Calgary is a “gold mine” for engineering and tech talent and the city is staking its claim as Canada’s most innovative municipality as the application of knowledge and technology play an increasingly critical role in the digital economy.
The glittering assessment of the city’s STEM-oriented workforce was offered by Namir Anani, President and CEO of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) as he looked at the conference hall with close to 1,000 people attending PivotTECH.
The one-day conference attracted ICT professionals, new grads, entrepreneurs, startups and major employers, post-secondary institutions and workforce support organizations to inform the city’s talent pool about the emerging opportunities in the digital shift.
“Apart from the obvious, the lifestyle that is available, you’ve got excellent fiscal financial policies. You have the highest cluster of engineers in all of the country. That is very, very important because that’s a gold mine for companies hungry for talent,” said Anani, before he delivered his insights on Navigating the Digital Shift.
ICTC Canada is an Ottawa-based organization dedicated to strengthening Canada’s digital advantage in the global economy.
“Engineering is an important talent base for them but you’ve also got great connectivity from the communications industry and broadband. You’ve got great transportation for the city and great airlines and connectivity to Asia,” he said. “The combinations of all of those create for an incredible combination of catalysts that can attract some of the businesses and leverage the talent dividend that you have in Calgary.”
Anani provided optimism – a recent ICTC report forecasts Canada will need to fill 216,000 technology-related positions by 2021 – to the audience while speakers on a series of panels provided specific insight and advice.
With technology changing rapidly and disruption happening at every level of business, the PivotTECH audience was advised to prove that their skills are relevant to employers, to stay educated on evolving technology and innovation cycles, and participate in the many local tech events.
One more thing – read, a lot.
The speakers at PivotTECH – which was presented by Calgary Economic Development, RainForest Alberta and Alberta Labour – made the point that tech isn’t one sector. It’s applied throughout the economy and in what were once considered non-technology industries – such as agriculture, energy, logistics and others.
“Not only will the technology companies grow and benefit here but as the revival happens in the oil and gas industry, don’t forget the energy sector has a lot of technology involvement as well and specifically with the government agenda with climate change,” said Anani. “It’s all the impetus to innovate using technology. These technologies that you’re expanding in and other sectors will be the catalyst to fuel the oil and gas in the future and expand our market.”
James Lochrie, a founder of Wave Accounting and Exhibition Capital, said Calgary has one of the greatest growth opportunities in Canada to push innovation and diversification forward.
“Calgary is positioned really well as far as experienced, educated, talented people and there’s a lot of capital around and when you put those combinations with free time, you get good results as long as there’s supporting systems around them,” said Lochrie, who is also one of the principals behind RainForest Alberta.
Mary Moran, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, said the innovation ecosystem that RainForest is helping expand beyond the traditional centre of excellence in energy in Calgary eventually relies on the gold mine Anani marveled over.
“The greatest resource that we have in our city is the people and the talent we have,” Moran said.