Canada is a world leader in the quality of its technology workforce and post-secondary education. Talent is the foundation of our rapidly expanding tech sector and of tech-based innovations across the economy. It’s not enough to meet the demand for tech skills: we must double down on our strengths to extend our global leadership.
People with cutting- edge skills like artificial intelligence (AI), digital mobility, cybersecurity and blockchain – combined with expertise in business, complementary technologies, innovation and leadership – create opportunities and entice investment. This is about growth, innovation and competitive advantage. Canada must expand its tech-capable workforce – in all sectors – to build a thriving, equitable economy in the 21st century.
But the digital economy faces big challenge…
Shortages of high-demand and emerging skills prevents employers and workers from achieving their potential in the digital economy.
The insatiable demand for highly qualified labour is compounded by talent shortages and pipeline challenges, including an aging population, low fertility rates and an increase in the number of retiring baby boomers. While annual ICT enrolment rates have increased by 24% since 2010, the number of ICT graduates will not satisfy labour market demand.
In addition, because of employment growth and replacement demand due to skills mismatch, retirements and other exits, demand–supply imbalances will affect some occupations (e.g. information systems analysts, computer and network operators, computer programmers, software engineers, database analysts and administrators) more than others.
Too few young women are attracted by digital careers
Canada’s digital economy relies heavily on students enrolled in STEM programs, who graduate with the scientific skills necessary to support the advancement of the country’s innovation agenda. Although there is a flow of enrolments and graduations from ICT programs, industry has identified gaps in the nature of skills graduates bring to the workforce. Industry needs a blend of technical, entrepreneurial, creative, business, management and interpersonal skills to help power an economy driven by science and technology.
We are missing half of the talent pool. Women’s participation in ICT professions has remained consistent around 25% for more than 10 years; there is clearly room for improvement. There are approximately 209,550 women currently employed in ICT jobs, compared to 667,920 men. Challenges also persist in terms of wage gaps where women in ICT professions earn 88 cents for each dollar earned by men. This gender imbalance is also evident early in the talent pipeline. In 2015, only 21% of all ICT graduates across Canada were women.
Other opportunities to fill the talent pipeline
Immigrants play a critical role in the health and growth of Canada’s ICT workforce. Of the total number of workers presently employed in ICT occupations, 40% are immigrants. However, there are still recruitment challenges as well as skills mismatches, especially with respect to communication capabilities, which creates barriers to effectively leveraging this vital talent pool. And Canada is not alone in the quest for global talent, placing added pressure on employers to quickly secure top international talent.
Indigenous Peoples remain an underutilized talent pool in the Canadian economy and ICT sector. According to Statistics Canada both enrolment and graduation rates for Indigenous peoples in ICT is approximately 3%. Among those that pursue post-secondary education, only approximately 3% go into ICT and 3.7% go into STEM.
Persons with disabilities are a consistently overlooked talent pool. As of 2012, more than 50% of people with a disability had some form of post-secondary education. Yet persons with disabilities have not fared well in the labour market and experience difficulty finding meaningful employment. A Statistics Canada’s national survey of IT Occupations found that only 1.5% of all people working across 24 IT occupations in Canada identified themselves as a person with a disability.