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UCW releases new report on how universities can help fuel BC’s tech talent pipeline

Group of people working in office with a dark blue overlay

University Canada West released a new report on January 27 examining the state of BC’s tech industry and what universities can do to help fuel the province’s tech talent pipeline.

The report, Fuelling B.C.’s Tech Talent Pipeline: The role of universities, is the result of weeks of consultations and discussions with tech leaders, thinkers and founders, as well as UCW leadership and faculty. It explores what companies have to say about how universities can help address the talent crisis in the tech industry. The report concludes that what’s needed is a more coordinated approach by universities and industry to prepare the tech workforce of the future.

“Universities share a collective responsibility to understand what industry needs to help the economy grow, and as importantly, to prepare students to meet those needs,” said Sheldon Levy, UCW’s Interim President and Vice‑Chancellor. “As we reimagine the post‑COVID economy, we must work together with industry to better prepare the tech workforce of the future.”

The report outlines five interrelated opportunities where post‑secondary institutions can help prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s tech realities:

1. Help build the skills of tomorrow

Tech leaders are looking to post‑secondary educational institutions to develop talent with a combination of technical, strategic and humanistic skills. While companies can teach people the business, students need to come with the ability to be creative, entrepreneurial and collaborative problem‑solvers.

2. Bring academia and industry together sooner

Companies expressed a pressing need to bring academia and industry together much earlier by integrating tech leaders in the classroom where students can be more regularly exposed to industry experts and creating work‑related experiences embedded directly into the course curriculum or completed as work‑integrated learning with real businesses.

3. Reimagine how students learn and are assessed

Companies are looking for people with different perspectives who can bring unique solutions forward. Universities can help by rewarding differences and championing interdisciplinary learning. Universities can also help set students up for success with a greater focus on iteration, not perfection.

“We need to reward students for a much faster pace of work and a first‑mover mentality,” said Mike Cheng, CEO and Co‑Founder of Lumen5.

4. Create solutions for upskilling and reskilling

BC’s tech industry is largely made up of small and medium businesses that don’t have in-house professional development programming available to employees. Companies are looking to universities to help provide training solutions for today’s employers.

5. Change the narrative

UCW heard that BC needs to change the way the province is perceived both in Canada and around the world. Universities can help change this narrative and build BC’s reputation as a tech hub and leader in innovation.

“As tech starts to hit the mainstream, we’re going to need a lot more talent. BC needs to build a talent factory and a stronger pipeline. Universities can play a big role here,” said Dan Burgar, Founder and President at Vancouver VR/AR Association and CEO and Co‑Founder at Frontier Collective.

The report also underscored that universities could provide a diversity of educational opportunities to build the workforce our tech businesses need.

“Most revealing was that many of the issues, insights and ideas that we heard aren’t new. What this tells us is that as a sector, we still have important work to do,” said President Levy. “Industry and academia must join forces to act collectively and with a greater sense of urgency.”

Download the full report on UCW’s website at ucanwest.ca/tech-talent-pipeline.

Published on Jan. 27, 2022.