Calgary

Calgary's economic transition will require adaptable workers, new skills

As Calgary's economic recovery continues, business leaders and post-secondary educators want to see things done differently in the future. They say how the next crop of graduates is trained is as important as what they are taught in the classroom.

Business leaders, educators discussed how to prepare graduates for the future at Monday roundtable

Business leaders and educators held a roundtable on Monday, discussing how to prepare graduates for the economy of the future. (Elissa Carpenter/CBC)

As Calgary's economic recovery continues, business leaders and post-secondary educators want to see things done differently in the future. They say how the next crop of graduates is trained is as important as what they are taught in the classroom.

"The Calgary economy is in transition. This transition involves looking at things differently," says David Finch, associate professor at the Bissett School of Business and associate director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Representatives from SAIT, Bow Valley College, Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary dove head-first into the issue at the city's first High Impact Roundtable on Monday.

Ray DePaul is the director of MRU's Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He says this discussion is more relevant than ever because the days of taking a job out of university and staying with the company until retirement are all but over.

"The talent that we graduate now will probably have about a 50-year career, so we can target a specific trade or skill set that will get them their first job, but they also have to have all those other skills like the ability to work in a team, the ability to communicate and perseverance. So how do we best do that  because we are quite good at graduating students with a skillset but maybe not a mindset."

DePaul says the issue persists beyond new graduates.  When the downturn hit, many skilled workers with decades of experience found themselves unemployed. At the same time, the city has thousands of tech positions open right now, just waiting for the right people to fill those roles. 

'A system problem'

"This is not an education problem, it's not a employer problem. This is a system problem, so we have decided let's pull everybody together and find out what the talent needs are and how we might actually be able to put together programs that actually solve that gap that we have out there."

That's where Sharon McIntyre comes in. She is helping design new courses that will be offered through the Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at MRU.

"Sometimes it's just about applying the skills you have into a new field. If you have worked your whole adult life for one or two companies doing the more senior levels of that job, you don't really know your skills are transferable," she said.

Oil-and-gas sector a prime example

McIntyre uses the oil-and-gas sector as an example. She says it's a field where a willingness to retrain or upgrade skills could put people back to work.

"We often think about purely exploration and production and the great skills that many of those engineers and economists have worked at, but there are also these tertiary industries that come out of it like software, and hardware development and production.

"Those people, with some up-skilling or some re-skilling, really do have the opportunity to move into more design-centric and analytic-centric jobs."

Those who took part all agree, the more transferable skills a worker possesses and the more adaptable they are to change — the more in demand they'll be to employers.

Calgary Economic Development says with the rate at which technology is changing, the only constant the new workforce should expect is constant change.

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