Economic development encompasses a lot of things. But it is, first and foremost, about creating opportunities for people.
Mary Moran, President and CEO, Calgary Economic Development, addressed 800 participants at PetroLMI’s Career Exploration Forum late January, which provided information and advice to displaced oil and gas workers on opportunities within and outside the energy sector.
In the address, Moran provided perspective on Calgary Economic Development’s top priority to transition, reskill and recruit talent. Talent is a key pillar of the community’s economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, because the city’s future depends on talent.
To get people back to work, Calgary must adapt to the new economic reality of the global paradigm shift around digital transformation. People will be the differentiator that gets Calgary ahead of the curve on innovation and technology. If we want all sectors to continue to grow and be globally competitive, talent must be our top priority.
The good news - Calgary is already on the road to the digital economy. A study conducted for Calgary Economic Development in 2019 forecasted that $18.4 billion of investment on digital transformation would come into the province in the next few years – led by Calgary companies. There is no question, this investment will bring more opportunities and more jobs as companies move to a digital-first environment.
With that investment in digital technologies, 77,000 tech workers are required across Alberta in the next few years. In fact, we expect a tech boom in Calgary with the number of companies at least doubling by 2030. All those companies – the tech startups, the established businesses plotting their digital roadmaps, and the new companies that we attract – will all need tech talent.
The city has a STEM-oriented workforce that can transition to meet the demand in tech. We’ve seen a sharp increase in micro-credentialing course options available with transition-to-tech programs like EDGE-UP, EvolveU and Lighthouse Labs. Those courses are proving to be important for displaced energy workers looking for training to move to in-demand jobs in tech.
Last fall, the World Economic Forum named the EDGEUP upskilling program to retrain workers for tech jobs as an example for cities to follow. It singled out Calgary and Singapore for our approaches to the workforce challenges of an increasingly digital economy.
It is essential that we reskill people mid-career, but we also need the younger generations to stay here and take tech jobs. It’s encouraging to see the number of tech-training seats at post-secondary institutions in Calgary almost doubled in recent years and SAIT’s new downtown Digital Talent Hub, supported by the Opportunity Investment Fund, will further enhance Calgary’s tech talent development infrastructure. It’s a great start, but more seats will be required in the future.
We know tech will be one of the big job creators of the future because we are seeing it happen now. Every year, there are more and more Calgary companies in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, AR-VR, robotics and more technologies. Long-term recovery and a future with opportunities for our children will depend on the creativity, grit, and determination of entrepreneurial Calgarians and the innovative thinkers in our economy.
Calgary Economic Development will participate in 20 career fairs and 11 webinars with post-secondary institutions in Calgary and across Canada in 2021, to ensure students know the opportunities available in our city. The organization is also working with Mount Royal University and SAIT on the City Experience Lab (CityXLab) to ensure we are a learning city that adapts to new economic realities.
It is important to acknowledge that Calgary, and Alberta, will always be global energy centres. From oil and natural gas, to wind and solar, and the new opportunities in hydrogen or geothermal, the city is resource rich. The city is also a top centre globally for clean tech in Canada with more investment coming into Alberta than anywhere else in the country – and the promise of much more.
The energy sector is not going to be the mega job creator it once was. For the sector to succeed, it’s going to have to be leaner and more efficient. As a leading supplier of energy and part of the solution on climate action, there is opportunity in Calgary. There is opportunity in lowering the carbon footprint of oil and gas and in other industries through clean tech, while we focus on advancing renewable energy.
There is no doubt our city will look different in the future. But there is no denying, we remain well positioned to grow, evolve, and be the city of choice in Canada to solve the world’s biggest challenges.
Most importantly, we have smart people. People who have shown a remarkable ability to take on unexpected challenges and adapt to the new realities. The bottom line is it will be Calgarians embracing the opportunities that make the difference. We are, and always will be, an opportunity-rich city of problem solvers.