Calgary companies launch their own tech upskilling program due to talent shortage

A consortium of companies in Calgary has started a worker upskilling program, saying there aren't enough technology sector professionals in the city to keep up with demand. 

Program aims to train and place immigrant workers in tech careers

Vog App Developers says it is struggling to find qualified mid-career tech workers. (Vog/Facebook)

A consortium of companies in Calgary has started a worker upskilling program, saying there aren't enough technology sector professionals in the city to keep up with demand. 

Vog App Developers, Immigrant Services Calgary, Windmill Microlending and Finney-Taylor Consulting have banded together to train and place immigrant workers in tech careers. 

Vince O'Gorman, the CEO of Vog, told CBC News on a scale of one to 10 the struggle to find qualified mid-career workers is a 10 right now. Calgary's tech sector exploded last year, and companies have already drained the available talent pool. 

"We're in the midst of a growing pain," O'Gorman said.

Unfilled jobs

Vog has 20 positions it hasn't found qualified workers for yet but hopes this program will uncover some new talent. 

The group said it's been so difficult to hire intermediate and senior-level developers, they decided to fix the problem themselves.

The partnership will see Immigrant Services Calgary refer newcomers with some programming experience to Vog's LaunchPad upskilling program, funded using low-interest loans from Windmill. After participants graduate, they will receive support from Finney-Taylor to secure job placement. 

"It's about making sure that our economy and especially our resources within the economy are strong and they are top talent, and they're not going to leave to other places like the U.S.," O'Gorman said. 

The program can currently accommodate between 15-20 people during each 16-week training session. 

Hyder Hassan, the CEO of Immigrant Services Calgary, said newcomers to Canada are a perfect fit for the tech sector because many already have career experience and are ready to put down roots in Calgary — making them less likely to be caught up in brain drain to the U.S.

"They've got skills that are high in demand, software skills that we may not have currently in the city," he said.

"With technology companies choosing Calgary and Alberta to continue their innovation and scaling, we need to equip those organizations with the right talent pool so we can quickly match talent with the opportunity."

In 2019, his organization worked with more than 23,000 immigrants from 179 countries. 

Hassan said newcomers to Canada usually aren't aware of all the resources that exist, so they may miss out on career opportunities like in the tech sector. O'Gorman hopes this new partnership will be able to more efficiently match people with jobs. 

Calgary Economic Development projects that Calgary businesses will spend $7.5 billion on digital transformations between 2019 and 2022 — and that tech sector hiring will double the pace of the rest of Alberta's economy.

It also estimates there are 2,000 unfilled tech jobs in the city. 

O'Gorman says he's excited by the potential for tech growth in the city, but the talent problem will be a roadblock if it's not fixed.

"I think we might see some companies' initiatives slowing down if they can't find the people to recruit to take care of those tasks that they need to be completed."

The provincial government has also announced a $136-million retraining program for Alberta workers in Budget 2021, but details are scarce and no launch date has been announced.


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