The Canadian economy has created a demand for 216,000 more tech workers by 2021. Employment of information and communications technology professionals outpaced the economy last year six to one, according to a recent report by the Information and Communication Technology Council (ICTC), a not-for-profit dedicated to strengthening Canada’s digital advantage in the global economy. Since 2016 alone, the digital economy has seen a growth of $2.43 billion GDP, contributing around $74.7 billion to the overall economy.

“The reality is that all sectors of the economy are becoming digital,” says Namir Anani, President and CEO of the ICTC. “To remain competitive in this fast-paced economy, companies need to develop the talent of the future.”

ICTC supports Canada’s digital transformation and economic growth in three key ways. The first is by developing forward-looking research in technology, economics, and labour market trends. The second is by designing and implementing innovative capacity-building programs. The third is by creating evidence-based policies that chart Canada’s path in the global economy, including the creation of the nation’s first digital talent strategy. According to Sandra Saric, ICTC’s Vice President of Talent Innovation, “Canadian companies are in a place where they need to tap into every potential resource and focus on the best ways to recruit and integrate talent.”

Endless digital opportunities

Canadian companies are integrating, innovating, and leveraging technology on a daily basis for future returns. “With the skills that will be required, the opportunities are endless,” says Saric.

For example, technology-driven innovation in financial services creates a demand for highly skilled professionals with expertise in artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cybersecurity. The automotive industry will need workers with advanced digital skills as autonomous and electric vehicles arrive on the market. And with cybercrime on the rise, there will be plenty of demand for skilled cybersecurity experts.

The digital skills demanded are not restricted to frontline workers — future leaders will also need to build their own digital technical expertise and skills.
 For this reason, ICTC is encouraging digital literacy and skills development across the entire Canadian population to build expertise from the ground up. This includes working with youth, Indigenous populations, women, newcomers, and persons with disabilities. “Having inclusivity and diversity of talent will allow for innovation and global competitiveness,” she says.

ICTC works closely with governments, educational institutions, other non-profits, and industry leaders to create a diverse spectrum of programs that will support the country’s global digital footprint. From supporting workplace diversity and inclusion to fostering industry growth, the organization is focused on winning the innovation race. “Canada is at a critical point and ICTC is trying to tackle it from as many angles as possible to help ensure the right skills are being developed and that we’re creating pathways to jobs of the future,” says Saric.

The multi-pronged strategy is proving to be successful. Over the past year, they’ve successfully bridged skills gaps, connected talented individuals with jobs, and helped the industry adopt transformative technologies to become more competitive in a global economy. The latest initiative will engage over 5,000 students and 500 teachers across the country and will create innovative education and career pathways for youth through the Digital DASH program, a Government of Canada-funded CanCode initiative.

Through the WIL Digital program (funded by the Government of Canada’s Student Work-Integrated Learning Program), 320 students have secured work placements in emerging technology sectors and over 4,000 internationally-educated ICT professionals have leveraged ICTC’s GO Talent initiative for pre-arrival employment preparation and employer connection program funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

ICTC plans to continue supporting its stakeholders by focusing on enhancing their ability to leverage talent and technology effectively. “Canada is very much in a global innovation race and with shifting trade dynamics, we need to invest in digital talent now more than ever,” Anani says.