11 Aug Spotlight on BC Tech’s Digital Lift Program: Moving the Needle on Diversity in Tech
BC Tech’s industry-led Digital Lift consortium seeks to transform BC’s tech talent pool
Riddle me this: What do an information systems analyst, computer programmer, information systems manager, and software engineer have in common?
Aside from earning well-above-average wages in the technology sector, all four of these positions are among the Top 10 “High Opportunity Occupations” identified by the BC government’s most recent Labour Market Outlook.
By 2029, the report forecasts that the provincial job market will add over 20,000 jobs in these roles, along with thousands more in other tech-related areas. At BC Tech we think that estimate is understated and expect BC’s tech sector to add a further 100,000 tech jobs by 2029. Either way it is clear that job growth will be strong in BC’s tech sector, but with many companies already facing a shortage of tech talent the question of who will fill those jobs is looming large.
That’s where BC Tech’s innovative, industry-led Digital Lift program comes in. By bringing together a consortium of major technology and technology-enabled corporates, including AbCellera, Accenture, Amazon, Copperleaf, Finning, MDA, Providence Health Care, SAP and Seaspan Shipyards, as well as tech talent solution providers SkyHive, Riipen, Virtro and BCIT, this program is providing reskilling and hands-on internship experience and expanding BC’s tech talent pool.
I was astonished by how quickly the consortium assembled, and continue to be astonished by the purpose and enthusiasm that each corporate partner is bringing to the table. Our consortium partners are clearly determined to build a more diverse and inclusive tech sector by welcoming talent from under-represented groups into our industry with impactful programs.
And for good reason. Indigenous people, for instance, hold less than 1 percent of tech jobs in B.C., despite making up about 6 percent of the population. Women are also underrepresented. According to a 2018 Gender Equality Roadmap report from Women in Tech World and the Discovery Foundation, women represent 54 percent of British Columbia’s post-secondary graduates in science and technology, yet make up only 15 to 20 percent of the corresponding workforce. Help these and other underrepresented groups embark on tech careers, and the skills gap facing the sector will close rapidly.
The demand for tech workers in BC is only going to increase. A recent survey of BC Tech members showed that most expect to grow their talent pools by 10% to 15% next year. And as BC embarks on the process of building back a more equitable, inclusive and greener post-pandemic economy, leveraging technology and tech-skilled workers across every industry will be absolutely crucial.
Digital Lift partners provide in-depth knowledge and expertise of BC’s in-demand tech roles and skills gaps across the marine, construction, mining, forestry, space and healthcare industries as well as at some of the largest global players in the tech sector. The program offers a continuum of services to address the need for technology talent, including:
- Rapid skilling to 120 individuals impacted by COVID-19 that have a match to the needed competencies
- 200 paid virtual internships for individuals to get real life experience working for technology companies, 150 of which will be filled by individuals from under-represented groups – specifically, Indigenous people, women, neuro-diverse people, rural youth and transitioning workers.
- All program participants will receive VR/AR and AI-informed job interviews for their specific careers of interest
- The program will also create and share a best practice guide for managing interns in a virtual environment and identify using AI technology high-demand tech roles and the competencies required for the roles
Matching funds for the investments made by the Digital Lift Consortium partners was provided by Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster.
Quotes from Consortium members
“BC is home to a network of world-leading tech companies and startups. AbCellera is invested in creating a legacy of innovation, and we’re excited to partner with BC Tech on the Digital Lift program to develop and nurture technology talent right here in BC.” – Véronique Lecault, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer, AbCellera
“At Accenture, we believe in coming together to reimagine, rebuild and transform our economy into one that works for the benefit of all, and that includes investing in tailored reskilling pathways and hiring a diverse workforce so that we can be more innovative. We are honoured to support BC Tech’s Digital Lift Program to help barriered people develop meaningful digital skills that will empower them to land in-demand jobs and build thriving careers for the workforce of tomorrow.” Andrew Marchant, Office Managing Director – Canada Pacific/Vancouver, Accenture
“BC’s technology sector is a source of job creation and opportunity. Amazon is pleased to support the Digital Lift program, which will provide reskilling and hands-on learning opportunities to help people make meaningful career changes. As a company that invests in ‘upskilling’ for employees, we believe that training and development are career-long objectives, and we look forward to following the success of Digital Lift participants,” said Jesse Dougherty, Amazon VP and Vancouver Site Lead.
“BCIT is excited to be involved in this inclusive initiative that values and promotes underrepresented groups. Together we are stronger and diversity matters.” Kory Wilson, Executive Director, Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships, BCIT.
“Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is an integral part of Copperleaf’s culture and partnering with BC Tech’s Digital Lift program is a fantastic opportunity to support our local community and develop a new wave of talent for the tech industry. This program will not only help us increase the diversity of our talent pool, it will also help create a strong support network for these individuals.” Linda Lupini, Global Vice President, Employee Experience, Copperleaf
“Competition for tech talent continues to be fierce and Digital Lift is key not only to the development of a diverse workforce, but also increases the likelihood that talent stays in BC by enabling them to upskill and experience working with top local innovators,” said Dave Cummings, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer at Finning International. “Match that with the accelerated learning model and it will give our sector the continued edge we need when it comes to the workforce availability we know is critical for our long-term success.”
Providence Health Care
“In order to increase technological innovation, reconsider entrenched ways of thinking, and transform health care delivery, it is critical that our staff represent perspectives, cultures and needs that mirror those of the people they serve,” says Brian Simmers, Providence Health Care’s Chief Financial Officer and Vice President, People & Health Informatics.
“As leaders within the BC tech ecosystem, it is our responsibility to build more diversity into our talent pipeline. Through our participation in the Digital Lift consortium, SAP Canada is a making a purposeful investment and commitment to work together as a community on addressing these challenges and creating lasting change.” Cindy Fagen, Managing Director, SAP Labs Canada
“Digital transformation has come to the shipyard in a big way. Advanced digital technologies and systems are a rapidly growing part of modern shipbuilding and ship repair/overhaul and are driving the need for more and more tech talent. Initiatives like Digital Lift are key to helping develop these high-demand skills and we are pleased to participate in this program as part of Seaspan Shipyards’ value proposition commitment under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy, which is building a strong, robust shipbuilding and marine industry capable of competing on a global scale.” Dave Hargreaves, VP Strategy and Business Development, Seaspan Shipyards
Interns – each at Providence Health Care
“What excited me about joining this internship was the ability to use my education in a corporate environment. I know now that my excitement was not misplaced and I have been fortunate to join such an awesome and helpful team of professionals.” Brandon Francoeur, Intern HR Data Analytics Team
“I am delighted that BC Tech introduced me to Providence Health Care (PHC) not so long after I completed my program. PHC is a fantastic organization that I am proud to be working at. I can also learn so much from my amazing colleagues. I can’t be happier with my internship here!” Rui Gong, Digital Marketing Intern for HR at Providence Health Care
About the BC Tech Association
BC Tech is the largest member-led technology non-profit in British Columbia, and we’re dedicated to turning startups into scaleups. Our work accelerates growth by helping members expand and diversify their talent pools, acquire new customers, and access capital. Tech is a key industry for BC’s future and builds resiliency in every sector. Today, every company is a tech company.