This Strategic Mandate Agreement between the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development and Confederation College outlines the role the College currently performs in Ontario’s postsecondary education system and how it will build on its current strengths to achieve its vision and help drive system-wide objectives and government priorities.

The Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA):

  • Identifies and explains the shared objectives and priorities between the Ontario government and the College
  • Outlines current and future areas of program strength
  • Supports the current vision, mission, and mandate of the College and established areas of strength within the context of the College’s governing legislation
  • Describes the agreed-upon elements of the new College funding model, including:
    • a College’s enrolment plans and the initial midpoint levels of weighted funding units that will be funded in the corridor funding model during the period of this SMA; and
    • differentiation areas of focus including metrics, and targets.
  • Provides information on the financial sustainability of the institution; and,
  • Informs Ministry decision-making and enables Ministry to align its policies and processes to further support the College’s areas of strength

The term of the SMA is from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2020.

The agreement may be amended in the event of substantive policy or program changes that would significantly affect joint commitments made in the SMA (e.g., Major Capacity Expansion and Highly Skilled Workforce). Any such amendment would be mutually agreed to in writing, dated, and signed by both signatories.

Ontario’s vision for postsecondary education

Ontario’s colleges and universities will drive creativity, innovation, knowledge, skills development and community engagement through teaching and learning, applied research and service.

Ontario’s colleges and universities will put students first by providing the best possible learning experience for all qualified learners in an affordable and financially sustainable way, ensuring high quality and globally competitive outcomes for students and Ontario’s economy.

Confederation College Mandate, Mission and Vision

Institutional mandate, mission, and vision statements describe where an institution currently is and where it sees itself in the future.

See the complete Strategic Plan here.

Mandate statement

  • Confederation College is a leader in Indigenous education and excels in attracting, supporting and graduating a diverse range of learners, while fostering economic and social development in northwestern Ontario and beyond

Mission statement

  • Confederation College inspires learners to succeed in their lives and careers in northwestern Ontario and beyond

Vision statement

  • Confederation College will enrich lives through learning

The Confederation College Board of Governors has approved this Mission and Vision.


The Ministry recognizes the importance of supporting institutions to evolve and acknowledges the strategic aspirations of its postsecondary education institutions. The SMA is not intended to capture all decisions and issues in the postsecondary education system, as many will be addressed through the Ministry’s policies and standard processes. The Ministry will not be approving any requests for capital funding or new program approvals, for example, through the SMA process.

Institutional aspirations

Confederation College’s aspirations for the period 2017-2020 are presented in the strategic plan Wiicitaakewin: The Path to 2020. Wii‐ci‐taa‐ke‐win is an Anishinaabe word that describes the process of helping or assisting others. The strategic plan incorporates the ‘Negahneewin Vision’ which was developed in 2012 by the Indigenous Education Council known as Negahneewin Council. Confederation College delivers non-postsecondary access programming, workforce development and postsecondary programming to improve the socioeconomic conditions of communities in northwestern Ontario. Through the process of reconciliation, as defined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Confederation’s priorities are framed by learner success as we aspire to be a leader in advancing Indigenous learning and culture.

To provide access for learners, support their success and respond to the demand for a highly skilled workforce, Confederation is increasing its focus on the attraction and success of Indigenous youth, as well as learners from southern Ontario and other countries. This mix of learners from multiple geographic origins responds to the changing demographics of northwestern Ontario and fosters a global perspective amongst learners, faculty and staff enabling the development of respect for multiple cultures and Indigenous world views.

We continue to respond to a growing need for non-postsecondary access programming through partnerships with Indigenous communities and with public and private sector service organizations funded through provincial and federal government initiatives. Learners engaged through this programming often move through pathways to and are successful in postsecondary studies. Similarly, we continue to grow our pathways for graduates to northern postsecondary institutions, including Lakehead, Algoma and Laurentian universities.

To respond to the rapidly changing workforce needs of northwestern Ontario, Confederation College will develop new Indigenous, engineering and health-related programming as outlined in the College Academic Plan. The College will develop an Indigenous Leadership and Community Development Degree. The International Education Strategy provides direction for international initiatives including the development of technology and health programming and expansion of international opportunities for experiential learning.

We continue to implement technological solutions to support access and success of a growing body of diverse learners that are separated by vast geographical distances. To this end we continue to invest in information technology infrastructure in support of technology-enabled learning and in partnerships that increase access, such as the Northern Colleges Collaboration Project (NCCP). We continue to build on regional partnerships such as the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre (NOIC) to increase experiential learning and entrepreneurism, and kindergarten to grade 12 partnerships to support high school success and transition to college.

The College seeks to support access, success and community prosperity through institutional excellence. With this approach the College will support the development of a highly skilled workforce with a global perspective and an understanding of an indigenous world view whether they choose to live and work in northwestern Ontario, or beyond.

Shared objectives and priorities for differentiation

Student experience

This section captures institutional strengths in improving student experience, outcomes and success. This section recognizes institutions for measuring the broader learning environment, such as continuity of learning pathways; retention; student satisfaction; co-curricular activities and records; career preparedness; and student services and supports.

Institutional approach to improving student experience

Confederation College has a proven record in performing above provincial averages in key performance indicators, including graduate and employer satisfaction. Continuing to offer opportunities for learners and building pathways to develop meaningful and sustainable careers to meet the needs of northwestern Ontario, are areas where Confederation will maintain its focus and further strive to exceed expectations.

Through the cultivation of a flexible and supportive learning environment, Confederation ensures that learners are well positioned to access programming and achieve their learning and life goals. Confederation’s low student-faculty ratio and significant investment in learner support resources means that personal connections can be made among learners, peers and professionals, leading to improved student experiences and success.

Confederation offers a range of student services and supports aimed at increasing student retention and satisfaction. Its Negahneewin Student Services creates a welcoming and engaging environment to support Indigenous learners in their transition to postsecondary education and career preparedness. Indigenous Student Navigators assist learners with accommodations, funding sponsors, academic advising and career and personal counselling. To further expand student supports, Confederation is implementing a cross-college, collaborative approach for student success that includes support of students in regional campuses through Bridging the Distance. Improvements are planned through investments across support service optimization, flexible programming and community partnerships. To support its growing international student population, Confederation provides specific supports for international students and celebrates cultural diversity.

The Student Union of Confederation College Incorporated (SUCCI) is a strong partner with Confederation in supporting the student experience. SUCCI has made significant financial commitments to support student space e.g., the SUCCI Wellness Centre, Minowaadiziiwin. It has supported the well-being of the campus community through the It’s About Respect initiative, hosted cultural and recreational activities at all campuses and has aided in the resolution of student conflict through joint support of an ombudsperson.

Through the private sector and SUCCI partnerships, Confederation continues to develop the Student Village, with accommodation, recreation and life facilities to support a balanced, healthy student experience. As a significant number of learners have an Indigenous heritage, these facilities have been designed to reflect Indigenous cultural diversity in their naming, identity and design.

Confederation continues to encourage and expand community partnerships that foster the continuity of learning pathways. Confederation supports partnerships with local and regional school boards, community agencies and Indigenous communities to raise awareness of career pathways, customize training opportunities and support learners in their transition to postsecondary education. Non postsecondary training often provides initial access to the college environment and is the entry way to postsecondary credentials.

Examples of institutional initiatives

School College Work Initiative (SCWI) and Confederation Bound: These initiatives allow more than 1,200 at -risk high school learners to experience Confederation. The delivery of joint programming and orientation to the college successfully supported these learners in completing high school and transitioning to postsecondary studies. Under Confederation Bound, a program that grew out of SCWI, high schools in northwestern Ontario can refer underperforming grade 11 learners to Confederation career counselling, program orientation, financial assistance tied to their success, special events and transitional supports for them and their parents. The Confederation Bound pilot, which has been successful in supporting high school completion and transition to the college, will be implemented on an ongoing basis.

Indigenous Student Navigators (ISN): Confederation College provides supports for all prospective and current learners and has additional resources in place for Indigenous learners who require further support. This model serves learners by physically locating staff in each Confederation building on the Thunder Bay Campus and through technology-enabled initiatives, such as Bridging the Distance, a service that connects staff to learners within the regional campuses. This cluster of services decreases wait times and improves ease of access to anyone seeking services from student success advisors, counsellors and accessibility service workers. The ISN program supports both direct and indirect learners and is strengthened through strong community partnerships with other programs, including kindergarten to grade 12 graduation coaches with local school boards and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

SUCCI Wellness Centre - Minowaadiziiwin: These facilities enhance Confederation’s capacity to recruit and retain more learners from northwestern Ontario and from outside of its traditional catchment area by providing excellent recreational services and amenities. The Centre, is a modern multi-use facility with fitness equipment and spaces to promote learners’ health and well-being and to provide a gathering place for learners and the community. Minowaadiziiwin, which means “to lead a good life”, symbolizes the value of the facility beyond contributions to physical well-being and a balanced life. Design and architecture of this new facility reflects the Indigenous cultural values of northwestern Ontario.

Cultural events: Confederation College, in partnership with SUCCI, provides culturally relevant events on campus showcasing Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage from countries all around the world. An emphasis has been placed on northwestern Ontario Indigenous traditions, including: smudging, powwows, storytelling circles, beading and traditional crafts, drumming and dancing, moccasin-making, seasonal feasts and the sharing of traditional foods. Creating awareness of and advocating for culturally appropriate learning opportunities is foundational to the student experience at Confederation.

Maamawiayaa: This project, would help Indigenous learners in their transition from rural/remote communities to an academic environment in an urban setting. Learners selected through their communities will be assessed for their career goals, essential skills and numeracy and literacy skills. Where appropriate, upgrading will be provided in their home communities, as well an orientation to life as a postsecondary student for both them and their families. Learners will be supported in their transition to the Confederation with 24/7 support through the first six months of their studies. This will include a network of comprehensive supports that aim to increase academic success and engagement.

Metrics and targets

System-wide Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Overall Student Satisfaction Rate
(2016-17 baseline: 76.99%)
76% - 79%
Student Satisfaction with Services (Q39)
(2016-17 baseline: 64.50%)
61% - 65%
Student Satisfaction with facilities (Q49)
(2016-17 baseline: 71.10%)
71% - 75%
Institution-Specific Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Percentage of students using Learning Resource Division Services
(2016-17 baseline: 47.4%)
40% - 50%
Percentage of students participating in cultural and recreational events
(2016-17 baseline: 50.8%)
40% - 51%
SCWI Students ladder to Confederation College
(2017-17 baseline: Post-Secondary: 403 (11.4%) and Apprenticeship Students: 46 (13.7%))
20% - 25%

Innovation in teaching and learning excellence

This section focuses on innovative efforts including pedagogical approaches, program delivery and student services that contribute to a highly skilled workforce and ensure positive student outcomes.

This section captures institutional strengths in delivering high-quality learning experiences, such as experiential, entrepreneurial, personalized and digital learning, to prepare students for rewarding careers. It includes recognition of student competencies that improve employability.

It begins to identify indicators of quality that are currently available and within an institution’s control.

Institutional approach to innovation in teaching and learning excellence

Learners with an Indigenous heritage form more than half of Confederation College learners overall and more than 24% self-identify through postsecondary studies. The 40,000 Indigenous people living in northwestern Ontario make significant contributions to the socioeconomic well-being of the region and of Ontario. In serving this region, Confederation aspires to be a leader in advancing Indigenous knowledge and culture. As such, it fosters an environment for all learners to experience the Negahneewin Council Vision. This has become even more compelling since the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s final report, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, in which the significance of learning to reconciliation was placed in focus. Confederation integrates Indigenous knowledge into all programming with at least one of seven Indigenous Learning Outcomes (ILOs) currently in all programs. Implementation of additional ILOs and Indigenous knowledge across all programming will continue. In support of this, employees are encouraged to participate in a number of Indigenous-related professional development (PD) activities, including the Bawaajigan Speaker Series presented by the Centre for Policy and Research in Indigenous Learning (CPRIL). In continuing to expand this vision, the process of reconciliation will frame Confederation’s priorities for Indigenous knowledge and learner success. Confederation supports employees in their understanding of historic and contemporary challenges in education for Indigenous learners, thereby fostering the development of inclusive curricula and understanding of an indigenous world view. We have also developed a number of international partnerships focusing on indigenous knowledge that support faculty and learner exchanges and provide work abroad opportunities.

Confederation College is committed to serving the needs of a large geographical region of northwestern Ontario with a sparse population. It delivers high-quality culturally appropriate learning experiences through a broad range of programs and pathways to meet the needs of learners in their own communities. This is accomplished through technology-enabled learning that uses a variety of flexible learning solutions and delivers synchronous and asynchronous programming across multiple sites throughout northwestern Ontario. This integrated plan employs a holistic approach to learning that is responsive to diverse learning s and to the needs of communities in the northwest. It results in significantly higher success rates than when learners must leave their homes to study. Currently, Confederation delivers approximately 23 postsecondary programs through the integrated plan. The number of programs delivered depends on student demand. Programming is increasing as delivery of programs now reaches into southern Ontario through the infrastructure of Contact North. The faculty involved in technology-enabled learning utilize a variety of technologies to be effective in learning. This requires extensive professional development and support, particularly for new faculty moving into this delivery environment. Experiential components of these programs are usually delivered within the community context of the learner, often providing a rich applied learning environment leading to employment. Technology-enabled learning also supports multi-site integrated experiential simulations e.g., healthcare.

Confederation encourages opportunities for experiential learning and collaborates with community partners to provide practical applications of knowledge and its application to employment. Confederation is raising the profile and effectiveness of experiential learning through implementation of cross-departmental faculty and program advisory teams that increase learners’ opportunities for engagement with industry and employers, improving employability. At the current time more than 80% of Confederation postsecondary programs have work-integrated or experiential learning components. These experiences are usually within a northwestern Ontario context, however international exchanges and placement opportunities are available in many programs.

Examples of institutional initiatives

Center for Policy and Research in Indigenous Learning: CPRIL fosters Indigenous-centred leadership in education through research and the development of improved policy and advocacy. Professional development opportunities are developed and implemented for all employees through the work of the Centre with specific support provided for the implementation of the ILOs. CPRIL works on a provincial and national level through leadership within the Indigenous Peoples Education Circle in Ontario and by supporting the development of the Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Indigenous Protocol. CPRIL also has increased the profile and understanding of Indigenous knowledge and the findings of the TRC through provincial and national leadership development Institutes and Indigenous workshops. Through CPRIL Confederation will host the national CICan Indigenous Conference in October 2017.

Indigenous Learning Outcomes: Confederation College has been embedding Indigenous knowledge into program curriculum since 2011 through specially developed ILOs based on the Seven Grandfather Teachings. The infusion of ILOs into program-specific courses throughout Confederation provides learners with opportunities to develop an understanding of Indigenous culture, context and worldview in relation to their chosen career field. As outlined in the Negahneewin Council Ten-Year Vision, the ILOs also afford learners the opportunity to engage in their role as global citizens who demonstrate respect for a diversity of perspectives.

Teaching and Learning Centre: The TLC of Confederation College provides support to faculty in innovation of academic content, delivery and assessment. It provides support to technology-enabled learning that increases access through the integrated plan and engagement of learners in general. The TLC plays a significant role in academic program review and appropriateness of teaching/learning methodology and plays a role in optimizing the learning outcomes associated with experiential learning. These experiential opportunities include: placements with employers; simulation environments often associated with relatively high-risk scenarios; as well as project-based delivery usually involving partnerships with public and private employers.

Integrated Plan: The integrated plan expands on regional programming capacity through technology-enabled learning, linking small cohorts of learners spread across regional communities to create sustainable cohort sizes. This approach allows Confederation to deliver programs that would otherwise not be feasible. Technology-enabled learning delivered through the integrated plan creates rich learning experiences by connecting diverse learners from various communities and personal/professional backgrounds. The programs offered through technology-enabled learning will continue to grow through the NCCP.

Pick your Pace: Pick your pace is being implemented in a number of programs in which learners struggle to be successful primarily due to inadequate preparation. This is particularly true in programs requiring STEM skills. In these programs curriculum pathways are being designed so that learners facing significant barriers to learning are provided with additional time and support to be successful. This may involve reducing the overall course load and provision of additional supports for these subject areas resulting in a learner that successfully completes the program in a longer time frame.

Technology, Education and Collaboration (TEC) Hub: The TEC Hub is a new facility that will become operational in the fall of 2018. It will support the Confederation’s engineering technology, aerospace manufacturing and skills programming. It includes three main clusters: industry skills and sustainability; advanced manufacturing technology; and innovation and incubation. Building on the current partnership with NOIC and the Mi-Zone, the TEC-Hub will create expanded opportunities for collaboration, inviting community partners to participate in innovation projects. Learners from multiple engineering programs will participate in project-based delivery with industry partners.

Metrics and targets

System-wide Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Graduation Rate
(2016-17 baseline: 65.49%)
64% - 66%
Number of students enrolled in an experiential learning program (WIL)
(2016-17 baseline: 604)
600 - 650
Total number of registrations in ministry-funded courses offered in eLearning formats
(2016 baseline: 2,988)
2,800 - 3,050
Total number of ministry-funded courses offered in eLearning formats
(2016 baseline: 909)
915 - 930
Total number of ministry-funded programs offered in eLearning formats
(2016 baseline: 49)
49 - 51
Retention rates (Yr1 to Yr2)
(2016-17 baseline: 72.1%)
66% - 73%
Retention rates (Yr2 to Yr3)
(2016-17 baseline: 84.56%)
75% - 95%
Student satisfaction rate (overall)
(2016-17 baseline: 76.99%
76% -79%
Student satisfaction with knowledge and skills
(2016-17 baseline: 89.04%)
86% - 90%
Student satisfaction with learning experience
(2016-17 baseline: 83.32%)
79% - 86%
Institution-Specific Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Percentage of employees completing Indigenous specific Professional Development50% - 75%
Percentage of programs with four or more ILO’s75% - 90%
Number of learners served through the Integrated Plan(2016-17 baseline: 416)416 - 490

Access and equity

This section recognizes institutions for their efforts in improving postsecondary education equity and access. Institutions play an important role in providing equitable and inclusive environments that make it possible for students from diverse communities to thrive and succeed.

Institutions will also be recognized for creating equitable access opportunities that can include multiple entrance pathways and flexible policies and programming, with the focus on students who, without interventions and support, would not otherwise participate in postsecondary education. Examples include outreach to marginalized youth, transition, bridging and access programs for adults with atypical education histories and who did not meet admissions requirements.

Institutional approach to improving access and equity

The sizable underrepresented learner base of Confederation College has unique challenges. These learners are often marginalized youth and those least likely to be employed. Access for these learners is enhanced by providing multiple geographic access points through regional campuses and partners, offering multiple intake start dates and providing continuous upgrading and pre-programming within the College program mix. The Learning Resource Division supports the needs of learners with identified disabilities and other barriers to success. Student Success Advisors and Indigenous Student Navigators offer a range of cross-departmental supports to develop personal academic plans and interventions and supports for learners who might be at risk. The number of learners at risk continues to grow particularly as those with mental health concerns increase.

Confederation also supports international learners in reaching their academic and career goals and continues to explore programming and delivery methods that are specific to their needs.

Confederation College works with community partners to evaluate the needs of learners in the region and to develop multiple pathways that are supportive of diverse of learners. Confederation partners with kindergarten to degree granting education providers and other agencies to support the success of all learners in their transition to postsecondary education through continuity of supports, linkage of counselors and provision of orientation and ongoing supports that are tailored to the individual needs of the learner.

The number of unrepresented postsecondary learners below represents a unique head count. The sum of the remaining columns will not total to the same number as learners can be represented in multiple categories.

Underrepresented postsecondary learners2,353
Second Career54
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board11
Identified disabilities571

Examples of institutional initiatives

Partnerships with school boards: Partnerships with school boards and First Nations schools of northwestern Ontario are critical to the successful completion of high school and transition to postsecondary studies of at-risk learners. There remains greater demand for SCWI/Confederation Bound programming than seats available in northwestern Ontario. Confederation is working with specific school boards to support improved math outcomes, particularly for those learners interested in pursuing math (STEM) related careers in science, technology and engineering. Confederation will work towards the implementation of a resource centre for improved math and literacy outcomes in the kindergarten to degree granting sector. Counselors from high schools and the College work together in support of learner transition and success at the College.

Multi-ministry and private partnership initiatives: By continuing to seek community partnerships, such as Confederation Bound and the Hydro One Pre-Technology (Electrical) pilot, Confederation enhances access to education for Indigenous youth and provides the supports needed to be successful. Many of these learners are mature learners that are geographically bound and farthest from the labour market. They face a variety of barriers in their personal lives that prevent them from considering a future in postsecondary education or employment. Confederation is developing a systems approach to support the success of learners whose learning has been unexpectedly interrupted due to family or personal illness or tragedy. Through multi-ministry initiatives with organizations such as the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board, Confederation will better support the success of those farthest from the labour market.

Non-postsecondary access programming: With a focus on upgrading and pre-programming, Confederation College ladders learners into postsecondary and apprenticeship training by developing the literacy, numeracy and life skills required to be successful in various academic and professional environments. In 2016-2017 there were 657 upgrading learners enrolled with over 141 laddering into postsecondary programming. Confederation is working with the Education Policy Research Initiative to build a model and predictive analytic system to measure the barriers and success factors of these learners so that support may be strategically allocated.

Workforce development: Workforce development remains the primary solution for Confederation College to provide flexible training solutions to meet the needs of local employers. By building a better bridge between training and education to employment it will further develop and strengthen a highly skilled, competitive workforce. By utilizing those furthest from the labour market, Confederation creates a diverse pool of talent to fill the future needs of employers, while also supporting the people and communities of northwestern Ontario as they gain access to education, training and employment opportunities. In any one year 1,500 to 3,000 learners access skills training through these programs.

Confederation is a leader in Canada in its ability to establish, sustain and build effective education-to-employment partnerships with diverse Indigenous communities and leaders and with senior managers in mining, forestry, energy, transportation, construction and the environment. The impact of these high-level Indigenous and industry employer partnerships results in larger scale, more complex and demanding learning projects e.g. the East-West Transmission Line for 200 trainees, Ring of Fire for 300 trainees, Skills Link for 180 trainees and the Water Authority Project for 50 trainees.

Metrics and expected values

System-wide Metrics2019-20 Expected Value Range
Number of students with disabilities enrolled
(2016-17 baseline: 571)
513 - 624
Proportion of students with disability enrolled
(2016-17 baseline: 16.8%)
15% - 17%
Overall student with disabilities satisfaction rates
(2016-17 baseline: 71.48%)
71% -79%
Overall graduate satisfaction rates for students with disabilities
(2016-17 baseline: 91.67%)
80% - 92%
Employment rates for students with disabilities
(2016-17 baseline: 81.25%)
75% - 82%
Number of first-generation students enrolled
(2015-16 baseline: 958)
725 - 1,165
Proportion of first-generation students enrolled
(2015-16 baseline: 28.2%)
18% - 38%
Number of Indigenous students enrolled
(2015-16 baseline: 742)
721 - 760
Proportion of Indigenous students enrolled
(2015-16 baseline: 21.8%)
23% - 25%
Overall student satisfaction rates for Indigenous students
(2016-17 baseline: 80.07%)
80% - 82%
Overall graduate satisfaction rates for Indigenous students
(2016-17 baseline: 93.55%)
86% - 94%
Employment rates for Indigenous students
(2016-17 baseline: 77.78%)
77% - 82%
Number of French-language students enrolled
(2015-16 baseline: 12)
12 - 20
Proportion of French-language students enrolled
(2015-16 baseline: 0.4%)
OSAP recipients as a proportion of all eligible students
(2015-16 baseline: 43.70%)
43% - 47%
Percentage of university graduates enrolled in college programs
(2016-17 baseline: 12.39%)
10% - 13%
Percentage of college graduates enrolled in university programs
(2016-17 baseline: 1.5%)
1% - 3%
Institution-Specific Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Number of students participating in upgrading and pre-programming
(2016 baseline: 1,326)
1,042 - 1,326
Number of learners participating in SCWI and Confederation Bound
(2016-17 baseline: 1,060)
982 - 1,060
Number of learners involved with non-postsecondary access programming
(2016-17 baseline: 1,453)
1,453 - 1,650

Applied research excellence and impact

This section captures institutional strengths in producing high-quality applied research that further raises Ontario’s profile as a globally recognized research and innovation hub.

Applied research projects create or improve products, services and processes. College applied research gives industry firms access to the skills and competencies of faculty and students, facilities and equipment and markets and networks through the colleges’ connections to local business and communities.

Institutional approach to applied research excellence and impact

Northwestern Ontario has experienced a dramatic change in its primary economic drivers and employers over the past ten years. The previous economy was highly dependent upon natural resources (forestry, mining and tourism). While these play a continuing role in the economy, the current occupation and industry clusters are more diversified, with greater dependency on healthcare and social assistance, professional scientific and technical service sectors, as well as sales and service, education, law and government occupations.

Confederation College leads and supports innovation and entrepreneurship across this diversified economy with a focus on: Indigenous learning; digital manufacturing; green energy and sustainable northern communities; and remote healthcare/diagnostics.

Confederation supports applied research and innovation within these contexts through three main streams:

  • Curriculum-based delivery, involving postsecondary learners, often in partnership with the public or private sector. For example, Confederation College recently secured a successful fourth round of funding through Ontario Centres of Excellence to support small businesses to adopt digital technology. Student teams from two different programs have worked with 40 private sector companies since 2013
  • Project-based activities, with postsecondary learners, faculty and industry working collaboratively to solve industry issues or support exploration of opportunities
  • Formal partnerships (e.g., the NOIC is hosted on campus) that support professional development activities of faculty and staff also support applied research and innovation

Examples of institutional initiatives

Centre for Policy and Research in Indigenous Learning: Within the context of social innovation and based on the history of Negahneewin College, CPRIL recognizes the sacred responsibility of preserving Indigenous knowledges. CPRIL promotes cultural frameworks of Indigenous learning that honour the intellectual traditions of Indigenous peoples to ensure that education is relevant and accessible for all Indigenous peoples. This vision is shared in Confederation’s day-to-day operations, as it centres its work in cultural frameworks of Indigenous learning and customary philosophies with practices of engagement and collaboration. Examples of research completed since 2013 include:

  • Best(Wise) Practices in Indigenous Learning
  • Indigenous Learner Self-Identification
  • Pathways for Indigenous Learners at Indigenous Institutes, Colleges and Universities (Phases I and II)
  • Expanding the Circle (Phase 4): Pathways for Indigenous Learners across Ontario
  • Pathways In Indigenous Studies Framework: Creating Alignment in Indigenous Studies to Support Learners in Ontario’s Postsecondary Environment
  • Utilizing the Indigenous Learning Outcomes to Assess the Global Citizenship of Learners, Phase One: Creating a Critical Thinking Assessment Tool That is Culturally-Relevant
  • Understanding and Building Upon the Success of Indigenous Support Services through Institutional Data
  • Negahneewin “Leading The Way”: Supporting Community Development Through Indigenous Women’s Leadership

Digital manufacturing: Confederation’s TEC Hub is currently under construction and will be completed in the fall of 2018. This new facility will contribute to the development of a skilled, employment-ready technology and trades workforce for northwestern Ontario. It will bring together community partners to host vibrant research, incubation and technology transfer services to support the region’s advanced manufacturing, technology and resource sectors. The Mi-Zone Collaborative Project, in partnership with NOIC, currently provides resources to assist niche manufacturers, early-stage inventors or established businesses. The TEC Hub will provide expanded facilities and capability for private- and public-sector innovation projects that, through project-based delivery, will provide the opportunities for learners to participate and/or drive the innovation process.

Through the partnership and in the new facility, learners, faculty and staff will be able to learn and develop prototyping and application development skill sets, including intelligent machining and advanced analysis, automation – industrial robotics and artificial intelligence. In addition, Confederation will explore additive manufacturing, including 3D printing, connected transportation and smart cities, clean technology and computer-based multi-functional/mobile simulation labs.

Green energy and sustainable northern communities: Confederation has developed a research and proof of concept facility that showcases the use of biomass for heating facilities in northwestern Ontario. With an emphasis on biomass heat and working as a founding member of an emerging national network supported by Natural Resources Canada (CanmetENERGY) through the De-risking and Training Facilities for Community Biomass Combined Heat and Power project, Confederation will work towards: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; decreased use of diesel as a fuel source in remote First Nations communities; and reducing energy costs in municipalities not served by natural gas. This represents a true triple bottom line approach: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and cost savings through energy switching, while at the same time creating new local fuel supply jobs in regions with high unemployment. In addition, Confederation will be supporting local food security initiatives through community-based partnerships in research.

Remote healthcare/diagnostics: Since 2014, faculty and learners in the Dental Hygiene program have been engaged in the Tele-Oral Health pilot project with Health Canada and Indigenous partners in remote communities. Under the guidance of registered dental hygienists and licensed dentists, learners provide oral health education and analyze clients’ oral imagery. The imagery is used in a clinical setting to stabilize and improve clients’ oral health. This type of service would not normally be available to remote communities. By using technology to send the imagery from the remote site to Thunder Bay for analysis, clients can now access this service.

Metrics and targets

System-wide Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Number of externally funded applied research projects
(2016-17 baseline: 21)
18 - 21
Number of partnerships / collaborations with community / industry firms in support of applied research
(2016-17 baseline: 21)
18 - 21
Institution-Specific Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Percentage of programs which incorporate Indigenous ways of learning and understanding65% - 85%
Percentage of students engaged in applied research projects and entrepreneurial activity
(2016-17 baseline: 10%)
10% - 15%
Number of faculty engaged in applied research projects and entrepreneurial activity
(2016-17 baseline: 15)
15 - 35

Innovation, economic development and community engagement

This section recognizes the unique role institutions play in contributing to their communities and to economic development, as well as to building dynamic partnerships with business, industry, community members and other colleges and universities. It focuses on regional clusters, customized training, entrepreneurial activities, jobs, community revitalization efforts, international collaborations, students, partnerships with Aboriginal Institutes and a program mix that meets needs locally, regionally and beyond.

Institutional approach to innovation, economic development and community engagement

Confederation College fosters economic and social development with a focus on northwestern Ontario. As a result of its dedication to the surrounding area over many years, Confederation has developed a strong network of well-established relationships. Strong relationships with Indigenous communities, industry and employers allow Confederation to be agile and responsive to emerging opportunities. It is committed to continuing to build collaborative partnerships that enhance learners’ success and learning outcomes and also address northern realities and the changing needs of the regional economy. In addition the College has focused its international strategy on attracting learners to northwestern Ontario, supporting success in learning and their integration into the workforce.

Confederation College develops programming based on community needs, working with Indigenous communities and regional employers to customize projects that meet training and development needs. It supports community-based learning initiatives that encourage student engagement and participation. Confederation fosters effective community, employer and industry connections to remain responsive to emerging opportunities and training needs. It works with regional partners to implement a collaborative approach to placements, co-ops, career services, Program Advisory Committees and community outreach that supports holistic career development. In partnership with stakeholders, and in response to the regional need to address critical skills shortages particularly in trades, Confederation will continue to investigate and advocate for new models for apprenticeship delivery across the northwest.

Confederation College enriches the quality of life, prosperity and sustainability of its diverse communities. It supports social innovation as a means to address the challenges faced by learners and employers and will work with Indigenous communities to develop projects that meet training needs. It works to increase its understanding of the unique challenges and needs facing northwestern Ontario’s communities in order to align programs and delivery options to facilitate access and success.

Based on postsecondary activity alone the College provides $411 million in benefits to northwestern Ontario annually (EMSI Study, 2013).

Examples of institutional initiatives

Collaboration with Indigenous Communities: Confederation College collaborates with regional Indigenous communities and organizations to build local capacity in a continuum of areas for socio-economic development, ranging from literacy and basic skills to academic access programs, semi-skilled and skilled trades training, small business management and community economic development. Specific initiatives include the co-design of education and training projects, co-curation of larger-scale, multi-faceted, multi-partner federal and provincial funding proposals and co-management and implementation of projects using a technology-transfer methodology to further support local capacity building. Confederation will continue to develop strategic partnerships with Indigenous communities, offer customized proposal management services with Indigenous partners and advocate for responsive funding for all socio-economic contract training opportunities.

Integrated Service Delivery: Confederation uses an integrated service delivery (ISD) model to support education, training and employment opportunities in rural and remote communities to ensure equitable opportunities for learners, regardless of geographic boundaries. This ISD model leverages blended program delivery with technology-enabled learning in the academic areas of skilled trades, apprenticeships, healthcare and business to connect learners to a continuum. This starts with individual assessment and supports learners’ needs leading towards employment. ISD is an effective strategy to help meet the region’s growing need for a highly skilled work force.

Social Innovation: Confederation supports the goal of healthy and sustainable communities, including Indigenous communities. It pursues an agenda where community-based social needs are included within economic-related education and training projects. Social innovation includes Confederation’s ongoing work in the development of Social Impact Bonds and Social Impact Investments. These target marginalized individuals who are furthest from the labour market by moving those identified off social assistance into employment. The goal of this project is rooted in building and strengthening education and training models that provide supports and wraparound services to address a wide range of learners’ needs. It will build a better bridge between training and education to employment.

Partners in innovation and Entrepreneurship: The Partners in Innovation and Entrepreneurship have continued to grow presence and impact in northwestern Ontario. This innovative approach is a collaborative partnership between Lakehead University, NOIC and Confederation College. It has reached 1,234 youth across 11 events, 470 learners across 10 contests and 1,200 learners across 32 workshops focused on the promotion of entrepreneurship. It is estimated that approximately 620 Confederation learners have engaged in these workshops and events.

Metrics and targets

System-wide Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Number of active Program Advisory Committees (PACs)100%
Number of employers engaged in each PAC5 - 10
Graduate employment rates
(2016-17 baseline: 82.76%)
82% - 89%
Employer satisfaction rates
(2017-17 baseline: 89.47%)
88% - 92%
Proportion of Graduates employed full-time
(2016-17 baseline: 50.19%)
50% - 73%
Proportion of Graduates employed full-time in a related job
(2016-17 baseline: 38.78%)
43% - 52%
Institution-Specific Metrics2019-20
Target Range
Number of training learners in regional communities
(2016-17 baseline: 400)
400 - 600
Number of contract training learners served and placed
(2016-17 baseline: 4,356/78%)
3,450/61% - 4,356/78%
Participation in PIE initiative reach
(2016-17 baseline: 1,200)
1,200 - 1,300

Enrolment strategy, program direction, sustainability and partnerships

Enrolment strategy and program direction

Enrolment plan

The purpose of this section is to identify institutional enrolment plans and aspirations. The enrolment projections are based on Confederation’s plans and assumptions for the coming years.

As stated in the Ontario College Funding Model Technical Manual, May 2017, Version 1.0, the introductory corridor midpoint in 2019-20 will be calculated based on the “three-year average, two-year slip”, the average of three years of enrolment two years prior to the funding year.

Domestic projected funding eligible enrolment

Projected eligible full-time head count

LevelActuals 2015-16Actuals 2016-17Projected 2017-18Projected 2018-19Projected 2019-20
Ontario College Certificate716732665661652
Ontario College Diploma/Advanced Diploma2,1901,9892,0342,0211,995
Ontario College Graduate Certificate3433333131
Baccalaureate Degree in Applied Area of Study00000
All other funding activity in full-time equivalent (FTE); Part-time, Tuition short, Prior Learning and Assessment Recognition (PLAR)100105110116122

International projected funding-eligible enrolment

Projected eligible full-time head count

LevelActuals 2015-16Actuals 2016-17Projected 2017-18Projected 2018-19Projected 2019-20
Ontario College Certificate3949353737
Ontario College Diploma/Advanced Diploma291282279287288
Ontario College Graduate Certificate3238282828
Baccalaureate Degree in Applied Area of Study00000

International strategy and collaboration

The International Education Strategy has an approval process within Confederation that begins with an internal review by the Academic Leadership Team, Senior Leadership Team, Senior Team, College Planning Committee and Academic Council. This review includes an assessment of risk mitigation strategies around budget implications, as well as program and service level impacts. The Board of Governors provides final oversight of the plan.

Confederation’s international goals are to:

  • Analyze and revise program mix to attract international learners
  • Identify the minimum and optimum number of learners for programming
  • Provide effective services and supports to support this growing body of learners
  • Monitor work placement and labour market availability for international learners

The risk factors considered in managing international enrolment are:

  • Changes in Canadian and international immigration policy including the social, political and economic climate of these countries
  • Effective marketing in an increasingly competitive environment
  • Operational capacity for support services and program level enrolment
  • Effective partnerships for continued improvement of international activities

Strategic areas of program strength and expansion[1]

Program areas of strength

  1. Media
  2. Preparatory/Upgrading
  3. Social Services
  4. Native Community Worker
  5. Business Management
  6. Nursing Related
  7. Electronics
  8. Mechanical
  9. Resources
  10. Aviation

Program areas of expansion

  1. Community Planning
  2. Social Services
  3. Health Technology
  4. Mechanical
  5. Electronics


Confederation College delivers several one-year techniques programs that provide pathways to apprenticeships in partnership with indigenous communities across the north. these are:

  • Carpentry and Renovation Techniques
  • Welding Techniques
  • Motive Power Techniques
  • Mechanical Techniques
  • Pre-technology (trades stream)

The apprenticeship model involves the apprentice, an employer and a Ministry Training Consultant. Within this arrangement, both on-the-job and in-school training must be completed and recorded.

Confederation College is a registered training authority for several apprenticeships including:

  • Automotive Service Technician (three levels)
  • General Carpenter (three levels)
  • Roofer (Level 2)
  • Truck and Coach Technician (three levels)
  • Welder (Level 1)
  • Heavy Duty Equipment Technician (Level 2)
  • Industrial Mechanic Millwright (Level 1)
  • Industrial Electrician (Level 3)
  • Electrician Construction and Maintenance (three levels)
  • Instrumentation and Control Technician (three levels)
  • Cook (two levels)

Confederation and MAESD meet to analyze the number of local apprentices that are registered. A contract with MAESD is established as part of the seat purchase plan. The seat purchase plan is a dynamic plan that accommodates the necessary needs for in-school training for apprentices.

Foundational to this effort, Confederation utilizes technology-enabled learning to support geographically bound learners across the north with partnerships with Fort William First Nations, Anishinabek Employment and Training Services and Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services to provide access and opportunity to develop a highly skilled workforce.

Financial sustainability

The Ministry and Confederation recognize that financial sustainability and accountability are critical to achieving institutional mandates and realizing Ontario’s vision for the postsecondary education system. To this end, it is agreed that:

It is the responsibility of the Board of Governors and senior administrators of the College to identify, track, and address financial pressures and sustainability issues. At the same time, the Ministry has a financial stewardship role. The Ministry and the College agree to work collaboratively to achieve the common goal of financial sustainability and to ensure that Ontarians have access to a full range of affordable, high-quality postsecondary education options, now and in the future.

The College remains accountable to the Ministry with respect to effective and efficient use of provincial government resources and student resources covered by policy directives of the Ministry, or decisions impacting upon these, to maximize the value and impact of investments made in the postsecondary education system.

System-wide MetricsBenchmark2015-16 Actuals2016-17 Actuals2017-18 Projections
Annual Surplus (Deficit)>0$981,260$914,795$287
Accumulated Surplus (Deficit)>0$5,281,625$6,218,770 $6,234,811
Net Income to Revenue Ratio>1.5%1.31%1.21%0%
Net Assets to Expense Ratio>60%59.06%64.59%92.86%
Quick Ratio>11.762.133.40
Debt Servicing Ratio<3%0.72%0.52%1.19%
Total Debt to Assets Ratio<35%23.94%26.42%22.22%

Institutional collaborations and partnerships

Confederation College has formal partnerships that can be categorized as being related to: learning or learning pathways; innovation and applied research; or employment.

Between our post-secondary and non-post-secondary activity we have multi-year training and partnership agreements outlining many learning and employment pathways with over 60 communities. This is in addition to over 20 applied research partnerships with government, community and business organizations. We also have collaborative and partnership initiatives to support international student and faculty exchanges across the countries of China, Mexico and Chile. The following provides examples of these initiatives:

Learning and Learning Pathways: Northern Ontario Education Leaders (NOEL): NOEL is a cross-institutional and school board partnership that exists to support kindergarten to grade 12 transitions while increasing overall student success and achievement. In addition to SCWI and Confederation Bound, Confederation is also working with school boards through the Four Directions Project to support Indigenous learner transitions to postsecondary learning and to increase the success of kindergarten to grade 12 learners in mathematics. A specific project involving the Keewatin-Patricia District School board in Sioux Lookout is the development of a new facility that will house the high school, day care as well as the college. This community hub will support a greater range of high school and postsecondary programming, increased transition from high school to the College as well as day care services for learners.

Northern Colleges Collaboration Project: NCCP leverages resources from the six northern Ontario colleges to provide access and create efficiencies across program and service delivery. Learners join classes through technology-enabled learning, using web-conferencing software on a computer, laptop or mobile device. A class was successfully piloted last winter semester and full delivery of business programming will commence in the fall of 2017. To allow for flexibility, learners may join classes at the college or anywhere in northwestern Ontario where there is sufficient connectivity. Learners will have access to all college services at the college where they register. The partnership will provide access to programming not available in many areas and is an incubator for innovation where initiatives such as new destination programming and micro-credentialing, are being explored.[2]

Lakehead University: While Confederation has articulation pathways with many Ontario universities, the pathway that is most often used is with Lakehead University. More than 22 formal articulation pathways exist and four ONCAT projects are in process that will further increase pathways from Confederation to Lakehead. In addition, there are close relationships and joint programming in a number of program areas, e.g., nursing, engineering and forestry/environmental studies. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program has two major streams, including a collaborative program offered in Thunder Bay and a community-based program offered through technology-enabled learning at four of Confederation’s regional campuses. The Partners in Entrepreneurism program supports the development of entrepreneurs in partnership with Lakehead and the NOIC through joint mentorship and workshops.

First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) and Trent University: These institutions offer a variety of articulation agreements and transfer pathways focusing on Indigenous programming, providing seamless transition from Confederation certificate and diploma programs into various bachelor degree programs at the partner universities.

Indigenous specific learning partnerships:

Anishnabek Education and Training Services (AETS): Confederation works with a number of agencies, such as AETS and employers in the healthcare sector, to provide pathways for Indigenous learners to fill a critical shortage of personal support workers in the north.

Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Hospital: The Indigenous hospital in Sioux Lookout, Meno Ya Win, works with Confederation to support delivery of healthcare programs. In addition to supporting the BScN and the Mental Health and Addictions programs, Confederation and Meno Ya Win are exploring funding to expand the offering of an Indigenous Medical Interpreter program and an Indigenous Maternal Care program.

Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services (KKETS): KKETS is the education and training arm for nine Matawa First Nations communities. Confederation is working with KKETS during the Ring of Fire project to provide foundation and skills training to these remote communities.

Sioux Lookout Area Aboriginal Management Board (SLAAMB): SLAAMB is an asset holder and provides training wraparound services for Indigenous learners in 28 rural and remote northern communities. SLAAMB and Confederation jointly deliver foundation training and health-related programming and supports.

Fort William First Nations (FWFN): The FWFN and Confederation co-deliver community-based training programs. These range from foundational training to advanced skills, with a particular emphasis on the construction and natural resource fields.

Chanie Wenjack Institute: Chanie Wenjack is an Indigenous Institute that delivers a number of Confederation College programs using a block delivery method, in which curriculum is delivered in intensive blocks, followed by distance learning in remote communities.

Seven Generations Educational Institute: Seven Generations Educational Institute is an Indigenous Institute that delivers programming in collaboration with the College in a number of communities of in the western region of northwestern Ontario.

Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO): MNO and Confederation work jointly towards improvements of educational outcomes of Métis learners. MNO provides financial support to learners and through the Infinite Reach Network provides mentorship, transition support and cultural activities.

Innovation and applied research:

Ontario Power Generation (OPG): OPG has provided funding to support the implementation of a BioEnergy Learning and Research Centre, which also provides primary heating for the largest building on the Thunder Bay campus. The Centre is partnering with First Nations communities to reduce greenhouse gas production associated with the use of diesel generators for energy production in rural and remote communities.

The Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre (NOIC): Located on the Thunder Bay Campus, NOIC provides support for innovation and entrepreneurship to northwestern Ontario, including the Confederation College community. New products and services are developed, often with the support of college learners. The Mi-Zone brings industry and learners together to support the development of prototypes and new products. This model has become the model that will be used in the new TEC Hub facilities.

Ministry/government commitments

  • The SMA2 process has focused on implementing the first stages of the new funding model and demonstrating the ongoing commitment by all colleges and universities to student success. Future growth will only be funded through negotiated changes to an institution’s funded enrolment corridor. Through the SMA2 cycle, the ministry will continue to work closely with institutions to ensure all dimensions of the funding model are implemented.
  • In a memo to colleges and universities dated March 7, 2017, the ministry committed to using the SMA2 (2017-20) process as a transitional phase to commence the collaborative and joint development of performance metrics and targets, tied to funding, for SMA3 (2020-23). The ministry reiterates this commitment and reaffirms that metrics and targets included in SMA2 are not tied to funding at this time and are a beginning point for further discussions with the sector prior to their application in SMA3. Colleges and universities will have the opportunity to reset and realign metrics prior to the application of metrics in SMA3. The ministry will also engage other stakeholders as part of discussions on a broad metrics strategy.
    • The ministry commits to establishing a joint working group with each of the sectors and to begin detailed discussions in fall 2017 on metrics/targets and to seek input on the performance measurement methodology for SMA3.
  • Colleges, universities and the ministry all benefit from processes that are transparent and non-duplicative. The ministry commits to work with colleges and universities to continue to streamline processes and seek opportunities to further reduce red tape (in part through increased access to other tools), including reducing or eliminating duplicated reporting requirements.
  • Through SMA2 discussions, the ministry has heard concerns about the challenges of delivering breadth in programming for Francophone and Francophile students, including the cost and funding of such delivery. Starting in fall 2017, the ministry commits to consulting institutions who have a formal mandate for bilingual and/or French-language delivery to review the delivery of French-Language programming and consider these concerns
  • In 2016, an extension of the existing tuition policy framework was announced to support a major reform in OSAP. The ministry will engage with both the college and university sectors around the next tuition policy framework, including examining the issue of tuition anomalies in certain professional programs as a result of past changes to tuition policy, and, for colleges, examining tuition levels relative to competitive college tuition frameworks in Canada.
  • In recent years and during the SMA process, there has been an increased interest in the creation of a new polytechnic designation in the Ontario postsecondary education system. Starting in fall 2017, the ministry commits to undertake a review that examines whether improved benefits for students and employers are sufficient to make such a change. The ministry commits to working collaboratively with institutions across the sectors on this review.
  • The ministry acknowledges a request by Ontario’s colleges to explore how to support more flexible delivery of programming, including reviewing part-time funding levels. The ministry commits to working collaboratively with colleges to review this issue, including identifying implications for credentials.
  • The ministry commits to continue to work collaboratively with colleges to review the eligibility criteria and allocation method for the Small, Northern and Rural Grant to help target funding to best meet sustainability challenges.

[1] The top five areas of program strength at Confederation College are rooted in the disciplines of Access, Business, Health, Indigenous and Technology. We have plans to expand all five areas. The following list represents our top ten areas of strength and expansion based on the MAESD occupational division cluster framework. The framework is split between four Occupation Divisions (Applied Arts, Business, Health and Technology) and sixty one Occupation Clusters.

[2] The ministry acknowledges a request by Ontario’s colleges to explore how to support more flexible delivery of programming, including reviewing part-time funding levels. The ministry commits to working collaboratively with colleges to review this issue, including identifying implications for credentials.

2014-17 Strategic Mandate Agreement: Confederation College of Applied Arts and Technology