Ottawa, March 23, 2021— Artificial intelligence is expected to revolutionize many sectors of the economy, which will call for stronger AI skills among Canada’s digital workforce. AI typically requires highly experienced teams with graduate-level education and domain-specific knowledge, but broad upskilling initiatives and strategic cross-training programs to address acute AI industry needs will also be essential.

Artificial intelligence—in tandem with cloud computing, big data analytics, cybersecurity, and internet-of-things (IoT)—is a key tool driving the digital transformation. Recent advances in AI in finance and healthcare, for example, hold great potential for innovation leading to better customer and patient engagement, employee empowerment, operational efficiencies, and industry transformation.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has exerted a paradigmatic shift in the workplace, and AI will be critical to improving the efficiencies of the increasingly remote and work-from-home workforce and the performance of various sectors.

This comprehensive report from ICTC, with support from Microsoft Canada, Building Canada’s Future AI Workforce in the Brave New (Post-Pandemic) World, explores the support needed for Canada’s digital workforce to acquire AI skills. A key focus is addressing the knowledge gap between subgroups on AI product development teams.

Grounded in interviews with industry leaders in AI, the report synthesizes its finding and makes the following calls to action:

  • Federal government and industry could play a key role in supporting remote tech upskilling programs to improve general digital skills and acute skill needs such as multidisciplinary cross training on AI teams
  • Canadian academic institutions should assess and seek to fill the availability and accessibility of AI-related courses in non-technical programs such as business, finance, or medical programs and vice versa
  • Stakeholders in heavily regulated sectors like financial services and healthcare need to establish industry-wide data governance standards and secure data-sharing mechanisms to enable greater and more secure data access

“The convergence of Cloud computing, IoT, and Big data are fueling critical innovations in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Skill development in this rapidly developing field of AI is most effective when learning is grounded in cross fertilization of ideas that are anchored in real applications,” said Namir Anani, ICTC President & CEO.

“The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the tech intensive economy – every job, to some degree, is now a tech job and every company is a tech company,” said Kevin Peesker, President, Microsoft Canada. “Organizations are better positioned to lead when they have talent to build and manage their own innovations. Providing Canadians access to training for in-demand skills like cloud, data and AI is an important initiative.”

The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) is a not-for-profit, national centre of expertise for strengthening Canada’s digital advantage in a global economy. Through trusted research, practical policy advice, and creative capacity-building programs, ICTC fosters globally competitive Canadian industries enabled by innovative and diverse digital talent. In partnership with an expansive network of industry leaders, academic partners, and policy makers from across Canada, ICTC has empowered a robust and inclusive digital economy for over 25 years.

To arrange an interview with the lead researcher on this paper or other media inquiries, please contact Paul Stastny at [email protected] or 403.351.0138 Ext. 823.

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