Home Month and Year May 2024 Training, Re-training and Upskilling

Training, Re-training and Upskilling

Calgary’s skilled tech shortage


Four decades ago, when clunky, Jurassic computers roamed the earth, the Internet was just barely invented and 20 years before Steve Jobs created the iPhone, the computer catchphrase “garbage in/garbage out” (GIGO) was a warning that poor quality input produces faulty output. 

Fast forward more than 40 warp-speed years, GIGO still exists, and sophisticated technology continues to transform life, health and business.  

No more cynical catchphrases but, with all its breathtaking potential, today’s technology does have a new urgent business warning: A shortage of trained, skilled and tech-savvy people. 

Particularly because business is so technology driven, it is an undisputable but vital business basic that, in the fast-paced world of technology where innovation is the name of the game, the key to business success is and will continue to be talent management.  

A contemporary business priority is a proactive and strategic approach to acquiring, nurturing and retaining trained, skilled and tech-savvy people. 

Business leaders, consultants and analysts agree and share the skilled talent shortage concern.  

In today’s tech-enabled world, where it is a must for successful businesses to embrace innovation, there is a crucial need for properly trained and skilled people who can build, install and maintain tech systems. 

According to a recent American, MIT Technology Review Insights survey, 64 per cent of companies reported that candidates for their IT and tech jobs lacked necessary skills or experience. 

Finding and keeping talent is one of the biggest ongoing problems – and opportunities – in tech and in business.  

What happened? Business transformations, social, lifestyle and workplace trends and circumstances share the cause of skilled tech talent shortages. 

The changing profile of the workplace and the predicted but underestimated Boomer-effect is a factor. The aging population affects the working-age population share. Studies show that, by 2030, one in six people in the world will be aged 60 years or over. By 2050, the figure will double.  

Another cause? It seems so long ago but COVID triggered high demand for tech talent as many companies went digital, changed their development strategies, and reconsidered their needs and approaches about technology. 

Some of the blame also goes to what business called “the Great Resignation,” when especially tech workers massively fled workplaces. HR trending now shows that it has led to “the Great Reshuffle,” with tech employees, including those affected by last year’s tech layoffs, looking for new jobs that meet their needs for flexibility, work-life balance and specialized career growth.    

Technological and digital advancement has created opportunities for replacing low-to-mid-level skilled workers with robotic process automation solutions, allowing some companies to cut costs and achieve better efficiency. The trade-off was that it triggered an unprecedented demand for workers whose skills complement new technologies.  

The past is hindsight. Today’s business bottom line reality is that technology is exploding at such a furious pace that skilled and up-to-date are key essentials to business success.  

Savvy businesses recognize the skilled tech shortage. There is an urgent need for upskilling and training, and to understand that as technologies continue to evolve, a large segment of the workforce must acquire new skills just to remain relevant. 

Training, re-training and upskilling are musts. Constantly being updated and re-focused to develop digital competencies for skilled talent who can effectively manage facts of business life like AI and automation, and have the adaptability for the limitless technological changes that are happening.  

Experts emphasize that upskilling takes on many forms and reaps many benefits, including staying ahead of the demand curve when it comes to employment opportunities and trends.  

Continuous learning is already a key component of career development. In Calgary, and in business in general, there is a major focus on training, reskilling and upskilling initiatives at organizational and institutional levels, like Calgary’s SAIT. 

“Technology skills are a critical part of SAIT programs,” explains the plugged-in and respected Vis Naidoo, SAIT’s associate vice president, Continuing Education and Professional Studies. “With the $30M investment to set up the School for Advanced Digital Technology (SADT), the establishment of the Centre for Continuous Education and Professional Studies (CEPS) and the investment by the Opportunities Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF), SAIT is well positioned to address the digital talent requirements in the Calgary area. 

“We focus on a workforce that is armed with the mindset to lead and with the skills, technical and human, to create, to evolve and to make a difference.” He points out that SAIT’s goal is to support learners for effectively adapting to an ever-changing economy and society through the continuous renewal of skills. 

Whether it is SAIT diplomas, certificates, micro-credentials, boot camps, short courses and more, Naidoo highlights some tech programs and courses offered to address the digital skills required by industries in Calgary.  

  • Networking and System Administration 
  • Knowledge of Operating Systems and Virtual Machines 
  • Network Security Control 
  • Coding 
  • Cloud Security and Blockchain Security 
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) 
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Unlike many post-secondary programs and courses, there are usually no hard-and-fast pre-requisites when it comes to tech training, re-training and upskilling.  

“Ultimately, an interest in the subject is the most important prerequisite,” he explains. “Generally, success in business and tech programs (and careers) requires not just technical skills, but skills related to business processes, effective communication, collaboration, problem-solving and a commitment to continuous learning.  

“Proficiency in both business and technical domains allows individuals to innovate, lead cross-functional teams, communicate effectively and drive digital transformation. It also results in solutions that align with organizational goals and drive business success.” 

To underscore the relevance and potency of tech training and upskilling, SAIT actively partners with various Calgary businesses, industry mentors and expertise. Like Kwame Asiedu, CEO of BrainToy, the cutting edge Calgary-based company that focuses on making AI accessible to everyone through Low Code, No Code AI, creative solutions and education. 

BrainToy is also a dynamic SAIT industry partner. Asiedu is positive and revved about Calgary’s strength and potential as a tech hub, but shares the concerns about a skilled tech shortage.  

“There are a lot of start ups in Calgary. In energy, health and a host of different business technologies. Of course, the Calgary area was traditionally known mostly for oil and gas. Especially after the downturn, many people left the province. Those who stayed decided to pivot and upskill. Data analytics, cybersecurity, AI and more.  

“There were business situations and problems, not just in oil and gas, which could be solved by technology. So, people started to broaden their scope and their options.” 

He notes that institutions like SAIT are focusing on skilled tech talent, and the government is also pushing business to expand technology mindsets and find new, different technologies. “They are making it easier for new tech companies to register and establish here, making it easier for tech talent to come in.” 

One example of Calgary’s skilled tech talent shortage is in Kwame Asiedu’s AI field. He acknowledges that although AI is still a new and, for the moment, it is still a misunderstood business tech area, he enthusiastically adds that Calgary business is embracing AI and needs skilled tech talent to help AI in Calgary business get established and to make it happen.  

“For some small to mid size businesses, AI is still a bit of a curiosity and, at this early stage, some businesses simply don’t know what they don’t know,” he says with a smile.  

It’s unanimous. Tech training, re-training and up-skilling, with dynamic and innovative tech programs like SAIT’s, is making an impact on business.  

“Because exceptional talent is the lifeblood of the technology industry,” Naidoo says with positivity. “It brings fresh perspectives, fosters an environment where innovative ideas flourish and drives problem-solving to push the boundaries of possibility.”