Digital technology has a new home in Calgary – a hub where leading minds in advanced fields such as AI, blockchain, and augmented and virtual reality are committed to developing and nurturing a rich pool of digital talent.
This month, as the first initiative within its new School for Advanced Digital Technology (SADT), the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) welcomed the first cohort of students to its Digital Transformation (DX) Talent Hub. The hub, along with the new school, is backed with a $30-million donation from local businessman David Bissett and $8.2-million from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund.
“There’s a strong need for Calgary to transition to a digital economy, and both David Bissett and Calgary Economic Development – which administers the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund – saw this new school within SAIT as an ideal opportunity to advance the city’s digital transformation strategy in the new economy,” says Randy Paquette, director of the DX Talent Hub, which is located in downtown Calgary but currently operating remotely because of COVID-19. “With this in mind, the DX Talent Hub was launched as a flagship initiative of SAIT’s strategic plan, to help Calgarians begin and advance their digital transformation journey.”
Chief catalyst at SADT
Working with partners in industry as well as in secondary and post-secondary education, the DX Talent Hub has developed four key programs: digital adoption training designed for organizations looking to upskill their employees as well as for workers who want to upgrade their skills; competency upskilling and pathways mapping to assess digital knowledge and provide guidance on the digital journey ahead; experiential or work-integrated learning where students can work on real-world problems in partnership with industry; and a youth program where kids from kindergarten to Grade 12 can explore the various pathways in the digital economy.
“Our mandate at the SAIT School for Advanced Digital Technology is to be a transformational school where you’re not just studying courses and skills but also learning how to be a digital citizen and what it means to be an active participant in a changing digital economy,” says Jim Gibson, chief catalyst at SADT, which launched last September. “The school is really looking to create a series of programs that will transform existing and new workers, and help what I call ‘future-disenfranchised’ workers participate meaningfully in the new economy.”
These programs will include fast-track digital learning for new students and recent graduates, as well as upskilling through continuing education, professional studies and corporate training. While SADT currently offers programs exclusively through the DX Talent Hub, the school intends to expand its offerings through other learning centres, says Mr. Gibson. At full operations, SADT expects to have about 2,400 students.
“Through the DX Talent Hub, we will reskill and upskill over 1,500 learners over five years in our digital adoption program, and reach over 5,000 youth through our youth program,” adds Mr. Paquette.
These efforts at SADT – and at other schools within SAIT – are part of a provincewide drive to fill the technology talent gap in Alberta, which expects to see 77,500 technology jobs by 2023 – more than double the 35,000 total predicted for this year – according to the Information and Communications Technology Council, an Ottawa-based not-for-profit research and policy advice organization. Of these tech job totals, half are expected to be located in Calgary.
Mr. Paquette says Calgarians have been quick to show interest. Last month, the DX Talent Hub held a virtual information session to discuss its first scheduled bootcamp, focused on applied machine learning.
“We had 172 people attend the information session for a bootcamp with 30 spots available,” says Mr. Paquette. “There’s demand for digital training because Calgarians know the future is digital, and they need to have the skills to be ready for that future.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Colleges and Institutes Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.