A new initiative in British Columbia aims to increase the number of under-represented groups including women, Indigenous peoples, immigrants and people with disabilities in the province’s growing applied science, technology and engineering sectors.
Announced earlier this year by the B.C. government, which is providing funding of up to $2.2-million over two years, the program aims to break down barriers by identifying common issues in the recruitment and retention of women through pilot projects, such as mentorship for employees and resources and training for employers.
A 2017 report by HR Tech Group, an association of human resources professionals employed in B.C. tech companies, projected a talent shortfall in the tech sector and low levels of diversity and representation from key groups.
The pilot projects will be managed by Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) and HR Tech Group. They will look at how best to attract, retain and support career advancement of equity-seeking groups in B.C.’s technology workforce.
Theresa McCurry, CEO of ASTTBC, says collaboration with industry organizations, employers, school districts, post-secondary institutions and high schools is essential to increase the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in the applied science technology sector.
“Women are making strides to increase their representation in STEM fields but still make up only about 15 per cent of engineers and applied scientists,” she says. “We need a cultural shift to reach our goal to increase the number of women in the engineering and applied science workforce to 30 per cent within the next decade.”
Stephanie Hollingshead, CEO, HR Tech Group, says she anticipates that the project will have a tangible and immediate impact on the industry and on B.C.’s economy.
“There is a strong willingness in our sector to improve diversity and inclusion practices, but the majority of tech organizations in our province are small and mid-sized, and they simply do not have the resources to do the work required,” she says.
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