Brainpower is at the root of Canada’s future success in the digital economy. According to a recent report by the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills (CCICT), one of the keys to growing the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) industry in Canada is to attract more skilled professionals to the trade.
The ICT Brainpower Challenge
A lack of awareness of the opportunities available in the industry has caused a decrease in enrolment for ICT-related university programs. The digital economy is caught in a chicken and egg scenario where the industry lacks growth due to a decrease in availability of local talent and young people are not interested in going into ICT-related fields due to a lack of awareness of where the job opportunities exist.
A recent report called Canada: The Go‐to Country for Brainpower Resources in the Global Digital Economy found that only 9% of boys and 4% of girls in high school currently view ICT-related careers as appealing. The industry is still only roughly 25% comprised of females. The report explained that many young females perceive ICT-related jobs as “geeky, boring desk jobs.”
I spoke with Dave Ticoll, Executive Director of CCICT last week about new initiatives that the CCICT is developing to entice young Canadians at the high school level to learn about all of the exciting careers that are possible in the ICT industry. Ticoll will be speaking at the Canada 3.0 conference (www.canada30.ca) in Stratford, Ontario in May.
Ticoll told me that the brainpower challenge also stems from the current ICT-related technology programs that are available in schools today. He said that there is a “huge misalignment between the skills that we are creating in the post-secondary system and the needs of the digital economy.” For example, the healthcare system cannot find enough Canadians with health informatics skills. In addition, there is a lot of focus being placed on building smart power grids, yet there are very few Canadians with green energy technology skills.
According to Ticoll, we are faced with a conundrum where we now have “jobs without people and people without jobs.” A recent report by the OMDC claimed that there are 2,900 students enrolled in game design programs at Ontario Colleges and Universities. Yet, Ticoll says that “many of those students have to seek work outside of the province or country because the job opportunities don’t match-up with their skills.”
Ticoll told me that there is also a black hole in terms of what the actual job opportunities are in ICT-related fields. He said that “when students in high school go to choose their future careers, they are not able to get access to information about the exciting ICT jobs available to them.” Therefore, they are not aware that they can actually use technology skills to solve business problems and make a change in the world.
The Proposed Solution
The CCICT has been working with Canadian universities and corporations to develop a new undergraduate university program called Business Technology Management (BTM). It is a program designed to improve the quality and quantity of business professionals capable of taking on ICT roles to achieve productivity, innovation, entrepreneurship and competitive advantage for the Canadian digital economy. The BTM program is part of a mandate to increase Canadian ICT-related college and university enrolments by 20% by the year 2017.
In addition, the CCICT plans to implement an ICT job awareness program which involves:
- An annual ICT national career week which will be held in major cities across Canada
- A Web 2.0 style “digital jobs of tomorrow hub” where Canadian students can go online to learn about all of the job opportunities in ICT-related fields
Finally, due to the lack of data surrounding the actual size and opportunity of the ICT market in Canada, the CCICT is working on developing a “skills data mart.” This will help to quantify the actual number of jobs in the ICT market, broken down by fields such as healthcare, green energy, business technology and more.