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Salesforce 2022 Index of digital skills revealed that approximately 81% of Canadians and 71% of Americans do not feel equipped to understand and master the digital skills currently required by businesses in various industries, and 86 and 74% do not feel prepared to meet the demands meet in the future.
During the pandemic, the demand for individuals with the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of digitally transformed industries and sectors has grown even faster. According to the Information and Communication Technology Council (ICTC)Canada’s demand for digitally skilled talent is expected to reach 305,000 by 2023, resulting in a total of more than 2 million jobs in the digital economy. In the US, the most conservative estimates put that number in the millions, while many actors in the tech ecosystem are trying to tackle the problem by providing online training to the masses. Digital and technology careers offer some of the greatest job opportunities in North America’s modern workforce.
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At the same time, for example, Canadian unemployment figures 1.5 times higher among the native population. Based on forecasts from 2019, approx. 5.1% of Canada’s workforce currently works in technology, and if that percentage is applied to the working indigenous peoplethis should mean that approximately 29,682 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people work in technology.
Unfortunately, that is far from the case. Indigenous youth, one of Canada’s fastest growing populations, makeup only 1.2% of employees in information and communication technology. they are too widely underrepresented in STEM areas at higher-level academic institutions.
According to a report from the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University, done in consultation with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), 33.8% of Indigenous workers are in industries that are at high risk of job loss due to automation, a trend that has accelerated during the pandemic. That’s 250,000 jobs of indigenous peoples.
In their report, the CCAB makes recommendations to address this problem, for example by investing in more opportunities for indigenous peoples to attain higher levels of education. current barriers These include forced relocation, lack of guidance and culturally appropriate provision, the cost of education and intergenerational trauma. While it is critical to address these issues in traditional post-secondary education, emphasis should also be placed on alternative options that can help address the issue more quickly.
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Ways to Help
Job shortages in the tech industry provide an opportunity to get more indigenous peoples into work, and micro-credentials can help. Microcredentials are certifications of assessed learning associated with a specific skill or competency. They enable upskilling in a flexible, fast and affordable way and help companies understand more directly what specific skills an applicant has.
One of the current barriers to this is that many micro-credentials still come at a cost, as large corporations, colleges, universities, and other professional organizations offer large corporations, colleges, universities, and other professional organizations, even though there is often the opportunity for tax credits to to cover part of the fees. Yet the bureaucratic or corporate nature of many of these opportunities creates barriers to entry, highlighting the immediate need for charities working with indigenous and disadvantaged communities to also offer this type of programming in a more accessible manner.
This is why I started the charity ComIT in 2016. We recently launched a program called Recoding Futures with the support of Google to provide free scholarship-based digital skills training to thousands of Indigenous learners across Canada. We tailor our three-month part-time courses to the technology needs and demands of local employers to ensure graduates develop skills that will prepare them for success.
In addition to technology-based learning, we focus on critical career skills such as CV creation and interviews, along with professional growth and mentorship opportunities that develop graduates into quality candidates for in-demand technology jobs. An important aspect of this is that programs are delivered remotely, giving people in remote communities greater access where quality education may not otherwise be available.
This is not a one-stop solution, as there are still numerous other barriers, including unreliable internet access, especially in remote communities and in reserve, in addition to insecure living conditions. Micro-credentials will not solve these complex problems that require collaboration of indigenous communities and leadership, all levels of government, the private sector, non-profit organizations and others, but they provide an opportunity to make transferable education and skills accessible and affordable.
All the while, this could help address digital skills gaps that are a barrier to growth and innovation. It is vital that we teach skills and experience that apply to rapidly changing economies, and help people develop the tools to adapt and succeed in an increasingly digitized world.
According to a report by the Public Policy Forum and the Diversity Institute, by 2026, 350,000 Indigenous youth in Canada will be of working age, and if the right investments are made to ensure these populations receive the right opportunities and support, they can boost the local economy. by $27.7 billion annually. This would help to stimulate homegrown talent.
For this to be successful, training must be culturally relevant, transferable to the community and the wider labor market, and provide students with the opportunity to connect with Indigenous role models. To play a part in this, employers must be open to receiving candidates with micro-credentials in lieu of or in addition to traditional education. More and more employers in North America are recognizing the value of micro-credentials and ending traditional post-secondary education requirements for job applications, a trend that is likely to grow over the next decade.
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