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How business schools are adapting to the changing world of work

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Forget about accounting class and marketing 101. 

Canadian business school leaders say soft skills such as creativity and agility are now cornerstones of business education, as universities and colleges adapt to a world where many of the jobs graduates will hold don’t even exist today.

They say there’s still a role for those business basics, but they’re no longer enough to satisfy workplaces that prize employees who can adapt to swiftly changing industries, disruptive technology and the thorny issues facing humanity in the years to come.

“The goal of a university education is to teach people how to deal with uncertainty, how to be a critical thinker, how to be okay when things are changing,” said Darren Dahl, associate dean of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in Vancouver.

“The notion of going to work for the big corporation, and the jobs that we traditionally do, are evolving and changing,” said Dahl. That’s put a lot of pressure on business schools to change what and how they teach, he said.

To keep on top of what employers are looking for, staff at the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., recently completed 250 interviews with leaders in government, business and non-profits around the globe, said acting dean Mark Vandenbosch.

Mark Vandenbosch, acting dean of Ivey Business School, seen in this March 25, 2015, file photo, said today’s job market prizes soft skills. (Ivey Business School)

“Although people do need to have technical literacy that’s probably higher than before — the skills that are really demanded are the soft skills that will allow them to adapt,” said Vandenbosch.

‘Embracing creativity in a big way’

These include the ability to bring alternative viewpoints to a problem, he said, as well as things like creativity, grit, teamwork, communications effectiveness and decision-making skills.

At UBC, Dahl said the MBA program includes a required course in creativity. “That surprises some people,” he said. “Traditionally, you might think of a business school as beating out the creativity in students.”

The creativity class curriculum isn’t centred around business innovation, such as coming up a new product. “It’s more base creativity,” he said.

Creativity is a muscle.  How do we strengthen that muscle for you as a leader, whether you work in corporate or a non-profit or your own entrepreneurial venture?– Darren  Dahl , associate dean, UBC’s Sauder School of Business

“Creativity is a muscle. If you stopped exercising it years ago — some people say you’re the most creative when you’re five or six years old and then it’s just downhill —  how do we strengthen that muscle for you as a leader, whether you work in corporate or a non-profit or your own entrepreneurial venture?

“That’s a fundamental tool in the toolbox, and I think society has just woken up to that in the last five years,” said Dahl.

Joe Musicco, who teaches at Sheridan College’s Pilon School of Business in Toronto, said “business is certainly embracing creativity in a big way.”

There are a number of factors contributing to the business world’s increasing interest in creativity, said Musicco.

“You could point to things like technology and AI [Artificial Intelligence]. You could point to things like the changing nature of work and being more of a thinker and a consultant, and expectations of people in general that [graduates] are going to be able to bring innovation and creative problem-solving skills to the table.”

Students have more diverse goals

What students want has changed, too.

“The younger generations today are very much interested in having impact,” said Dahl.

“That could mean anything from having an impact by building their own business, to having a positive influence on society.”

In the past, most business school students would strive for the same jobs at large, branded international corporations, he said

While some still do, others want to work for non-profits, and some want to be their own bosses, said Dahl.

Students are seen in class at Ivey Business School. (Ivey Business School)

Preparation for the entrepreneurial world

Dahl said there’s also been “a sea change in respect to the importance of entrepreneurial activity in the economy.”

To meet that need, course material is now taught differently, he said, moving away from “the classic lecturing on the stage” to methods that involve more action and applied learning. 

Business school classes could be challenged to partner up with engineering students on a project, or to work with start-ups, for example.

At Ivey Business School, Vandenbosch said “a huge percentage of our graduates run their own businesses.”

The typical route they take, though, is to work for somebody else for a few years after graduation to get on-the-ground experience, then return to the school to take advantage of the entrepreneurial incubator it offers for alumni, he said.

“We provide a lot of support post graduation for those who want to come back at a later time to start a venture two, three or four years later.– Mark Vandenbosch, acting dean, Ivey Business School

“We provide a lot of support post graduation for those who want to come back at a later time to start a venture two, three or four years later.”

One of the ways Ivey prepares graduates for a more entrepreneurial world is by throwing out the traditional undergraduate schedule where students make their own course selections then keep that schedule over a semester.

Instead, starting when they join Ivey in third year, students show up at expected times each day, then programming is varied all year long, said Vandenbosch. 

“Our focus is primarily on building experiences for students so they can build the capabilities to adapt to a future world, rather than, ‘Here is what you need to know about subject X.'” 

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Real Estate

Montreal real-estate prices climbing much faster than Toronto or Vancouver: study

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MONTREAL — The cost of housing per square foot has skyrocketed in Montreal while other cities saw little change over the last year, according to a new national survey.

The study found that condominium prices in downtown Montreal are up 13.5 per cent from last year to, on average, $805 per square foot.

That’s not as high as other cities, but it’s catching up — and Montreal’s rate of growth is outpacing other major Canadian cities.

Toronto’s condo prices grew to $1083 per square foot, an increase of just under 10 per cent, according to the study. In Vancouver, where you can find some of Canada’s most expensive condo prices, rates are down 4 per cent to $1192 per square foot.

To make the comparisons, Canadian real estate giant Century 21 collected data from real estate boards across the country to calculate the home costs per square foot.

“It’s important to compare apple to apples,” said Todd Shyiak, the company’s vice president of operations.

Montreal’s rise was even more explosive for detached homes and townhouses.

Detached houses in Montreal’s downtown and southwest rose to $958 per square foot, 40 per cent up from last year.

“It’s wild,” said Century 21 broker Angela Langtry. She says the pandemic raised demand.

“People had a lot of time to figure out they don’t like the home they’re in,” she said. “They all want pools.”

There was a big spike in sales, she noted, following a pause in brokerage during the spring, at the peak of the pandemic.

Experts say the pandemic will push people into the suburbs as they search for affordable housing and home office space.

“A huge portion of our society’s housing needs changed overnight,” said Shyiak. People “no longer need to be 10 minutes from the office.”

He says that could mean less demand for condos in the future. “People want their own front door,” he said.

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Real Estate

Carttera buys prime downtown Montreal development site

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Carttera has acquired a prime downtown Montreal site at 1455 De La Montagne St. which will mark its third development on the thoroughfare.

“We think it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, locations in the whole city,” Carttera founding partner Jim Tadeson told RENX. “We’ve had great success on De La Montagne.”

The two earlier projects are: L’Avenue, a building with 393 residential units, 84,000 square feet of office space and 34,000 square feet of retail that was developed with Broccolini and occupied in 2017; and Arbora Residences, a two-phase development with 434 rental and condominium units in three buildings being built in partnership with Oxford Properties.

Thursday’s latest acquisition, for $48.5 million from 630745 Ontario, is a 31,750-square-foot surface parking lot with flexible mixed-use zoning on the corner of De La Montagne and De Maisonneuve Boulevard West.

The site is near the Vogue Hotel Montreal Downtown, the new Four Seasons Hotel Montreal and high-end retail.

“It’s zoned for up to 203,000 square feet of density, which we’re going to take advantage of,” said Tadeson. “Our vision for the site is a condominium project with some retail.”

Since there is no demolition required and no heritage issues to contend with, Toronto-based Carttera plans to move ahead quickly with the luxury project.

It’s in the concept design phase and Tadeson said it could take six months or more before it’s prepared to make a submission to the city.

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Real Estate

Montreal Has the Hottest Real Estate Market in Canada Right Now

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If you thought Toronto’s real estate market was on fire, it’s time for a second take, because the market in Montreal is the hottest in all of Canada right now.

A newly-released annual report from CENTURY 21 Canada reveals that, following an early-spring decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sales numbers are bouncing back and house prices across the country are maintaining their strength. The study compared the price per square foot of properties sold between January 1 and June 30 of this year, compared to the same period last year.

In Toronto and Vancouver, unsurprisingly, prices remain high. But while regions across the country are seeing varied stories when it comes to their housing market fluctuations, Montreal stands out — there, prices have increased dramatically since 2019. While the numbers remain lower than Toronto and Vancouver, that housing market is proving to be the country’s strongest right now.

In Quebec’s largest city, prices have increased significantly since last year, particularly in the downtown detached house and townhouse markets. For example, the price of a detached house in Montreal’s downtown and southwest rose 42.14% to $958 per square foot, while townhouses went up 44% to $768, and condos, 13.55% to $805. Comparatively, in Toronto and Vancouver, prices saw more modest increases or, in some cases, even declines.

“Even though real estate in Quebec was not considered an essential service, we have seen strong demand and a jump in prices in 2020,” said Mohamad Al-Hajj, owner of CENTURY 21 Immo-Plus in Montreal.

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