Ayman Antoun is president, IBM Canada

Industries from manufacturing to agriculture are being reshaped by data science and cloud computing, creating new jobs and changing existing ones. A recent skills report by Royal Bank of Canada found that, in the next decade, about 25 per cent of Canadian jobs will be disrupted by changes and advancements in technology, and more than half will require a skills overhaul. We’re already seeing the impact of this shift with a quarter or more of the current tech-related jobs difficult to fill. To prepare our work force for the future, we need new approaches to education, training and recruiting.

The rise of new-collar jobs

This is just the latest iteration in the natural evolution of how we work. With the advent of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and blockchain, the role of the individual worker has begun to shift again, creating what have become the “new-collar” jobs. While these positions are highly technical, many of them do not require a four-year postsecondary degree.

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New-collar competencies can be achieved through modern vocational training – competency-based programs that measure learning rather than time spent in an educational setting – that includes innovative curriculums such as coding camps, 21st-century apprenticeships and professional certification programs.

Preparing the next generation

At IBM, we have launched Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), which provides an alternative method for youth to receive the training they require. It’s a six-year educational program that combines a relevant, career-focused traditional curriculum with necessary competencies from community colleges, mentoring and real-world job experience. We have seen the value that this type of program delivers in the United States, with graduation rates four times the U.S. national average for all students.

This need to prepare Canadian youth for future jobs is reinforced by RBC Economics calculations that suggest that by investing in youth and increasing their productivity to the Group of Seven average, there could be a $40-billion lift in the Canadian economy.

Partnering for success

New-collar work could lead to thousands of jobs in Canada, provided large-scale training initiatives using public-private partnerships are established to close the competency gap. These partnerships will better connect young people and current workers to the education and training they require to obtain meaningful employment or to move forward in their careers.

We believe that public-private partnerships are one of the most powerful forces for change, enabling stronger outcomes when government, public educational institutions, non-profits and industry combine their expertise and experience to solve deeply entrenched education challenges. This model has proved successful with Ontario’s Smart Computing for Innovation program (SOSCIP) that brings together government, university and IBM funding and expertise. It has launched more than 80 research projects, engaging and creating more than 40 small businesses and enhancing the skills of more than 300 students and postdoctoral fellows.

Empowering today’s work force

We also need to prepare and empower current workers for these changing environments with new or updated competencies. It is vital for all organizations to cultivate a culture of continual learning to retain existing workers through contemporary career development opportunities – training, professional development, new artificial-intelligence-based learning platforms that serve up targeted education – to allow for these workers to evolve along with their organizations.

By emphasizing new-collar skills, organizations can focus on hiring for capability and in-demand know-how, not just credentials, and on offering a greater range of pathways to career development and success for their current employees.

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All stakeholders benefit in this new model. Companies gain new, diverse talent, employees develop skills necessary for the new economy and the country bolsters economic growth.

At IBM, we want to attract new graduates who are passionate and driven by opportunities to make a difference in their communities and to produce meaningful work for clients. We are committed to continuing to develop training models that prepare new and existing employees with the skills and knowledge to help influence change, especially digital transformation. We feel that by investing in fostering young and current talent, we are creating a platform on which we are better able to have effective contributions to our clients and extend our $12.2-billion economic output across the larger Canadian economy.

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