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Upskilling & Continuing Education

How The Diversity Institute Is Helping To Close The Skills Gap And Addressing Labour Shortages

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Sponsored by:

Wendy Cukier

Founder and Academic Director, Diversity Institute and Academic Research Director, Future Skills Centre

Discover how labour shortages impact small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), what the skills for success are, and how AI and the transition to net zero offer new opportunities.

Employers across sectors, big or small, are challenged by labour shortages and skills gaps. The Diversity Institute’s research with the Future Skills Centre suggests that not only is there insatiable demand for people with deep technology skills but also for those who can match technology to organizations’ needs or even use technology effectively. The labour shortages and skills gaps employers report are particularly acute among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

It’s estimated that SMEs missed $38 billion in revenue opportunities last year because they had to turn down or postpone contracts or sales due to labour shortages. It’s expected to get worse as 50 per cent of the workforce will need to reskill within the next five years and we will need 250,000 additional digital economy jobs by 2025. 

But the story does not end there. Skilled trades, and labour more broadly, are also in demand, and we are competing globally for talent. All workforce growth will come from immigration, with a majority of these newcomers being racialized. As our population becomes more diverse, we need to ensure inclusion is at the core of our labour market and skills strategy, and that employers double down on equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The need for foundational and digital skills

“Skills for success” (reading, writing, numeracy, communication, problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, creativity and innovation, and digital skills) remain foundational given the rapid rate of change. While digital skills are often associated with science, technology, engineering, and math, emerging AI technologies are rapidly transforming the very notion of digital skills. 

Today there are more digital jobs outside of the information, communications, and technology (ICT) sector than within it because all jobs — from health care to retail, finance, or even transportation and logistics — rely on technology. The Diversity Institute continues to create innovative programs that expand opportunities that bridge the digital divide, upskill, and reskill diverse people. These programs provide much-needed other supports and include Advanced Digital and Professional Training (ADaPT), ADaPT4Success, ADaPT For Black YouthPathways To Employment for newcomers and refugees, and MyStartr.

Working towards a green workforce 

The other big trend reshaping opportunities will be the transition to net-zero and the “greening” of the economy. Regardless of the pace, the direction is clear. As with digital jobs, “greenification” will require people with a range of skills. Not just scientists and green technology entrepreneurs, but also those who know how to assist organizations in developing new approaches through their entire value chains, from procurement, to product design, to operations, to sales and marketing, to logistics and services. SMEs account for almost one-half of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada — far more than the oil and gas sector — and we need people who understand how to drive innovation among SMEs to meet our net-zero goals. We also need to recognize the unique skills and perspectives women and Indigenous Peoples bring to sustainability.

The Future Skills Centre has supported the development and evaluation of innovative employer-led initiatives in collaboration with businesses of all sizes across the country, working with associations in every sector: construction, agriculture, ICT, manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, arts and culture, and more. It has doubled down on training and support for SMEs, the engine of growth in our economy. Employers are at the centre of what we do. With programs tailored to their needs, whether hiring new talent, upskilling and reskilling existing talent, or supporting best-in-class workplaces, we have the tools and programs to help them bridge these gaps.

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