Kevin Peesker, President of Microsoft Canada
There’s no denying the growing skills gap that currently looms over our workforce. The good news is that awareness is increasing. Business leaders and institutions recognize the fundamental need to invest in skills training programs for their people to stay competitive in today’s digital economy. Unfortunately, while the skills gap challenge is well established, few are taking action, and the solutions are not moving quickly enough.
In 2020, we can expect 200,000 tech jobs to go unfilled in Canada, according ICTC. Meanwhile, 19 per cent of current employee skills will be irrelevant in three years and by 2022, 27 per cent total jobs will be new.
Too often, organizations talk about solutions, but are not willing to invest the resources and time needed to collaborate with industry peers, government and academics to bring these solutions to life. I understand the time pressures that many businesses face, but we are witnessing a tech intensity like never before and I believe if we don’t address the skills gap now, we run the real risk of falling behind the rest of the world.
At Microsoft, we believe it is our responsibility to help businesses, academic institutions, governments and individuals get the skills they need to succeed. That includes arming them with trusted technology solutions to innovate in today’s tech intense world.
We are committed to upskilling 25,000 Canadians in 2020 and are investing $2 million in digital skills initiatives. Our approach is three-pronged:
1) Help existing IT talent develop their skills;
2) Arm business leaders with the tools and talent to strategically apply technology to their industries;
3) Help ensure the future generation of leaders have access to technology and skills training, particularly in underserved communities.
Canada is widely recognized as an incubator for top tech talent – from developers and data analysts, to AI researchers and cybersecurity specialists. Having worked in the industry for nearly three decades, I can attest to the incredible IT workforce that we have here in Canada. We are worth the investment, which is why I am thrilled to introduce Microsoft Training Days – 130 free training events, reaching 12,000 Canadians across 10 cities, for technical professionals focusing on core cloud computing concepts, cloud migration, data, analytics, AI and more. The training at these events allows attendees to engage with experts and delve deeper into technology solutions including Azure, Dynamics 365 and Microsoft 365. Solutions that will help organizations unlock the power of cloud computing, enabling new experiences to engage customers while making their people more productive.
Back by popular demand the Microsoft Ignite Tour is also returning to Toronto January 8-9. This conference brings together over 5,000 IT professionals and developers to learn, connect and explore the latest advancements in technology. With over 100 deep-dive sessions and workshops, the conference offers custom learning paths that allow IT professionals to achieve their technical training goals. Visit here for more information and be notified once registration open.
Upskilling Business Leaders
Technology can no longer exist in a silo – it must be infused into every job spec in all industries. That is especially true for business leaders.
Digital transformation is no longer just for traditional technology companies – every company must consider themselves a tech company. This concept is perhaps best summarized by our CEO, Satya Nadella,
“Each one of us in our institutions, in our organizations, whether it’s public sector or private sector, will have to build our own digital capability on top of the technology that we have adopted. Because every company is a software company, every company is a digital organization…To succeed as computing becomes so pervasive, so embedded in our world, every institution, every organization will need to have what I describe as tech intensity.”
Microsoft Learn is a great resource for business professionals who are starting with the basics. The online training offers industry-recognized Microsoft certifications, in-depth training in virtual classrooms led by Microsoft Certified Trainers, and a wide range of programs designed to fit diverse learning needs.
Earlier this year we also launched AI Business School – a free comprehensive AI business training that helps organizations not only define an AI strategy and enable an AI-ready culture, but also understand the implications of responsible AI in business.
We’ve recently announced additions to AI Business School for government leaders, including a new module about identifying governing practices for responsible AI in government that draws on the wisdom from experts at EY and Altimeter Group. We share examples from governments around the world to shed light on what government officials should consider and how to take action.
Tech Skills for Business is also new this year and is designed for our customers and partners to build their technical skills with customized skilling plans that are tailored to their business goals. The plans include free and discounted training, certification offerings, role-based learning paths and more. Additionally, the Azure Migration Program supports companies looking to move to the cloud with online training, workshops, Azure credits and technical guidance throughout engagement.
I hope you’ll take advantage of one or more of these programs to take your ideas to the next level this year.
By the time today’s kindergarteners become the graduates of 2032, the world will be a vastly different from anything previous generations have experienced. I believe we have an obligation as technology leaders to enable our educators and equip Canadian youth with digital skills that will empower them to maximize their potential and capitalize on the digital economy.
We are proud to announce AI Pathways, a new talent development program created in collaboration with ITAC, Agorize and RBC Future Launch designed to help unlock new opportunities for students and under-represented communities looking to pursue a career in AI. Through this initiative Canadian students will gain the skills needed to tackle the jobs of the future and will receive relevant training, networking and employability opportunities.
As part of our $2M investment, we are also arming 20,000 educators with digital skills training through online courses, resources and technology that will help them guide our future generations. That includes the addition of a new learning path for education industry decision-makers and educators in AI Business School. We know that educators and administrators at every level of education are being asked to do more with less, and AI can help.
Beyond this, we are partnering with nonprofits to prepare over 100,000 youth in K-12 annually for future of work by ensuring underserved communities have access to training opportunities for a digital economy.
Continuing our partnership with The Knowledge Society is also key. While it certainly benefits the four students selected each year for an internship at Microsoft, I have seen firsthand the incredible benefit these bright minds have had on our organization. If you aren’t already aware of The Knowledge Society, I encourage you to visit their website and learn more.
Hackathons and research grants are another way to actively learn the skills of the future. We recently sponsored events such as University of Waterloo’s Hack The North 2019, Canada’s biggest hackathon with 1,500 students from all around the globe. And we hosted our global hackathon where the winning hack resulted in a product called MirrorHR, which is an Epilepsy Research Kit for kids that consisted of a mobile app connected to a wearable device that sends alerts when anomalous activity might indicate a seizure for children suffering from epilepsy – truly remarkable!
Canada has incredibly bright talent. Our collective task is to is to ensure they have access to the technology and skills to propel themselves forward and continue to be relevant in this digital economy. Whether you are an IT professional with decades of experience, a business leader in the retail sector or a student discovering the vast potential of computer science, I encourage you to embrace the tech intensity mindset, be agile and broaden your skillset to take on new challenges. Microsoft commits to continuing to partner with academia, government and our industry peers to shorten the skills gap and ensure Canada’s workforce is set up for success. Let’s help Canada win the race together!