Economic Development

Sustainable skills and digital literacy will revolutionize the workforce

Building the workforce of the future

Economic Development

Sustainable skills and digital literacy will revolutionize the workforce

Canada’s economy is evolving rapidly — and not solely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That seismic upheaval added to other factors such as technological disruption, demographic shifts, immigration, climate change and geopolitical uncertainties that were already altering the nature of work in fundamental ways across the country.

The pandemic has, however, intensified concerns around the viability of some sectors of the economy and what comes next for many workers, while highlighting an essential point: Canadians need to feel confident about the knowledge and skills they have to succeed, even as the labour market continues to shift dramatically.

As Canada’s leader in career-oriented education, Ryerson is proud to play a lead role in initiatives focused on preparing Canadians for the workforce of today — and tomorrow.

Building the world’s most highly skilled workforce

Canadians have attained their highest standard of training in the country’s history. We are among the most educated people in the world, and are fortunate that Canada is also a magnet for international talent and immigration from around the globe.

“Canadians, and this wonderful country we share, have an automatic competitive advantage,” explains Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre (FSC), a partnership funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program and led by Ryerson, alongside The Conference Board of Canada and non-profit research organization Blueprint.”

“However as we move into pandemic recovery, where skill building plays an essential part, we must stay responsive to the changing environment and continue to work hard,” says Barata.

The country continues to grapple with the consequences of a pandemic, but it remains heartening in the larger context of anticipating what the Canadian economy and people who participate in it will need 10 and 20 years from now, while at the same time helping to address the very real challenges we are facing today.

a man in an industrial setting
Sanjiv Uthayakumar, featured here, is part of the manufacturing sector for the Future Skills Centre

Where those two spheres of interest can be seen to overlap is in some of what the Future Skills Centre has accomplished since it was launched in February 2019. Two initiatives in particular are worthy of note.

FSC has provided funding to a new training program to help displaced workers in Alberta’s energy sector transition to the tech sector, which is flourishing and yet has a shortage of digitally skilled workers. Meanwhile in Ontario, it has funded a program to help laid-off auto workers train for jobs in the mold-making and injection-molding trades.

Investment made by the Future Skills Centre for 30 projects to fill skills gaps in the post-pandemic period

The overarching theme is this: there is a need to help workers across a variety of industries shift to training that will lead to success in careers that are — or will be — in demand.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are a young person just entering the labour market, a newcomer to Canada bringing your own particular talent to our economy, a mid-career worker looking for a change or someone who’s moving up in their organization, you will be looking for solutions to help you navigate the future,” Barata explains.

“Our goal should be to take advantage of the assets we have and build the world’s most highly skilled workforce. That means a workforce that is a global leader when it comes to foundational skills and digital literacy, a workforce that is agile and can respond to the shifting needs of employers and industry, and a workforce that is comfortable and confident in a context of rapid change.”

Recent history has shown just how important these three pillars are, but looking beyond the pandemic, the importance of a nimble and skilled workforce is crucial not only future-proof the economy, but to provide the people who comprise it with the agency and confidence to pursue fulfilling careers.

Our goal should be to take advantage of the assets we have and build the world’s most highly skilled workforce.
Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre

Closing the skills gap in cybersecurity

Technology permeates almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Virtually every industry in the public and private sectors is affected by digital transformation. Data collection has become an almost inescapable part of daily life. Together, those facts underscore why the importance of protecting our digital infrastructure and data has never been greater.

And yet, Canada is facing a significant talent shortage to meet a growing range of cybersecurity needs.

It is estimated an 8,000 additional positions must be filled by next year alone to address a spectrum of gaps that exist within today’s cybersecurity landscape. That number is sure to climb as the nature of work evolves and more companies and organizations pivot to digital-first — and, in many cases, digital-only — business models.

a woman in a hijab smiling in an office setting
Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst seeks to train workers from demographic groups that are currently underrepresented in cybersecurity

At the same time, those pressures also present a series of opportunities. Cybersecurity-related spending is on track to surpass $133 billion by 2022. Canadian companies have an opportunity to compete for a share of that market, but they require support and access to resources and mentorship.

To meet that need, Ryerson along with the federal government, Rogers Communications, the Royal Bank of Canada and the City of Brampton together announced a $30 million investment to support the launch of the university’s Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst in 2019.

The not-for-profit national centre for innovation and collaboration, which is owned and operated by the university, has a mandate to promote the growth of Canadian companies and help create skilled jobs by providing training to workers from demographic groups that are underrepresented in cybersecurity.

Estimated Cybersecurity-related spending is set to surpass this amount by 2022

Its role also includes support for applied research and development, as well as raising awareness of issues around cybersecurity and promoting best practices.

“The Catalyst takes a holistic approach to the cybersecurity mandate with a view towards both the short-term objectives as well as a long-term vision for where we need to evolve and the ongoing work that will be required to stay ahead,” explains Charles Finlay, the centre’s executive director.

Earlier this year, in partnership with Ryerson’s DMZ — the world’s top-ranked university incubator and one of 10 experiential learning zones on campus for startups, causes, projects or ventures — the centre expanded its commitment to making a difference by launching the Catalyst Cyber Accelerator, Canada’s first commercial program specifically designed for scale-up companies in cybersecurity and related fields.

“Cybersecurity depends on collaboration, support, mentorship and access to networks within academic, industry and public sectors. For those reasons and more, the Zone Learning model lends itself to the cybersecurity landscape quite well,” Finlay adds.

With new and emerging cyber risks growing daily, the Catalyst and its companion accelerator are preparing for the future, while working to close the skills gap in cybersecurity with more diverse talent today.

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