The pandemic and rapid pace of technological innovation has shone a light on the digital and educational inequalities that exist within Canada. Access to skills training, education, and technology, continues to be a challenge in many of the hardest to reach populations, creating a barrier from participating in a digital economy.
Everyone should have access to skills, technology, and the opportunities needed to thrive in the digital-first world. To help achieve this, there is strong collaboration required across private sector, government, industry, and the non-profit sector, to build people-centric and tech-enabled solutions that open up opportunities for all Canadians.
Leading the way in building digital equity in Canada, Microsoft Canada is joining forces with the CIBC Foundation to drive greater societal impact and inclusive economic growth by removing barriers to employment for Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and newcomers. Together, Microsoft and the CIBC Foundation are assembling a coalition of partners, to help increase access to skills-based training, certifications and employment while advancing the digital economy.
“Working together with the CIBC Foundation towards a more inclusive digital economy in Canada is a first-of-its-kind partnership for us,” said Chris Barry, President of Microsoft Canada. “Brought to life by our incredible program partners, we will deliver on our shared purpose to reduce barriers and help all individuals gain access to the resources they need to take advantage of today’s opportunities.”
“By removing barriers to access, we empower the next generation with the resources they need to achieve their ambitions,” said Sandy Sharman, Group Head, People, Culture and Brand, CIBC, and Co-Chair, CIBC Foundation. “It is an important part of the work that we are doing through the CIBC Foundation to help build an inclusive economy and create opportunities for all Canadians. Together with Microsoft, we are committed to collectively reducing barriers and advancing economic equality.”
Through the Microsoft and CIBC Foundation Social Impact Alliance, the two organizations will partner with NPower Canada, The Government of Canada and March of Dimes Canada to create access to skills training, education and employment opportunities for career seekers, focusing on Indigenous peoples, newcomers to Canada and persons with disabilities.
Below are more details on the distinct projects that will help people in underrepresented communities to obtain the skills needed to earn a living and create better opportunities for themselves, their families and their communities.
Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator Program, NPower Canada
Microsoft and the CIBC Foundation will maximize ongoing investments and contribute additional resources to NPower Canada to bolster current job training programs and expand the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator program. This will help build capacity for tech skills attainment and job placement for individuals facing systemic barriers to employment.
Through this partnership, the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator will expand into Québec for the first time to prepare 400 Francophone job seekers from November 2022 to December 2023 for new, high-demand careers in growing sectors with no degree or relevant experience required.
Microsoft and the CIBC Foundation will make significant investments towards learning content and discounted training certifications, which will enable 1,800 jobseekers to become industry-certified in Junior Data Analytics and help 1,150 graduates within 12 months post-program secure meaningful employment in 2023.
“NPower Canada’s ongoing partnership with Microsoft and CIBC has allowed us to maximize our impact and serve those that need it most,” said Julia Blackburn, CEO, NPower Canada. “The new funding will help us launch our fifth national site in Québec, and offer our workforce development programs to provide much-needed digital training and employment services to both francophone and anglophone communities of the province.”
IT Apprenticeship Program for Indigenous Peoples, Employment and Social Development Canada
For the past four years, a team at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has been building the IT Apprenticeship Program for Indigenous Peoples to help increase Indigenous representation in the Government of Canada’s (GC) information technology fields.
The foremost goal of the program is to help reduce barriers, including those related to educational requirements, to access IT roles within both the federal public service and private sector, including potential apprenticeship and employment opportunities within the CIBC and Microsoft ecosystems.
Another goal of the program is to enable and encourage remote work to allow Indigenous Peoples to continue to live and work in their communities. When individuals can pursue opportunities right at home, it results in positive economic and social impact for local communities.
Both Microsoft and CIBC Foundation support the goal of building an inclusive foundation for Indigenous tech talent across the country.
“The IT Apprenticeship Program for Indigenous Peoples was developed for, by, and with Indigenous Peoples,” said James Heffernan, Executive Director, Employment and Social Development Canada. “By focusing on a person’s passion and potential, we are able to remove barriers to employment and meet individuals where they are on their life journey. A supportive, inclusive, integrated learning environment makes it easier for people to share their gifts and talents while developing the skills and competencies that are in demand in the public and private sectors. Indigenous IT apprentices become part of the Government of Canada’s digital workforce in areas that interest them. This initiative represents real empowerment in support of economic, employment, and educational reconciliation.”
Digital skills learning program for persons with disabilities, March of Dimes Canada
March of Dimes Canada is a leading national charity committed to championing equity, empowering ability, and creating real change that will help the more than six million people living with disabilities across the country unlock the richness of their lives.
As part of the new social impact alliance, Microsoft and CIBC Foundation will provide funding to support SkillingUp, a new digital learning program offered by March of Dimes Canada that is evolving the culture around inclusive hiring in Canada. The program will help Neurodiverse and persons with disabilities gain in-demand Information and Communications Technology (ICT) skills and secure more job placement opportunities.
With this support, hundreds of individuals living with disability across Canada will be trained and certified to qualify for employment positions available today.
“We believe in a future that is inclusive and equitable, which is why we are excited to work with Microsoft and CIBC to collectively work in helping Canadians with disabilities gain new skills for a more digital economy”, says Lesley Smith, Vice President of Employment Services, March of Dimes Canada. “Not only has technology become integral to our lives, but knowledge of how to use and apply it has become essential to employment. Persons with disabilities are under-represented in the workforce and often lack access to the tools and resources required to succeed. SkillingUp aims to invest in all stages of employment by providing learning and career development resources and evolving the culture around inclusive hiring. We’re committed to supporting job seekers in gaining access to the skills, training and certifications required, and to prepare the current and future workforces for the digital economy and growing tech-enabled jobs.”
Canada’s path towards inclusive economic recovery is long. Together, it is possible to overcome hurdles and ensure that all individuals are uplifted. No one should miss out on the amazing opportunities the world has to offer.