By Kevin Peesker, President, Microsoft Canada
In an effort to upskill thousands of Canadians, the Government of British Columbia announced they are partnering with the Digital Technology Supercluster, NPower Canada, Microsoft Canada and Blueprint to collectively invest approximately $15.5 million to expand the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator program in British Columbia.
This investment will create equitable economic opportunity for up to 2,000 B.C. residents, between the ages of 17 and 30, access to first-rate training to develop skills that will prepare them for a range of careers in tech-enabled fields. Over the past several years, a digital skills gap has grown at the base of the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry. Too often, the skills early-career workers have gained through traditional educations prove to be mismatched for the positions available, leaving many jobs unfilled.
Inspired by the Microsoft Global Skills Initiative, which enabled 1 million Canadians to access new skills, NPower Canada is spearheading the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator program, which focuses on serving communities who are furthest away from economic opportunity and who have been historically underserved and underrepresented in the technology sector.
“Last year, 46 percent of our enrollees identified as female, but we hope to bring that up to at least 50 percent this year,” says Andrew Reddin, Chief Operating Officer at NPower Canada. “And more than 85 percent of the youth we serve are Black, Indigenous and people of colour.”
More than 30 percent of those who are enrolled in the program are also new Canadians, either immigrants or refugees. NPower Canada also prioritizes enrollment for LGBTQ2+ youth and those with disabilities. “Microsoft and the Digital Technology Supercluster are as deeply invested in creating a more inclusive technology workforce as we are,” adds Reddin. “That’s why working in close partnership with them is so important to us.”
NPower Canada acts as the bridge between supply and demand, equipping unemployed and underemployed Canadians with the in-demand digital skills needed by industry partners to fill critical talent shortages. To build these bridges, NPower Canada works closely with organizations like Microsoft, their partner companies and start-ups, to understand its talent and skills requirements, while also working directly with the public sector and nonprofits to engage underserved communities and recruit jobseekers for its no-cost programs.
The B.C. government is supporting the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator as part of its StrongerBC Future Leaders Program, which aims to help young people get connected to jobs that will help build back a stronger and more resilient B.C.
“The pandemic created additional challenges for young and underrepresented people to access the training opportunities to help them build their skills and find meaningful jobs,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “Connecting underserved people to hands-on training and learning opportunities in the tech sector is critical to launch and grow their careers.
Through this program, our government is building a more inclusive, highly skilled and competitive workforce, which is vital to B.C.’s economic recovery.”
Since launching in early 2021, the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator program has helped 240 Canadians gain in-demand digital skills needed to confidently enter technology careers. More than 70% of participants of the Junior IT Analyst Program who graduated in May 2021 have already secured employment.
Sofia Johnson, a graduate of the NPower Canada Junior Data Analyst program, credits the course with her successful placement at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. “The NPower Canada program showed up when I needed it the most,” she says. After completing her first 15-week course, during which she attended lectures, collaborated in scrum groups and took the lead on group projects, Johnson wasn’t only certified, she was empowered to take on new challenges and start her career.
Another recent graduate, Leul Abebe, tried to break into the ICT space for more than 10 years before entering the program. “I’ve never had any formal training, so I’ve learned everything by myself,” explains Abebe. He enrolled in the program after the onset of COVID-19 and halfway through his first course, he secured a job with Long View Systems in Calgary, Alberta.
“When individuals graduate from the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator program, they are truly job ready. They will have the ability to go into these jobs, not just with skills and training, but with confidence,” says Sue Paish, CEO of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster. “That’s what makes this such an exciting opportunity for Canadian youth.”
As a global technology leader, Microsoft is committed to ensuring Canadians have the tools they need to succeed. Skilling has always been a priority for us but given the urgency brought on by the pandemic, we have doubled down on our efforts. We’re proud to be working alongside the Digital Technology Supercluster, NPower Canada and Blueprint to create opportunities for Canadians to access the skills they need to strengthen British Columbia’s – and Canada’s – economic future and bring more diverse voices to STEM fields.
Applications for the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator Junior IT Analyst program and the Junior Data Analyst program are open until on January 24, 2022. Apply here: https://npowercanada.ca