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Future Skills Centre: Harnessing Inclusion to Drive Innovation

March 19, 2019

Continuing its work at the intersection of disruptive technology, innovation and and inclusion, the Diversity Institute team is pleased to be part of the new Future Skills Centre - Centre des Compétences futures (FSC-CCF), external link led by Ryerson University in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada, Blueprint and powered by Magnet. The FSC-CCF, external link is funded by through an investment of $225 million in Future Skills over four years and $75 million per year thereafter. As outlined during the launch of the FSC-CCF, the Centre will focus on projects across Canada that develop, test and measure new approaches to identifying emerging in-demand skills and helping Canadians develop the skills to thrive amid the changing nature of work.

Canada's vision of inclusive growth is inspiring. The FSC-CCF initiative will help build a training and talent ecosystem that is responsive, agile and able to meet whatever challenges the future holds. Ensuring that the Canadian workforce has the skills and access to reap the benefits of the new economy requires innovation in building a broader and deeper labour market. Our research has shown that the nature of work is changing and many employers are experiencing profound skills shortages. At the same time, we know that many segments of the population face barriers to employment demonstrated in wage gaps and under-employment and unemployment for women, immigrants, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and others. The answer lies in questioning current approaches, in challenging the status quo and in relentless innovation. Just as it is driving transformative change to whole industries and sectors, new innovative principles and actions can also be applied to building more inclusive workplaces and a more adaptive talent pool with the skills to thrive amidst continuing disruption.

Together with Magnet, external link, we brought together an initial group of more than 100 of our partners to support us in the FSC-CCF initiative including employers such as RBC and Accenture; business networks such as the Information Technology Association of Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Aboriginal Business Council; training service and support organizations, particularly those serving diverse groups, such as the YMCA and YWCA, Youth Employment Services (Y.E.S), TRIEC, NEXUS BC, and Skills for Change; organizations offering innovative technologies and approaches for training such as nPower, Desire2Learn, Canada Learning Code, edX; Labour groups such as Unifor, to name just a few partners.  Our strong network across the country and across sectors ensures that our approach will respond to real needs.

The Diversity Institute’s unique action-oriented and evidence-based approach will help illuminate the changing nature of skills and competencies, the barriers faced by diverse groups, and innovative approaches to advance economic inclusion and success. Along with Magnet and our partners we have been examining these issues for many years. Previous work has focused on disruptive technology, innovation processes, digital skills, soft skills, work integrated learning as well as research on specific populations for example, women in technology, immigrant and refugees, racialized people, Indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities. But, in addition to its extensive network of experts, business and community partners, the Diversity Institute has been involved in developing, testing and evaluating innovative approaches. For example, its Advanced Digital and Professional Training project has had significant impact on using employer centred intensive non-credit work integrated learning modules to transition arts and social sciences students into technology and business roles; to assist employers in attracting and upskilling internationally educated professionals and to support enhancing work related skills for diverse students and graduates entering the workforce. The Diversity Institute has also pioneered innovative approaches to creating entrepreneurship opportunities for immigrants, refugees, women and others as pathways to economic inclusion. And of course its signature project – DiversityLeads – has helped shaped national and provincial policy as well as organizational processes to erode barriers for under-represented groups. Working with Magnet and our extensive local, national and international partners through our International Innovation and Inclusion Network, we are well positioned to contribute to this important project.

For years we have talked about how diversity and inclusion can drive innovation – and in turn, how innovation can help employers tap into new talent pools to address persistent yet evolving skill gaps. We have built an amazing and growing interdisciplinary team. They have deep expertise in issues critical to this project including labour market analysis; disruptive technologies and trends; innovative training and technologies; complex public policy challenges; systems and policy change; and diversity and inclusion which will help the FSC-CCF zero in on producing concrete results.

It’s a sentiment that the Minister of Employment, Work and Labour echoed at the FSC-CCF announcement., external link “We will be working hard to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach,” said Minister Patty Hadju in her remarks about the FSC, which is federally-funded but will operate at an arm’s length from the government. “The world of work is changing and Canadians need to be equipped to seize the opportunities this presents. That includes people who have been racialized, indigenous people, women, and people with disabilities. The work that the Future Skills Centre is doing is actually an economic imperative. It is the smart thing to do. It is the socially just thing to do. And, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.”

There is an urgent need to understand what skills Canadians will need to prosper in the future and how we can better leverage our current skills development infrastructure to meet these needs.

Our work with the FSC will help advance understanding of the complex barriers faced by underrepresented groups and ultimately help effect change that will enable Canada’s diverse talent to thrive in the future of work.

Wendy Cukier, Founder, Diversity Institute and Professor, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University

Member, Interim FSC-CFF Advisory Council

Director, Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub

Expert Advisory, on Data and the Digital Economy as part of the Working Group on the Modern Economy (WGME) of the Canada-United Kingdom Public Policy Forum.