Calgary program to upskill oil workers for tech jobs to expand

EDGE UP, run through Calgary Economic Development (CED) with funding from the federal government’s partnership with the Future Skills Centre, will be getting a new $5.4 million infusion. 

EDGE UP pilot project receives $5.4M infusion

A sky bridge connects two buildings in downtown Calgary.
Calgary Economic Development's EDGE UP program has been giving funding needed to expand the project to more than 300 new students. (Jim Brown/CBC)

A Calgary program designed to transition oil and gas workers into tech careers is getting extra funding and spaces for new students. 

EDGE UP, run through Calgary Economic Development (CED) with funding from the federal government's partnership with the Future Skills Centre, will receive a $5.4-million infusion. 

EDGE UP stands for Energy to Digital Growth Education and Upskilling.

It partners with academic institutions like SAIT and Mount Royal University to offer free education to eligible, mid-career oil and gas workers with an engineering or similar background to train them to work in the technology industry. 

"This is an important day for our city as we help people pivot and potentially restart or redirect their careers and get them back to work in solving big global problems right here in our city," said Mary Moran, the CEO of Calgary Economic Development. 

She added the money will allow her agency to open eligibility to more people and expand the curriculum. 

The expansion of the program will fund 320 new spaces for students in two cohorts that will run for nine months — the first slated to begin in September and the second in the new year.

The program was being piloted for two years, using $1.5 million for 100 students in two cohorts. CED received more than 1,300 applications for those spaces, and told their partners it was time to expand the program beyond the pilot. 

The Future Skills Centre says 70 per cent of the participants have successfully found jobs or are continuing their education in the tech space. 

"It has allowed us to shift to the new tech economy and really to start down kind of a new and exciting path," said Shona Clarke, a graduate of the program. She was laid off from the oil and gas sector in 2019 after working as a geologist for 20 years. 

"The opportunity was really the right fit at the right time to learn new skills, to go into sort of a new digital economy.… There's technology pervading every industry." 

Calgary Economic Development had been pushing for the program to be renewed for almost a year, and had indicated that they were also seeking provincial partnership. 

Tech jobs in Alberta are projected to hit 77,500 between now and 2023 — a digital transformation forecasted at $18.4 billion from 2019 to 2022, according to CED.