In its new labour market forecast up until 2021 released today, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) lists five key transformational technologies it predicts will create the highest demand for skilled workers in the digital economy.
All sectors of the Canadian economy are integrating the technologies “in an effort to increase productivity and efficiency, reduce costs, generate revenues and heighten innovation and growth,” states the report, The Next Talent Wave: Navigating The Digital Shift – Outlook 2021 .
The five technologies are:
1. Virtual and augmented reality: Potentially as game-changing as the PC, VR and AR are projected to rapidly grow from less than $20 million this year to a $150 billion market by 2020, with AR taking up the lion’s share of the growth (AR differs from virtual reality in that it puts virtual elements into the real world, whereas VR creates its own virtual world in an entirely immersive simulated environment).
2. 5G mobile: Representing a “catalyst for transformative change across multiple industries,” 5G is a facilitator for such emerging technologies as autonomous vehicles, industrial automation and education. It will facilitate the future of connected devices for the Internet of Things with its high reliability and ultra-low latency connectivity. Canada’s major telecoms are already taking steps to implement this leap in wireless tech, the ICTC notes.
3. 3D printing: Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing enables a shift from current production and distribution models to an on-demand, on-site, customized production model. ICTC cites an estimate by McKinsey that 3D printing could generate an economic impact of $230-$550 billion annually by 2025.
4. Blockchain: The technology behind Bitcoin, blockchain has attracted the interest of the financial services, retail and energy sectors for its ability to allow unrelated computers and companies to simultaneously collect and store information independent of central control and with greater resistance to hacking. At east one major Canadian bank has joined an international consortium to advance the technology.
5. Artificial intelligence: though still in its early stages of development, AI has the potential to touch virtually all sectors of the economy to great impact—it is expected to reach $7-$13 trillion in value by 2025. Bringing together a mix of research fields, AI will create devices that perceive their environment and take action to maximize their chance of success at some goal, according to ICTC.
The report also speaks to the growing role of the ICT sector in Canada’s economy. Employment in the ICT sector experienced a 2.38 per cent growth rate in the five years from 2011 to 2016, compared to the national average 1.17 per cent across the economy. Total employment in the digital economy reached 1.39 million professionals by 2016, by which time the ICT sector accounted for 4.3 per cent of Canada’s total output.
Almost half of Canada’s ICT professionals work in Ontario, followed by Quebec, B.C. and Alberta (which along with New Brunswick was among the two provinces to see a decrease in the ICT employment rate 2009-2016). The report also found the ICT workforce is male dominated (76 per cent) and steadily aging (with 13 per cent aged 55-64, compared to only four per cent aged 15-25).
Predicting Canada’s digital economy will continue to grow significantly at an average growth rate of 3.6 per cent to 2021, with 216,000 new jobs to be filled in the sector, ICTC said a skilled workforce “will be critical to our country competing and thriving globally.”
The report provides recommendations for a national digital talent strategy to deal with the global skills shortage, including: cultivating a skilled youth ICT talent supply stream through grade school and post-secondary education and the building of pathways to employment; and leveraging a diverse ICT workforce that includes more immigrants (which already represent more than one-third of ICT workers in Canada) and underrepresented women and Indigenous peoples.
“The Canadian economy is rapidly becoming digital and increasingly global in nature. With its favourable political and business climate, in addition to a vibrant digital ecosystem, Canada is poised to become a leader in the global digital economy. Having a steady supply of skilled talent is critical to support this fast growing economy,” states the report.