Namir Anani, P.Eng.
ICTC President & CEO
The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) is an independent national centre of expertise for the digital economy with the aim of advancing Canada’s digital advantage in a global economy.
More than a year has passed since we began to witness the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of Canadians.
Over a million jobs were lost and many Canadians lived through lockdowns while swiftly adapting to the new reality of working, learning, and transacting with an economy that was redefining itself. Our landscape was virtually transformed overnight to a contact-free economy, leaving many industry verticals to experience the full brunt of this environment while others felt reprieve in being digital by default.
Amid this turmoil, COVID-19 also reframed societal inequalities, leaving many workers behind, and disproportionately impacting younger demographics and underrepresented populations. All of this is set against a backdrop of a world economy that was already experiencing fragile trade dynamics, environmental trends, global geopolitical inflections, and labour market shifts toward fractional and gig employment.
Technology adoption thus became a means to an end for many businesses and governments, rooted also in the desire to “build a better world,” a world that is industrially more resilient, environmentally conscious, and digitally job centric, as per ICTC’s recent paper Economic Resiliency In The Face Of Adversity. Investments in critical digital infrastructure such as fintech applications, eCommerce, intelligent supply chains, telehealth, and online learning became essential components of the new economy. Anchoring a robust recovery in sustainable and carbon-neutral processes also became the staple of tomorrow’s economy.
The current tectonic shift in work structure, with varying degrees of remote and hybrid-like workplaces, will be shaping the employment landscape for years to come while altering hiring strategies in favour of staffing, potentially beyond borders. The race for automation, robotics, and lights-out manufacturing also is becoming indicative of an industrial landscape that is redefining the odds in favour of digital resilience. Many traditional jobs are now morphing into hybrid roles encompassing a mix of business responsibilities combined with a technology-rich baseline, leaving many traditional jobs to sunset altogether. Skills to support digital adoption in data and analytics, green tech, cloud technologies, AI and robotics, augmented and virtual reality, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) are now seen as essential for maintaining operational resiliency. Add to that the short lifespan of digital skills in an intensely changing technology landscape, continuous training now becomes the most critical imperative for Canada’s industrial strategy in a post-pandemic recovery.
Upskilling and reskilling imply a cultural and business paradigm shift for organizations and individuals seeking to succeed in this remarkably fast-paced marketplace. This requires change management, business agility, and putting emphasis on investments in skilling that rival those spent on technology platforms, research and development, and marketing. This accelerated digital age requires that workers across all industry verticals have the technology and soft skills as well as a learning-for-life mindset. More than ever in this new normal, future-proofing jobs and careers is now a shared responsibility of individuals, industry, and policymakers. Digital talent is now Canada’s new currency and is as vital as the monetary systems that shape our economy.