What disruptions are affecting the labour market? Which skills and competencies are required for new and evolving jobs? How can people and institutions adapt to the future of work and learning? Through this monthly brief, keep on top of developments in the workforce and how education and training are changing today to build the skills and competencies needed for the future. Priority will go to stories focused on Western Canada. If you know of something relevant and want to send for inclusion in the next brief, email .
Tech jobs for the future
The pandemic has been a catalyst for new jobs that have been created, magnified or highlighted by the virtual boom. According to the World Economic Forum some of these top 10 “jobs of the now” are Work from Home Facilitator, Workplace Environment Architect, and Human-Machine Team Manager.
To build the requisite skills, post-secondary institutions (PSIs), industry, and governments need to work together. Brock Dykeman, president of University Canada West, says that for for B.C. PSIs, meeting new challenges and opportunities in the tech sector depends on talent and training – advice that is also relevant for other provinces. He suggests a firm commitment from PSIs to “continue investing in the ongoing learning needs of their faculty and staff, [and maintain] a strong commitment to ensure their staff and faculty stay relevant.” Dykeman also stresses the need for applied skills, specific technical knowledge/experience and a more hands-on experience through co-ops and partnerships between post-secondary and industry.
Calgary’s tech education ecosystem is an interesting case study in how public-private partnership can attract tech business and generate jobs. Indian-based information technology company Mphasis announced its Canadian headquarters will be based in Calgary. The company will also work with the University of Calgary to establish the Quantum Centre of Excellence. The move is expected to generate between 500 to 1000 jobs over the next two years. Eyes are also on Alberta-based AltaML, an AI software company, as recent executive-level hires suggest expansion into Eastern Canada will continue. From the BetaKit article on the expansion “AltaML’s ambitions to expand outside of Alberta also point to the province’s maturation as both an AI hub and a tech ecosystem more broadly.”
Micro credentials to prepare a tech workforce
Western Canadian polytechnics have some interesting courses which show how micro credentials – mini credentials that demonstrate skills, knowledge and experience in specific areas – can meet immediate crisis skill needs, such as those for COVID-19 pandemic-specific skills, and also longer-term skill transition needs. In terms of immediate crisis skills, Red River College’s train the trainer micro credential in partnership with Skip the Dishes was meant to quickly scale up the local workforce to support increased need for mobile delivery.
In terms of skill transition, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Red River College have developed micro credentials with LERN for a variety of in-demand skills in tech and other sectors. NAIT in Edmonton has developed a series of micro credentials under the categories of automation, to build programming related skills, and productivity, to build project management related skills. BCIT has categories of micro credentials focused on key industries in B.C., including digital transformation.
Calgary-based InceptionU developed a six-month Full Stack Developer course to build the requisite technical as well as soft skills for those in the program. As part of the program, cohorts must work together to build their own software. One example of a student built app is Homy, a digital app which allows residents and property managers to connect and communicate about their needs or give building updates.
InceptionU just announced a new six-month Full Stack Designer program that builds the technical design skills needed for websites and apps. The first cohort will begin in Fall 2021. Both programs cost $14,000. Underemployed Albertans over the age of 18 can apply for full funding through the federal and provincial government or Alberta based business owners, sole proprietors, non-profits, First Nations and Metis can apply for two-thirds funding through the Canada-Alberta job grant. Apply to either program here.
Jobs in sourcing raw materials for tech
In the journey to diversification, western provinces are making the move to invest in and develop capacity for other resource economies. Saskatchewan and Alberta have made recent efforts to expand helium exploration. Avanti Energy, a Calgary based company, recently leased 7,000 acres in southern Alberta for exploration. The world’s largest helium purification facility recently opened near Battle Creek Saskatchewan. Helium can be use in the tech sector for medical applications, MRI machines, fibre optic cables, data centres, semiconductor manufacturing and cryogenics. The growing helium industry is also an opportunity to create jobs and leverage the existing skills of oil and gas workers. There is large US demand for helium and a huge market globally; the world is currently in its third, and most severe shortage, in 14 years with tech companies scrambling to find sources.
Federal and provincial budgets fund tech employers
The Government of Saskatchewan committed to a multi-year, $2.2 million investment in 11 Saskatchewan innovators through the Saskatchewan Advantage Innovation Fund (SAIF) and Agtech Growth Fund (AGF). SAIF supports commercialization of game-changing technological innovations in the province’s core economic sectors, while AGF operates in parallel as a research and development (R&D) funding program designed to accelerate the commercialization of game-changing technological innovations in the province’s agricultural sector.
The province also announced a new 2021 Saskatchewan Technology Start-up Incentive Amendment Act. This legislation will extend the Saskatchewan Technology Startup Incentive (STSI) for five years and expand funding opportunities for the fast-growing tech sector.
The proposed legislation will:
- Increase the amount of capital a Startup can raise under the program from $1 million to $2 million
- Set the value of the annual tax credit cap at $2.5 million.
- Extend the investment holding period from two to three years.
The Alberta Government has announced the details for the Alberta Jobs Now program (read more in our previous brief). As unemployment within Alberta remains at 9% and small– and medium–sized businesses feel the effects of a year of economic strain, the announcement marks the start of a province-wide mass retraining and reskilling effort. Employers, including those in tech, can apply for a grant to cover 25 per cent of an employee’s salary for a 52-week period up to a maximum of $25,000 for each employee. The grant is 1.5 times higher if employers hire individuals with disabilities.
Remote work to stay after pandemic?
Recent news in Canadian tech includes an announcement by Dialpad Inc., an industry leader in AI-powered communication and collaboration. The company recently announced plans to expand employee presence in Canada. Dialpad is focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). Success in the work–from–home sphere witnessed by Dialpad, who hired a majority of workers post-covid, has resulted in plans for a “work from anywhere” organization. Dialpad says it is committed to recruiting and hiring the best talent globally through active and deliberate sourcing & networking from all backgrounds. The Canadian job postings are largely located in “Anywhere, Canada” suggesting remote work is here to stay at least for one Canadian company.
Canadian employers who plan to enforce in-office work once fully reopened may want to pay attention to the United States, which is further ahead in its reopening than Canada. Bloomberg recently surveyed employees and found that there are those who would consider quitting if they are required to work full-time in the office again. The divide appears to be generational, with Millennials and Gen Z more likely to consider quitting than the Boomer generation.
Work Anywhere, Canada doesn’t mean anywhere
Internet and long-distance calling failures in northern B.C. and the three territories highlight the challenges that northern Canadians face when it comes to reliable telecommunications infrastructure. With these challenges, the attraction and retention of tech talent who can work locally or remotely is a challenge. Tumbler Ridge, B.C., lost internet for 36 hours after beavers chewed through Telus’ main line in the area, with almost 1000 residents affected. Even the BBC reported on the story. A few weeks later, road construction in Fort Nelson, B.C., damaged a fibre optics cable. Due to the damage, internet, cable tv, landlines, and long-distance phone services were down in some areas while others merely lost landline and long-distance services. 911 services were also impacted; some regions even advised residents to drive to local RCMP detachments in the event of emergency. As the country looks at expanding broadband services to rural and remote communities, these stories show that there is a lot of basic infrastructure work to be done to ensure work anywhere jobs are truly accessible to all Canadians.
In the US, Adie Tomer and Caroline George from the Brookings Institute have developed a phased broadband infrastructure plan to help close the divide. Might Canada need something similar?
The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane and Mehera Salah. If you like what you see, subscribe to our mailing list and share with a friend. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .
Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash