The world today looks nothing like the world of even a few years ago.
How we work, communicate and collaborate has fundamentally changed, and for many of us, there will be no return to the way things were.
We have also entered a period of great economic uncertainty, with workers continuing to see cutbacks and businesses challenged to figure out how to do more with less.
While it is important to acknowledge the unpredictability of the current macroeconomic challenges, it is also equally, if not more important, for business leaders to approach this moment as an opportunity.
We currently stand at the precipice of a new technological era, where digital capabilities have the potential to power incredible advancements across every sector of our economy and society as well as our personal and professional lives. If history is any indication, economic downturns can offer huge opportunities for innovators.
“Organizations need trusted digital tools and platforms, but first and foremost, they need diverse representation and skilled people to keep up with rapid technological advancements.”
I am a firm believer that in difficult times, the only path forward is continued and accelerated innovation. If Canada is going to realize this historic opportunity, we need to prioritize people and champion inclusive economic growth. Yes, organizations need trusted digital tools and platforms, but first and foremost, they need diverse representation and skilled people to keep up with rapid technological advancements.
Inclusive economic growth means creating opportunities for every person, organization, community and country. This starts with increasing access to digital skills training across all communities and creating inclusive pathways for employment opportunities.
“Over the next 10 years, nine out of 10 jobs will require digital skills.”
According to a 2021 Statistics Canada survey, more than half (56.1%) of Canadian businesses said that their current workforce was not fully proficient in performing jobs at the required level. This shows that we are a long way away from absolute digital readiness. What’s more, the Conference Board of Canada projects that over the next 10 years, nine out of 10 jobs will require digital skills.
One of our country’s economic strengths is our world-class workforce. We are fortunate to have the resources and capabilities to help equip Canadians to not only adapt but thrive in the digital economy.
Canada needs to:
- Bolster a talent pipeline with foundational digital skills.
- Upskill and reskill our workforce.
- Create new employment pathways.
This will help more people secure and sustain meaningful careers in the digital economy while also strengthening Canada’s economic competitiveness in the face of a possible recession.
“Ensuring that every Canadian has access to skills training, education and employment opportunities to thrive is a shared responsibility that will require collaboration.”
No single organization or entity can prepare Canada’s workforce for the future and insulate us from the economic headwinds that are blowing in our direction. Ensuring that every Canadian has access to skills training, education and employment opportunities to thrive is a shared responsibility that will require collaboration across industry, academia, non-profits and government.
Many organizations, including Microsoft, are already taking action to forge pathways to inclusive economic growth and opportunity.
This fall, Microsoft announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with the CIBC Foundation to form a social impact alliance. Alongside CIBC and with support from a coalition of partners including NPower Canada, March of Dimes Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada, we are helping equity-deserving individuals access the skills training needed to find meaningful work and sustainable career opportunities for themselves, their families and their communities.
Microsoft has also been collaborating with the Royal Bank of Canada, HCL Technologies Canada, and Sobeys to inspire future generations to expand their technical skills by equipping them with accessible digital skilling opportunities at no cost. This program, which kicked off in September 2020, has helped over 30,000 students achieve valuable Microsoft Certifications in cloud, data, and AI alongside their institutions’ credentials. The program started with 12 schools and has now grown to more than 20 post-secondary institutions spanning six provinces.
Several jurisdictions across Canada have announced new investments in technical skilling initiatives to help fill jobs. In October 2021, the Digital Technology Supercluster expanded the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator program in partnership with Microsoft, NPower Canada, Blueprint and the Government of British Columbia to upskill people and better prepare them for future job opportunities in tech-enabled roles.
Most recently, Microsoft announced a new skilling effort with LinkedIn called Skills for Jobs which will help connect 10 million job seekers with the skills they need for six of the most in-demand jobs in the digital economy. This effort provides people excluded from the digital economy with in-demand foundational, role-based and technical skills, certifications and connections to jobs and livelihood opportunities in the digital economy. This career-essential curriculum will be offered through our local skilling partners including Actua and the Information and Communications Technology Council.
“As we continue to face unforeseen and increasingly complex challenges, strengthening Canada’s workforce and empowering digital equity must be a priority.”
The economic landscape will constantly evolve. We will always have cycles of recession and recovery. As we continue to face unforeseen and increasingly complex challenges, strengthening Canada’s workforce and empowering digital equity must be a priority. Now, and in the future, more jobs will require digital skills, and we need to be ready. This is essential to safeguarding sustainable economic growth, building livelihoods in a changing economy and ensuring the success of our country on a global scale.
I encourage you to visit or share our skilling website with anyone you might know who is interested in learning new skills or finding a new career.