Mississauga, ON, June 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the world’s largest countries and corporations, in all sectors, had initiated massive investments in applied artificial intelligence (AI) to address a myriad of business and social priorities. Canada, to date, has lagged in applied AI investment. It now has an opportunity, and in the case of COVID 19, a necessity, to turn the tide according to a new Report released today by the national Canadian tech industry association, TECHNATION.

The global health crisis is highlighting the vital role that AI plays across the economy, from the search for a vaccine and epidemiological management, to the reinvention of supply chains and online education. AI tools facilitate economic and social mitigation responses, and it is projected that demand for AI-related skills will remain robust as economies recover from the pandemic.

The Report, titled Skilling Canadians for Leadership in the AI Economy, demonstrates that, although Canada is a recognized force in AI research and innovation, demand for AI skills and adoption of AI technologies across the economy is uneven in a few leading sectors and startlingly lacking in most. 

“Canada has crucial competitive advantages, including superior education systems and a skilled and diverse workforce. The current health and economic crisis are a powerful reality check that now more than ever, Canada can not afford to lose competitive ground in AI research and innovation.  We must take action to ensure that every company and Canadian citizens, have the resources to leverage and succeed in the AI economy.  Failing that, Canada will continue to lose our influence on the world stage,” explained Angela Mondou, president and CEO, TECHNATION.

Currently, too few Canadian companies, educators, policymakers, and future leaders  understand AI’s capabilities and limitations. The Report highlights other key concerns:  

  • Demand for AI skills is unevenly distributed, resulting in an emerging two-tier AI economy of leaders and laggards.
  • Public sector organizations are underinvesting in AI.
  • In many sectors, there’s limited understanding within management of what AI can and should mean for their organizations.
  • Not enough schools deliver AI courses and programs to meet demand; this is limited by not enough available AI educators.
  • Upskilling from a traditional (non-AI) technical career into an AI-focused one can be challenging requiring new skills and new ways of working. Upskilling supports are needed.

To address Canada’s changing tech landscape, the Report includes an innovative AI Jobs and Skills Framework that provides a starting point for workforce planning, skills development and labour market analysis. It also includes a roadmap – a series of recommendations – to help employers, educators and governments make informed decisions regarding AI leadership and implementation, workforce development, staffing and training.

“Arguably, this is the reskilling imperative of our times, and an immediate call to action for government, industry and academia,” added Steve McCaughey, managing partner, Technology and Transformation, Deloitte. Deloitte is one of many industry leaders that provided input into this Report.

Skilling Canadians for Leadership in the AI Economy was developed by TECHNATION and funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

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About TECHNATION

TECHNATION is the industry-government nexus for technology prosperity in Canada. As a member-driven, not-for-profit, TECHNATION unites Canada’s technology sector, governments, and communities to enable technology prosperity from coast to coast to coast. TECHNATION champions technology prosperity from coast to coast to coast by providing advocacy, professional development and networking opportunities across industry and governments at all levels; connecting Canadian scale-ups with global tech leaders; engaging the global supply chain; and filling the technology talent pipeline. TECHNATION has been the authoritative national voice of the $184 billion Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry in Canada for over 60 years. TECHNATION was formerly the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC).

About TECHNATION Future Workforce Development

Canada’s prosperity relies on a digital workforce with the skills to keep our companies and our country competitive in a constantly changing global market.  TECHNATION develops digital talent. from both inside and outside the industry through a mix of up-skilling and re-skilling programs. As a strategic arm of TECHNATION, Future Workforce Development focuses on creating the workforce that Canada needs for leadership in the digital economy. This includes inspiring young people to pursue technology careers, advising on technical education requirements and learning outcomes, guiding those in non-technical  fields or underrepresented groups to attain needed skills so that they can transition into technology careers, supporting increased diversity within the industry, and helping shape public policy to support, expand and enhance Canada’s tech workforce. 

About the Skilling Canadians for Leadership in the AI Economy Report

Skilling Canadians for Leadership in the AI Economy is based on TECHNATION analysis of industry trends, consultations with leading AI sector and education practitioners, and an employer demand data snapshot provided by Burning Glass, a research firm that specializes in labour market analytics. It was researched and authored by David Ticoll, Special Adviser and Consultant for TECHNATION.

Janet Gibson Eichner
TECHNATION
416-357-8908
jgibson_eichner@technationcanada.ca