In recent years it has become clear to policy makers and employers that there will soon be an unmet demand for skilled technology workers in Canada. Presently, the ICT (information and communications technology) sector is worth $741 billion per year, and employs almost 900,000 professionals throughout all sectors the economy.
A March 2016 report by the Canadian Information and communications technology Council (ICTC), titled Digital Talent: Road to 2020 and Beyond projected that by 2020, there will be a huge growth of the size of the global Internet of Things (IoT) economy, which could exceed $19 trillion. The term “The Internet of Things” describes the economic activity surrounding smart and connected technologies – which has wide impact, including on industries or sectors such as manufacturing, financial services, health, transportation, essential services and cities, as well as media and creative industries. The report describes Canada’s adoption rate of these technologies as still lower than other similar economies worldwide, mostly because of a lack of enough skilled workers with the necessary technological skills to enable companies to keep up.
The ICTC report describes that “the growth in digital jobs has outpaced the overall economy in the last two years by over 4 to 1, leading to a strong demand of 182,000 skilled ICT workers by 2019”, saying that “unfortunately, the domestic supply of ICT graduates and workers will be insufficient to meet this demand” It calls for engagement of “all available talent, including women, youth, immigrants, Indigenous persons and persons with disabilities” as critical in mitigating the talent shortage.
What skills are in demand?
The report outlines the knowledge and skills required by employers, including a balance between technical, professional and personal skills:
Technical Skills Business and Management Skills:
- Data management and analytics • Network security • Cloud computing content, design, and service management • Java • Python • Mobile and software development
Business and Management Skills:
- General Business Acumen • Business Analysis • Sales and marketing • Product management • Creativity and innovation • Leadership
Soft and Interpersonal Skills:
- Communication (public speaking and writing) • Collaboration (virtual and in-person) • Adaptability • Cross-cultural competence and sensitivity
What jobs will be needed and where?
Specifically, the report predicts that the finance and health care sectors will have the highest demand for ICT labour in the next four year, specifically:
- information systems analysts and consultants
- computer network operators and web technicians
- computer programmers and interactive media developers
- software engineers
- graphic designers and illustrators
- computer and information systems managers
- database analysts and data administrators.
Interestingly, the report claims that many Canadian youth are opting out of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses. The report recommends that the provinces make computer science mandatory in the education curriculum from Kindergarten to Grade 12, to and nurture:
- Computational thinking (with or without devices) for students in early grades
- Coding for students in intermediate grades
- Application development, networking, and cyber security for students in advanced grades
- Experiential learning opportunities such as co-ops or apprenticeships
- Information about career paths and occupational roles that require computer science.
It also recommends “upskilling” the existing workforce, through:
- Understanding the barriers to full participation (such as wage gaps) in the ICT field by women, immigrants, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and visible minorities
- Sharing best practices in the area of diversity and inclusion
- Establishing targets and an action plan to attract and retain underrepresented persons in the ICT field.
The report also calls for government to work harder to attract “global digital talent” and strengthen “digital literacy and digital skills for Canadians”, as well as work on “developing a comprehensive strategy that supports the transition of displaced workers into high demand jobs in the digital economy”.
In response to this report, the federal government has recently announced of a new pilot “Global Talent” project which aims to bring in more highly skills workers to Canada.