“In my university days, I used to think that ideas could be transferred to paper, read by someone else, and then—poof!—the idea would transform the world,” says Work and Economics program director Brian Dijkema. “Looking back on this, I realize that’s rubbish. Unless they have legs, ideas are lame. Ideas emerge from and alongside working communities. And in order to give ideas legs, those who work in the flesh-and-blood realities of North American life need to bring them into conversation.”
This is what led Dijkema to spearhead the first great Cardus event of 2014: Canada’s New Industrial Revolution, a conference held January 23 at the Toronto Board of Trade. Featured speakers included the Canadian ministers of employment and social development and of labour, influential industry leaders, and leading researchers in related fields. The conference brought forward questions about resource development that haven’t been asked before. For instance, how does the increasing importance of resource development affect Canada’s social fabric? And how does Canada’s resource boom connect with the poor in developing countries?
Canada’s New Industrial Revolution brought the ideas and the flesh-and-blood realities together, and the results were inspiring. Discussions centred on how major projects need to focus on the human element as a matter of competitiveness. Dr. George F. Jergeas of the University of Calgary suggested that “we need to start thinking about the Sermon on the Mount. Read that again. In that spirit, we need to look after our team. . . We need to show that care. It’s time we do something better. These are human beings.” When employees are treated well and employers take a collaborative approach, he argued, companies become properly equipped with truly productive and loyal employees.
Various authorities on Canada’s trades and natural resources came together to think about the human nature of work, not as an add-on, but as an integral part of business. Brian Dijkema, through the Work and Economics research program, looks forward to these ideas growing and strengthening their legs.