Engineers are poised to make important contributions to society, and certainly have the technical skills to do so. To reach their full potential, they need to increase their leadership capability, so they can influence positive change in their organizations. Making leadership a core part of the Canadian engineering identity requires changes to engineering education.

The National Initiative on Capacity Building and Knowledge Creation for Engineering Leadership (NICKEL) is designed to help universities in Canada infuse leadership experiences into the engineering learning process, so that students graduate with the skills and experience they need to lead throughout their careers. NICKEL is an initiative of the University of Toronto Community of Practice on Engineering Leadership that arose out of the Engineering Change Lab. 

Participants in NICKEL are university staff and professors who are pushing the boundaries to further integrate leadership into the engineering curriculum in Canada. More than 40 people from 20 organizations participated in the first annual conference in August 2016. A similar number are expected to attend the 2nd annual conference in August 2017. Beyond these conferences, NICKEL will also support ongoing connections between engineering leadership educators through research seminars, conference calls, resource sharing and more. 

Below is a list of the universities who have participated in the 2016 and 2017 conferences:

  • University of Alberta

  • University of British Columbia

  • University of Calgary

  • Concordia University

  • Dalhousie University

  • University of Guelph

  • McMaster University

  • Memorial University of Newfoundland

  • University of Prince Edward Island

  • Ryerson University

  • University of Saskatchewan

  • University of Toronto

  • University of Waterloo

  • Western University

  • York University

In addition, key leaders from the following organizations also participated:

  • Engineers Canada

  • Engineering Change Lab

  • Parliament of Canada

  • Purdue University's Agile Strategy Lab


NICKEL was co-created by individuals from 3 universities: University of Toronto, McMaster University, and Concordia University. The core team met and started working together in 2015 through the Engineering Change Lab, a multi-stakeholder social lab that is dedicated to the engineering profession reaching its highest potential. The strategy for NICKEL’s evolution as a network, including the thinking behind this initial conference has been informed by Liz Nilsen and the Pathways to Innovation program in the US. The first conference was hosted by the UofT Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead). 

The second conference was planned by a committee representing 5 universities: U of T, Guelph, UBC, Western, McMaster and Concrodia. The second conference will also be hosted by ILead.