The global pandemic has added an extra dimension to the challenges of a disrupted economy and the dynamic nature of digital technology faced by industry, businesses and individuals. Humber College is poised to address these issues through its two-year Digital Fluency for the Workforce project. With funding of close to $1-million from the federal government’s Future Skills Centre, the project will help narrow the digital skills gap and ensure students gain essential employability skills.
“What we hear time and again is that people really value how we focus on current and relevant skills that produce job-ready graduates,” says Chris Whitaker, president and CEO, Humber College. “And that’s not always easy, because we know things are constantly changing, and that seven out of 10 jobs in the workforce of the future aren’t even created yet.”
Humber’s response is to deliver innovative programs that promote digital fluency and provide a foundational set of competencies, building soft skills to ensure a resilient, flexible and adaptable workforce. “It’s really about producing career-ready global citizens who can adjust to a new normal,” notes Mr. Whitaker.
“Equally, we are serving employers who are looking to fill their labour force needs,” says Geraldine Babcock, director of Community Outreach and Workforce Development, the department leading the Digital Fluency project. “That’s their challenge as well – finding people who can hit the ground running and have those foundational digital skills.”
Humber is collaborating with a Project Advisory Committee, comprised of more than a dozen industry and community partners, to design the new project. They will help identify which digital skills are foundational, transferable and relevant across a spectrum of sectors.
Aimed at youth, newcomers, those requiring essential workforce skills, and racialized people, the project offers a micro-credential learning opportunity for up to 300 participants, delivered both through an online and face-to-face curriculum. Learners will be assessed, earning stackable credit for existing skills and moving through three levels – basic, intermediate and advanced – to acquire the expertise they and industry need.
Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company and an industry partner, “is thrilled to work with Humber on their new digital fluency micro-credentials,” says Therese Kirrane, senior social impact lead, Open Learning, Shopify. “We believe that qualities like resilience, adaptability and resourcefulness are critical to the future of work; and we look forward to seeing the results of this collaboration.”
With the impacts of COVID-19, including record-breaking unemployment rates and 40 per cent of Canadian employees working remotely, there is unequivocal need for the program, says Ms. Babcock. “It couldn’t be better timing to help the economy rebuild coming out of the pandemic. We are starting to hear some companies say that maybe we’re going to continue like this. Those who don’t have solid digital skills have probably had the hardest time with employment through COVID.”
Equity, diversity and inclusion are among the major pillars of the project and key mindsets of Humber, says Ms. Babcock. “We don’t want there to be any barriers for anyone participating in building these skills.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.