As companies and organizations worldwide recognize the need for digital innovation in order to remain competitive, job openings in the tech sector are dominating the career search engines. According to theBusiness Development Bank of Canada, growth in the tech sector for the 2021-24 period is expected to be 22.4% – a large increase from the 5.3% in 2022.
Both provincial and federal governments recognize the imminent need for more skilled workers in the tech sector, as companies and organizations across the country continue to adopt, develop and bring to market critical technologies. In this article, we examine the various facets of the skilled labour shortage in both Ontario and Canada’s tech sector as a whole, and delve into the important role that career colleges play in addressing it.
As tech innovation is expected to continue driving global economies, with so few skilled workers to fill these jobs, it will become increasingly difficult for both Ontario and Canada to maintain its foothold as leaders on the global stage.
Interestingly, our skilled work shortage has even garnered a significant amount of attention from our neighbors to the south. According to Canadian immigration experts, American tech workers facing job losses in the recent wave of US companies’ cutbacks (Robinhood, Netflix, Twitter to name a few), are looking to Canada’s labour-hungry tech sector for employment.
This is undoubtedly a multifaceted issue that can and should be tackled from a variety of different angles – training being one key element. Ontario’s regulated career colleges are known for their strong partnerships with employers and industry professionals to ensure that curricula reflect the skills and knowledge needed in this rapidly evolving sector. This is likely why our colleges see the highest levels of enrollment in their IT programs. A study conducted last year by the Higher Education Strategy Associates on the economic impact of career colleges on Ontario presented the programs with the largest numbers of students in each region of Ontario, along with Employment and Social Development Canada’s projection of career prospects in those fields. It is no surprise that information technology ranked as one of the programs with the highest enrollment rates and projected career prospects, simultaneously. What that tells us is that the multitude of students enrolled in these tech programs can swiftly move on to find employment in their field of study – exactly what our tech sector needs.
Although welcoming foreign workers is definitely a key part of this solution’s equation and a necessary one, it poses a similar conundrum to that of our dire healthcare labour shortages. Much like importing nurses (trained at career colleges in other provinces within Canada) to fill healthcare labour shortages here in Ontario, focusing on filling job vacancies in our tech sector with workers from other jurisdictions is far from an ideal solution. With a vast network of career colleges standing ready to provide innovative and expedited training in tech, we should encourage more learners to pursue these programs.
Programs in Cybersecurity, Network Systems or IT Support coupled with ones designed specifically for service excellence for IT professionals are just a few of those offered at regulated career colleges across the country.
Government investments in tech and training opportunities are certainly a crucial part of the solution. When our federal government announced an investment up to $48.3 million in the digital ICT sector through the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program, the two institutions chosen to help implement the program were both career colleges – largely due to their partnerships with specialized technology knowledge providers and the track record of excellence in training and upskilling in flexible learning environments.
What’s long overdue is a shift in the postsecondary education discourse. We shouldn’t have to look outwards when the institutional training capacity we have here in Ontario and across the country can be efficiently harnessed to train workers locally.
Career colleges need to be seen for what they are: quality training institutions with the unique advantage of flexible program options tailored to lifelong learners. Their ability to synthesize and condense courses that would otherwise take years to complete effectively positions these institutions as direct training-to-employment pipelines for our economy. Career Colleges Ontario CEO, Ari Laskin, said it best:
“Technology has revolutionized various aspects of our lives, and education is no exception. In Ontario, educational institutions are embracing digital tools and online platforms to enhance learning experiences. E-learning platforms, virtual classrooms, and collaborative online tools are breaking down geographical barriers, enabling students to access courses from anywhere. Moreover, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality are being integrated into curricula, providing immersive and interactive learning experiences that were previously unimaginable.”
Flexibility and innovation the likes of which characterize the training journey at a regulated career college in Ontario and across the country should be embraced and celebrated. If we can all agree on the need for continued digital innovation to remain competitive in the global economy, then why should our post-secondary education sector be any different? Technology has not only revolutionized the way we live and do business – It’s revolutionized how we learn. It is high time we set our preconceived notions aside and recognize that regulated career colleges are leading the charge on innovative digital learning in the post-secondary education sector.