Ontario commits $30M for A.I. grads in bid to woo Amazon

Ontario has committed to invest $30-million to boost the number of artificial intelligence graduates as part of its effort to both draw eCommerce giant Amazon to the province and support a wider technology boom.

Boosting talent pool key for technology industry in Ontario, premier's business advisor says

The Ontario government says it wants to bolster the number of graduates with master`s degrees of artificial intelligence to 1,000 per year within five years. (The Associated Press)

Ontario has committed to invest $30-million to boost the number of artificial intelligence graduates as part of its effort to both draw eCommerce giant Amazon to the province and support a wider technology boom.

The money will be used to "help facilitate work with colleges and universities across the province" to start graduating more sudents with applied master`s degrees of A.I. , according to a news release that accompanied an announcement by three provincial ministers in Toronto Wednesday morning. 

The ultimate goal is to have 1,000 graduates with applied master`s of A.I. leaving Ontario post-secondary institutions each year, within five years. 

Additionally, the government committed to help bolster the number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines more broadly by 25 per cent each year, also within a five-year timeline. The province's accounting suggests this effort will increase STEM graduates from around 40,000 per year to nearly 50,000. 

Such a move would "position Ontario as the number one producer of post-secondary STEM graduates per capita in North America," according to the government's news release.

"These workers will empower Ontario-based businesses to grow into global players, while also attracting successful amd innovative businesses to the province," the release reads. 

One of those businesses is the Seattle-based eCommerce titan Amazon. The company revealed last month that it is scouting possible locations for its new, $5-billion headquarters, which it is calling HQ2. The state-of-the-art facility would employ some 50,000 people, and Toronto appears to be in contention.

Cities throughout North America have since scrambled to put together pitches for Amazon, with the deadline for applications coming tomorrow and a final decision expected next year. 

Lots of talent for a low cost

In a speech to the Canadian Club in Toronto, the man responsible for heading up Ontario's bid for Amazon's HQ2, Ed Clark, laid out the business case for the province.

"What is Ontario's core advantage? Great talent at a very competitive cost," said Clark, Premier Kathleen Wynne's business adviser.

And unlike other jurisdictions vying for Amazon's eye, Ontario is not offering any special financial incentives that aren't offered to other companies in the technology space. Instead, Clark said, the province is manoeuvring to become a place where global technology powerhouses will want to operate regardless of incentives. 

He added, however, that Ontario's plan to woo Amazon will not compromise smaller enterprises and start-ups that are already here and facing shortages in the highly-skilled workforce they require. 

Even if Amazon chooses to go elsewhere, the residual impact of the government's promise to boost STEM graduates will only serve to help the technology outfits based here now, as well as those who may be considering expansion into Ontario.

On Tuesday, Google's 'city-building sister company' SidewalkLabs, announced it has plans to build an entire technology-focused neighbourhood on the Toronto waterfront. The collaboration with the city will begin with an initial $50-million investment before the neighbourhood, to be called Quayside, is constructed. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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