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Grow Young Tech Talent in the Digital Economy

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science technology jobs toronto
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Tammy Kin- Newman

Business Developer, Co-operative and Experiential Education, University of Waterloo

Toronto is the second tech superpower of North America and digital careers are booming. Science and technology jobs make up 34 percent of the current workforce. That’s 1.8 million Canadians participating in the digital economy – this will increase to two million by 2023. With tech clusters in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver, attracting and retaining local tech talent is a priority.

The University of Waterloo’s Work-Learn Institute reviewed 32 recent Canadian and international reports on the future of work. Two themes resonated: 1) advances in technology and 2) developing skill agility and transferability. Not all companies can afford competitive pay, cool perks and unlimited vacation days. Instead, companies need to attract young tech talent, such as co-op students or upskill and reskill their current workforce.

Reskilling and upskilling tips

To adapt to changing trends, employees need to acquire or update skills. You can help them by:

  1. Presenting opportunities for job-related training and development, either in-house or at formal institutions.
  2. Offering government subsidies for skill development opportunities and address issues of educational inequity.
  3. Developing future-ready talent programs that embrace lifelong learning.

At Waterloo, we offer Digital Skills Fundamentals courses to sharpen Gen Z’s digital capabilities. For both students and employers, our Future Ready Talent Framework, outlines key competencies to navigate the future of work and learning.

What matters to Gen Z?

Microsoft recently surveyed over 31,000 workers and found that 73 percent hope remote work would continue past the pandemic. While Gen Z agrees with this preference, our research shows they feel stressed and struggle more than their peers. The solution may be hybrid. Statistics Canada’s report indicates 41 percent of workers want a hybrid model of remote and in-person work.

Our research on student’s remote work experience found three core themes as priorities:

1. Socialization

  • Set up one-on-one and team meetings
  • Implement virtual coffee breaks and socials

In a remote environment, interaction, which is critical for role clarity, is lessened. Help young talent understand workplace culture and build professional networks.

2. Productivity

  • Gen Z needs flexibility and adaptability, as well as self-direction and independence to create their own schedule for remote work                       
  • Provide milestones and check in on progress
  • If priorities have shifted, make it clear what the new expectations are   

3. Meaningful work                                                  

  • Start with a small task to assess a student’s capabilities
  • Increase the difficulty, which leads to higher commitment and ultimately to the conversion in the talent pipeline

Provide the right environment and young tech talent can blossom to fill your talent pipeline. Don’t hesitate, get them through your doors early, as the competition for brilliant tech talent increases as the digital economy booms.

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