other, universities would be employing three times their numbers, and graduating ten times their number of researchers, the list goes on. Rationally, Canada is the laggard trading nation that it is because the powers that be in industry, government and academia want it that way. Look no further than the northern roads of Ontario or Quebec to see the company town mentality that rules Canadian international trade strategies.


To reiterate, the natural human condition favours cultural familiarity in hiring practices everywhere. It is called cultural ethnocentrism and is nothing new.

If there was a root cause for cultural complacency in Nova Scotia as a province and Canada as a whole, that is how I would define provincial and national complacency in a country that over-relies on natural resources and non-value added trade with the USA for its wealth. At the same time Canada as a nation underendows itself with research commercialization (Australia graduates ten times more researchers than Canada with two thirds total population), international trade growth with other nations only a recent and inconsistent interest, provincial trade barriers that belong to the era of the last spike, and fewer than 2% of university graduates who ever travel or work abroad (how many of them took an all inclusive trip to Varadero to generate that statistic?).


Nova Scotian hiring patterns display to me a perfect Canadian example of the monocultural mindset or HRM policies which align closely with leadership which supports the status quo or, “hiring in one’s own image.” Statistics show Nova Scotia has more trade with other Canadian provinces than it does with the world.


Many educators and academics share two standard views in Nova Scotia and Canada perhaps in general: 1) Just say no to any exponential sector growth as the status quo does not demand it (logical as the largest percentage of growth is among pensioners who no longer need to work) or 2) In response to declining and trailing GDP projections over the next ten years which according to StatsCan in 2007 will amount to a possible 30% decline in population for the entire Atlantic provinces region by 2022 “,there are other ways to measure quality of life than GDP.”

Actually, I hope there ARE other ways to measure quality of life in regions of Canada facing enormous projected declines in GDP over the next decade as the status quo is saying “no” to seemingly any changes to strategic policy planning which would effect exponential growth in innovation which cannot be de-linked from contingent increases in GDP.


I cannot begin to address the lost billions Canadian educational institutions have missed out on, as well as the significant impact on the quality of life of its citizens due to this kind complacency particularly over the last forty years of Australia’s success in staving off its own educational budget cuts. At the same time, Canada’s educational establishment imported thousands of foreign academics perceived by some as “bottom of the barrel” in their own countries to assist in teaching the boomers during the heyday of Canadian institutional exponential growth from the mid-sixties to the early eighties.


Regarding carrying capacity I do agree with AUCC that Canada has no problem in carrying more international students. However, what they are doing about international student growth looks more and more like nations-based quota systems.

The next decline may be seen in the ability to attract foreign students here, not because of other international competitors alone who are also facing stagnant population growth without them. The rise in quality of educational institutions in source nations will perhaps outstrip Canada’s ability to maintain many domestic institutions without new domestic students or international immigrants.


I seriously question the AUCC plan to merely double international student enrollments by 2022; I believe they have not accounted well for domestic student enrollment declines in the Atlantic region or other more rural and less urban academic settings across Canada.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Costello Response: Why Study Abroad?

Rhondine P.

Costello response:  In the first case, necessity; I am a Canadian with an entire career working abroad. As Australian universities graduate nearly ten times the number of researchers as Canada does each year the opportunities for further education in Canada are ten times narrower; a ten fold concentration of competitiveness that seems an unnecessary bottleneck. As a result, I recognize the contributions that Australian institutions have made in assisting the economic growth of many of Asia's tiger economies. Australia didn't just make money educating its international students, it helped them form increasingly competitive Asian economies.

Second, international education has become Australia's second largest export product not only because of access but in growth of opportunity to learn and apply the inter cultural relationships of forty years of successful development work in Asia which attests to the quality and relationship building nature of its programs. 

I challenge my country Canada and its academic and research community to acknowledge, recognize and grow their contribution to the world based on that fact. 

Canada's future GDP depends on a speedier strategy to engage the world. Where many Canadian institutions can claim less than 2% international student enrollments, many Australian schools carry 30% international students already.

The dialogue, exchange and relevancy of an education abroad only deepens in the research domain where finding cases that really work for economic development exist around the world and rely upon those with no fear in attempting to repatriate fresh ideas to those too busy playing monocultural power based politics. 

Canada is taking a rather long time in applying rational principles to engaging the international world. 

However, I patiently wait for the day a Canadian hiring manager is able to penetrate the scope and scale of my contribution and call me for an interview to my first full-time job in Canada. Who says teachers don't have business experience when they've only ever worked in profit earning instituitions? Who needs government or endowments if you match good teachers with motivated learners?