Tech talent not aware of opportunities and leaving Windsor-Essex, report says

Workforce WindsorEssex is working to grow the local information and communications technology (ICT) sector, with the launch of a new report, 'Decoding the ICT,' released Thursday.

Workforce WindsorEssex has been researching the challenges with retaining talent in Windsor

Workforce WindsorEssex is working to recruit and retain tech talent in the region. (Colin Côté-Paulette/Radio-Canada)

Workforce WindsorEssex is working to grow the local information and communications technology (ICT) sector, with the launch of a new report, 'Decoding the ICT,' released Thursday.

For the last year, the group has been researching the challenges around retaining talent in Windsor, as well as trying to find solutions.

Workforce WindsorEssex's Katie Renaud says it's hard to grow the sector if the city's businesses don't value technology. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Katie Renaud, the lead methodologist and researcher with the group said the ICT sector in the region has been struggling to find and retain talent in the area.

"For us to really compile all this data into a report and a bulletin with some strategies that can be used locally, I think will really help bring more talent to our region and keep the talent that is in our region here," said Renaud.

Ali Al-Aasm explains there's a lack of awareness that there are ICT companies in the city of Windsor. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

'Lack of awareness'

One challenge outlined in the report says that many students in the city struggle to name local ICT companies. Another one being that a lot of talent has already left the region.

Ali Al-Aasm, the co-founder of Red Piston, a local company which develops video game apps, said that this project is a significant step in the right direction. 

"People graduate from university of another cohort, they don't think we exist, and they move out of town right away. We try to raise awareness, but we can't do it alone," he said.

To address the lack of awareness, Workforce WindsorEssex has released six videos profiling different tech companies in the region, including Red Piston.

The videos are to be shown to students enrolled in ICT programs at the University of Windsor and St. Clair College, to let them know that opportunities do exist.

Blandine Lesage says lack of diversity in the ICT sector is problematic. (Colin Côté-Paulette/Radio-Canada)

Advice to employers

The report also includes recommendations to employers. One is for them to engage more with students, such as doing classroom presentations or hosting tours at their companies.

​Former ICT worker in the region Blandine Lesage said she thinks part of the problem is that because many of the companies are start ups, they can't always offer a salary range for someone with her years of experience.

The challenge to find work eventually led her to leave the industry, and work for a non-profit instead.

Lesage also said the lack of diversity in the industry is also problematic.

The report released by Workforce WindsorEssex outlines challenges and solutions to growing the ICT workforce in the city. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Incorporating technology at work

Not only does the project aim to bring more women into ICT, it also hopes to grow the sector in the city overal.

Renaud explained that in order for Windsor to be able to compete against larger ICT hubs, the city needs to build a stronger tech environment.

If local businesses can start to use more technology in the workplace, she said employers will be able to pay a more competitive wage and offer challenging projects to prospective employees and current staff to help keep them in the city.

"You're not going to see wage increases or more challenging opportunities for those who are in the ICT sector if businesses locally don't value technology," said Renaud.

With files from Colin Côté-Paulette