Terms like “upskilling”, “retooling”, “lifelong learning” and a number of others expressing the transitional state of jobs and skills, are quickly becoming common vernacular. With the demand for skilled talent accelerating across sectors, more and more Canadians are focused on ensuring that their competencies match future industry needs. At the same time, recent estimates suggest that the average person will change careers roughly five times in their life, picking up new skills, experiences, and knowledge along the way. The workforce is increasingly aware of changing industry needs and emerging realities, while also becoming more flexible, versatile, and creative in the process.
A mechanical engineer turned finance professional, turned big data developer, my father embraced the lifelong learning philosophy long ago. He continuously sought opportunities to upskill and shift according to new areas of interest and emerging industry trends. A similar story holds true for a good friend from University – graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing, today she works as a GIS analyst for a growing ag-tech startup. This philosophy, rooted in flexibility and agility is quickly becoming standard, and many Canadians like my father or my friend are embracing it.
This mindset will be critical to helping the Canadian economy reach its full potential. Recent ICTC research finds that our growing economy will create substantial demand for digitally-skilled workers across all sectors, and namely in key areas like digital media, advanced manufacturing, cleantech, ag-tech and a number of others.
While this demand will be seen across a variety of occupations, top roles including software developers, data scientists, and QA testers will continue to supercharge growth prospects, accelerating the need for talent with key skills to fill them. Some efforts are already underway in the attempt to bolster the availability of supply needed for our future economy. For example, many educational and training institutions across Canada are looking at reshaping curriculums or creating new programs altogether to stay up to date with industry needs. This is done while simultaneously encouraging greater enrolment in key subjects like technology, especially from groups such as women, Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities who are currently underrepresented in these fields. Other initiatives like ICTC’s WIL Digital and Career Connect work to ensure that new grads have not only the skills but the practical experience needed to hit the ground running in their careers. And some organizations are focusing on re-purposing skilled talent that already exists. Initiatives like Calgary Upskill and now Edge Up, led by Calgary Economic Development in partnership with ICTC, both to help the city’s highly-skilled displaced workers from engineering backgrounds get the training and skills they need to obtain some of the city’s hottest tech jobs.
For nearly 20 years, employment growth in the Canadian digital economy has outstripped that of the general economy. According to ICTC’s in-depth labour market report to be released in early September 2019, employment prospects for highly-skilled workers are seeing rapid growth on a national level that exceeds any other period in Canada’s digital-based economy. Attracting, growing, and transitioning the skilled talent needed to fill these roles is critical. Doing so will help to safeguard Canada’s leadership and scaling competitiveness in a global economy that is increasingly digital, versatile, diverse, and innovative.