We have witnessed in recent decades unprecedented global economic growth that is expected to continue — albeit at a more modest rate — as young economies emerge, trade expands, and electronic connectivity bridges social and economic divides. It’s also fair to say that this growth has been and will continue to be largely the result of technology advances — a critical enabler behind any modern economy.

Factors that are Altering Business Operations

Demographic shifts, globalization of markets, changing consumer habits and expectations, as well as fierce competition are also factors that are radically changing how businesses operate in every sector of the economy. At the root of any success in this environment is innovation, a factor that is predominantly defined by technology and talent.

Labour and Skills Gap

And the quest for such talent is accelerating. The Information and Communications Technology Council’s (ICTC) research indicates that by 2018 around 150,000 critical ICT positions will need to be filled in Canada. Many of the skills in demand are the result of recent advancements in technology and services. The growths in mobile adoption, apps, and cloud services, among many others, are now finding their way across many sectors of the Canadian economy. The combined offering of these technologies under the larger umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT) is also shaping to be a determining factor for talent quest across economies and industries over the next number of years. Analytical and statistical skills that help provide better insights of consumer habits and expectations from big data are in particular forecasted to be ones of significant demand.

This labour and skills gap is not unique to Canada. The European Commission in a recent announcement anticipated a shortfall of around 900,000 ICT positions by 2020.

Managing the Up and Coming ICT Talent

While building a healthy talent supply through education and training is the focus of policy makers around the world, the lead-time to staff critical positions is a challenge for many industries, especially SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Improving the educational system responsiveness to the labour market needs will be paramount, and a key enabler in this environment will be the ability to better forecast the skills needs of the future. Educational institutions that offer industry-targeted and short duration programs will also be critical, before and after graduate school. Apprenticeships and the provision of workplace training can also help both young people and the unemployed to build connectivity with the industry and gain useful work-related skills.

Success in managing the up-and-coming ICT supply and demand market imbalance will depend primarily on our ability as an economy to better forecast the skills of the future, build strong employer bridging programs, and provide ongoing short duration industry up-skilling.  We are in the midst of a very global and competitive economy, positioning our digital talent as a comparative advantage will be key in the coming years.