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OCAD U receives $1.7 million to launch Canada’s first sales and upskilling co-op platform

Man holding a tablet that says sold on the screen

OCAD University is launching a unique cooperative online marketplace where creatives can sell their work and develop skills to thrive in an evolving economy thanks to an investment of $1.7 million from the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre (FSC).

This new cooperative platform, known as CRAFT, will foster economic resilience for artists and designers across Canada and usher a more equitable business model in Canada’s arts, culture and design sectors.

CRAFT will also feature ongoing learning and entrepreneurial upskilling for members making it the first Canadian integrated cooperative platform of its kind.

“As Canada’s largest and oldest art, design and media university, OCAD U is uniquely positioned to lead in creating new economic and upskilling possibilities for creatives post-pandemic across Canada,” says Ana Serrano, the University’s President and Vice-Chancellor.

“Indeed, our role in creating opportunities for our graduates, such as establishing new platforms like CRAFT that promote more equitable economic models, is more important than ever as the cultural sector reshapes itself post-COVID,” she emphasizes.

OCAD U graduates work across every major employment sector, and 81 per cent will open their own business at some point in their careers. Though the Canadian cultural sector employs more than 700,000 people and accounts for 4 per cent of the GDP, due to the pandemic the sector’s GDP is anticipated to be down about 10 per cent.

Shoring up the resilience of arts and culture workers to withstand future pandemics is a key reason why OCAD U developed and submitted a proposal for CRAFT in response to the call by the FSC for projects to shock-proof the future of work.

Future Skills Centre investing $1.7 million

More than 400 proposals were submitted from across Canada to the FSC, with OCAD U being one of the 64 projects to receive the green light. The FSC will invest $1.7 million over the next two years to help ensure the successful launch of this project. CRAFT will aim to launch a pilot before the end of 2021.

Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre, says that harnessing the talent and skills of artists and designers in this online marketplace is a perfect example of FSC’s investments in innovative and radical approaches to training for the economy of the future.

“This cooperative platform enables creative types to earn an income from their art and design work while providing entrepreneurial training that supports the creation of a resilient and entrepreneurial learning community,” he says. “This is just one of the exciting shock-proofing projects that FSC is investing in to build a future playbook for shared prosperity, and help Canadian workers and businesses seize opportunities in our future economy.”

About FSC 

The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is a forward-thinking centre for research and collaboration dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success. We believe Canadians should feel confident about the skills they have to succeed in a changing workforce.

As a pan-Canadian community, we are collaborating to rigorously identify, test, measure, and share innovative approaches to assessing and developing the skills Canadians need to thrive in the days and years ahead.

The Future Skills Centre was founded by a consortium whose members are Ryerson University, Blueprint, and The Conference Board of Canada, and is funded by the Government of Canada's Future Skills Program.