May 9, 2011
This is the second in a series of blog updates on the Digital Economy Strategy that ITAC will be posting until the DES’s release, which is slated for later this spring.
In our first DES update (http://itac.ca/weblog/entry/itac_update_on_digital_economy_strategy), we gave an overview of our DES submission last summer, and then delved into some of the key issues surrounding broadband technologies and infrastructure. In this update, we focus on another pillar in the DES consultation paper and ITAC’s subsequent response: digital skills.
The final chapter of Industry Canada’s DES consultation paper is titled “Building Digital Skills for Tomorrow.” It acknowledges the necessity for digital skills among all Canadians across all economic sectors, and also addresses some of the challenges we will encounter in pursuing this goal (http://de-en.gc.ca/consultation-paper/consultation-paper-10/). In our response to this chapter, we made the following recommendations to the Government of Canada:
1- Develop a national digital skills strategy for Canada.
2- Improve our performance in the collection of timely and useful data about all aspects of the digital labour market including post-secondary enrollment data and data about the evolution of our progress toward the creation of a workforce that reflects a strong infusion of digital skills with all other specialties.
3- Coalesce the efforts of the private, public and NGO sectors to promote STEM literacy through a national campaign. Aim to improve Canada’s performance in producing science and engineering graduates moving from our current OECD to the top 5 by 2016.
4- Double female enrolments in high value programs by 2017.
5- Create a skills marketplace to drive labour market agility and innovation.
6- Increase digital economy college and university seats by 20 percent by 2017.
7- Make the full range of digital literacy skills a priority in primary, secondary, post-secondary, mid-career and lifelong learning education.
8- Aggressively build awareness, supports, incentives and partnerships to drive change.
While these recommendations are vast and comprehensive, they all fall under the umbrella of the first: develop a national digital skills strategy for Canada. Such a strategy is absolutely fundamental to an industry in which people are the most important resource. And as digital technologies and services further transform our society and economy, such a strategy is only becoming increasingly crucial to all sections of Canada’s economy.
Canada has a healthy base upon which to develop this strategy. We have very good educational systems and institutions, and Canadian technology developers are among the most innovative in the world. But certain gaps exist, which need to be filled – gaps in enrolment in math and science related high school and university courses; gaps between the number of men versus women who currently occupy our nation’s ICT jobs; and of course, the gap of not having a Digital Skills Strategy currently in place.
In our work with digital technology communities across the country, and in our outreach to other industrial sectors, we sense a strong recognition in all areas of the need for this type of national strategy. And we are happy to report that since the closing of the DES public consultation, some significant work has already been done. For instance, the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills (an industry-led coalition of employers, universities and industry organizations – www.ccict.ca) has made considerable progress with a range of post-secondary institutions on developing programs that combine technology and business. CCICT is about to launch a program/website aimed at educating children, parents and teachers on the attractiveness of a career in ICT, and we are pleased that some of the funding for this program has come from the federal government, as well as a number of provincial governments.
Yet much remains to be done. Last month, ITAC and the Information and Communications Technology Council (www.ictc-ctic.ca) released our “Outlook for Human Resources in the ICT Labour Market, 2011-2016.” It showed that Canadian employers will want to hire an estimated 106,000 ICT workers over the next five years. You can access this full report here: http://www.ictc-ctic.ca/Outlook_2011/index_en.html.
The Canadian economy is continuing to evolve in such a way that the most significant growth, and therefore employment opportunities, exist in what we might now start to call the “innovative” fields – in other words, those areas where workers are focused on revolutionizing our healthcare system or changing the way our governments do business. And so much of these types of projects are accomplished through the adoption of technological solutions. This means that careers in digital technologies and services will be more attractive than ever.
Finally, ITAC was pleased to see a significant investment in digital skills in this year’s Federal Budget (namely, the $60 million that HRSDC will reallocate over the next three years to promote enrolment in key disciplines related to the Digital Economy, such as science, mathematics, engineering and technology). This is a positive starting point, and still, we look forward to seeing how it fits into a broader Digital Skills Strategy for Canada.
We welcome your comments on this DES update. If you have any thoughts you'd like share with ITAC, please contact Brendan Glauser at email@example.com. Thanks for reading.