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1202 Skills that matter

Calgary Economic Development’s study Skills that Matter explores how Calgary can become Canada’s top destination for talent. It continues the discussion from Calgary on the Precipice, a joint study with CityXLab, on how we must re-envision our city’s learning systems to adapt to a fast-changing economy.

The unemployment rate hangs a heavy cloud over the city as Calgary braces for a holiday season hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Add to that the continued slump in oil prices and Calgary finds itself in a talent paradox with both a surplus and deficit of skilled labour.

Our community’s economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, stresses the need for Calgary to adapt and generate a competitive labour force that attracts investment and talent from across the globe.

For the city to adapt, Calgarians need to adapt—and the root of adaptation is learning.

To achieve the city’s vision as the destination for the best entrepreneurs who embrace technology to solve the world’s challenges, Calgary must become a city that can learn faster and better than all others.

But what are the skills that matter most in a new economy driven by digital transformation and technological disruption?

Surprisingly, today’s employers are less concerned with what you know now, but your capacity for continuous learning throughout your working life.  

Above hard skills or domain-specific competencies (DSCs), which often demand continual training to maintain relevance, organizations want adaptable people with enabling competencies (ECs) that transcend industries and professions.

Employers want people who possess the capacity to live with uncertainty, adapt to new roles, and learn new skills. If there were such a thing as a defining set of competencies in the next decade, it would be those that enable adaptability.

As stated by leaders in Calgary’s artificial intelligence and machine learning sphere, the top skills they look for are actually not technical. “Passion and empathy” are first and foremost for Vincent Ircandia, Founder and CEO of StellarAlgo, while Mark Le Dain, Vice President of Strategy at Validere, spoke about “character, motivation, and curiosity”.

Half of the jobs performed by Calgarians today could be at risk of automation over the next 20 years. Globally, the World Economic Forum forecasts 50 per cent of employees will need to be reskilled or upskilled by 2022. The new economy isn’t waiting for anyone.

While Calgary’s proportion of technical expertise in the specific areas of software and data science is less than half of other major Canadian cities, the city is home to a highly educated, agile population who have what it takes to pivot towards tech. In fact, Calgary is rated a top tech talent city in Canada.

The city saw a steady increase in bachelor’s and master’s degrees and ranks second in Canada as a proportion of population. There are over 91,000 post-secondary students enrolled in programs and at 27 per cent, Calgary possesses the highest proportion of STEM graduates among major Canadian cities.

Many of Calgary’s post-secondary institutions added new programs to provide training in technology related fields. Calgary Economic Development partners with a number of organizations to upskill and reskill the already highly-capable professionals in the energy sector to feed the talent pipeline for the new economy.

Transforming Calgary into a LearningCITY

Another bright note is that high demand ECs—like analytical thinking, problem solving, communications and organizational skills—can be learned.

But, what does a learning system that teaches both domain-specific and enabling competencies look like? Rather than picturing a predictable learning ladder, picture a climbing wall, with many paths and unique footholds for continuous learning.

To generate a labour force with an adaptive capacity of both DSCs and ECs, our city’s learning systems must recognize and credit the diversity of pathways that people learn. This includes all forms of education (formal and informal) and experience (professional, volunteer and contextual).

Learning is no longer the top-down institutional model rooted in the industrial revolution.

Learning is now inverted and follows the innovation processes adopted by many tech companies, like Google and Apple. It’s iterative, open, and prioritizes the empowerment and autonomy of the individual.

To start the process of re-envisioning the city’s learning system, a broad range of community partners, facilitated by Calgary Economic Development, established the LearningCITY initiative. The project explores how a city-wide learning ecosystem and a unified community competency model could redefine the future of Calgary.

Just imagine a city of people who view disruption as opportunity. Imagine a population whose talents and skills continuously evolve to attract investment from around the world. We believe Calgary can transform itself into a city that learns its way forward through this unprecedented era of social and economic change and fast-paced technological advancement.

Calgary Economic Development’s final New Economy LIVE event of the year focuses on how Calgary can become Canada’s top destination for talent and transform itself into a LearningCITY. The complimentary virtual event takes place Friday, Dec. 11, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Register on our events page.

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