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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

Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Real Estate

Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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