Design Engineering

First-of-its-kind conference explores engineering leadership education


General education University of Toronto

The two-day conference was organized and hosted by U of T Engineering’s Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead).

Academics, industry professionals and policymakers came together this week for the inaugural NICKEL conference in Toronto.

NICKEL conference

David Colcleugh, former President and CEO of DuPont Canada, addresses the crowd at NICKEL, a first-of-its-kind conference on engineering leadership education. (Photo: Alan Yusheng Wu, EngSci 1T5)

The National Initiative on Capacity Building and Knowledge Creation for Engineering Leadership (NICKEL) is a unique forum that enables dialogue between many different areas of the engineering industry. The conference was organized and hosted by U of T Engineering’s Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead).

This two-day conference offered workshops, undergraduate courses, conferences and co-curricular programs. There was also a round-table component that explored the relationships between leadership, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“This was a great opportunity to bring together people who have been thinking about these issues, from Vancouver to St. John’s and everywhere in between,” said Mike Klassen, ILead Assistant Director, Community of Practice on Engineering Leadership.


Approximately 40 people attended the inaugural event,  many of which were professors, instructors and deans from Canada’s major engineering schools, as well as representatives from industry and Engineers Canada.

“We are here to share with one another best practices, challenges and aspirations,” said Professor Doug Reeve (ChemE), ILead’s Director, during his opening remarks. “Together, our goal is to realize the full potential of engineering in Canada.”

NICKEL is a product of the Engineering Change Lab, a collaboration between Engineers Canada and Engineers Without Borders. After a meeting last June Reeve and Klassen were inspired to create a national network for the development of engineering leadership.

A core team of 40 senior leaders, including CEOs, vice-presidents, deans and directors representing 35 organizations from across the engineering profession, works to identify systemic challenges, one of which is the development of leadership skills among new graduates. After the Change Lab meeting last June, Reeve and Klassen got to work on the creation of a national network of communities of practice for engineering leadership.

“We hope the conversation we’ve started here will take root, and that we’ll have many more meetings like this in the future,” said Klassen.


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