The launch of the Association of Industry Sector Council’s (AISC) new labour market information tool, the Workforce Insights Dashboard, has revealed some promising insights about Nova Scotia’s tech sector. Chief among these is that 2022 is expected to be another year of continued growth for the sector – if businesses can hire enough people to do the work. This is the first of three blog posts examining the Dashboard data and considering what it means for Nova Scotia’s tech sector.
Projected Workforce Increases to Meet Rising Tech Demand
Workforce expansion is an indicator of positive economic growth. When asked about their workforce outlook for 2022, 59% of digital respondents said they expected their workforce to increase, and 34% said their workforce would remain at 2021 levels. Of those respondents who predicted their workforce would increase, many added that it was to meet increasing demand to deliver digital products and services to their customers.
The message is clear: digital businesses are increasingly in-demand.
A positive growth outlook should not be a surprise. For years, policymakers and commentators have discussed how Nova Scotia’s tech sector is booming. The COVID-19 pandemic was an accelerating force of technology adoption in the entire Atlantic region. Digital Nova Scotia (DNS) has been a part of this movement, facilitating technology adoption through its digital assistance programs, such as the Tourism Digital Adoption Program (TDAP). This program matched 329 participating tourism businesses with digital service providers to advance their digital presence through digital marketing and new or improved websites. This impactful program was renewed for another season which is now open for applications!
The Need for Skilled Tech Talent
Recent national and regional research continues to highlight the pressing importance of digital adoption and skilled workers. A newly published report by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) contends that digitalization can positively address labour shortages and increase business productivity.
Digital adoption is driven by digitally competent people. But digital employers are not confident they can find enough digitally skilled workers to meet their needs. When asked about predicted job vacancies in 2022, 41% of digital respondents reported they would likely have some unfilled positions, while another 30% reported the number of vacancies at their organization would increase. This means that employers are uncertain whether there are enough skilled workers available.
More innovative skills training and retraining is needed for the digital sector, as Cukier and Anani argued in a recent Policy Options piece. There is a demand for both digitally skilled workers that can invent and manipulate new technologies, as well as people who can support the adoption of these technologies through knowledge translation and thought leadership such as marketing and sales experts, business and systems analysts, project managers, and more. They argue for increased skills training by the public and private sector, and to create and maintain new “access routes” for digital which emphasizes the increased inclusion of underrepresented groups in the tech workforce such as Black and racialized youth, Indigenous Peoples, and persons with disabilities.
Employers and other stakeholders are not sitting idle. In a previous blog post, we discussed how Canadian business owners were planning to hire and train more digitally skilled staff to address labour shortages. Tech employers in Nova Scotia were asked if they were investing in digital training. Of 74 responses to this question, 65% of respondents answered they were, and were focusing primarily on in-house training. Digital businesses are working diligently to address skills deficiencies and to mentor productive workers with the right skills for the job.
Along with our employers, DNS and our partners are doing our part to transform Nova Scotia’s labour force by equipping workers with the in-demand skills for continued success. Our Skills for Hire program is an Atlantic-wide initiative designed to help fill the need for qualified, entry-level talent in the tech sector! In partnership with Bluedrop ISM and the Government of Canada, this is an evidence-based initiative providing in-demand training for upwards of 1,500 participants over 3 years. Applications open this summer for our first cohort.
Beyond the direct provision of training, DNS is also focused on creating evidence-based training tools to identify essential digital competencies in every industry. In collaboration with North Pacific Metrics Inc. and funded by our partners at RPL, our Digital Competencies Tool project has engaged various partners to gather data to develop a unique digital training tool. Specifically, this tool will be used to identify and describe essential digital competencies most valued by employers across industries. This will align understandings of in-demand digital competencies between individuals and employers, and improve workforce planning and training outcomes through the efficient identification of in-demand competencies. The future is digital, and every industry will need to be well-positioned to maximize the economic benefits of new technologies and services, especially those used by employees.
The results of the Workforce Insights Survey illustrated on the AISC dashboard shows that a majority of tech employers are confident their workforces are expected to increase to meet demand, but that they are less sure if they will fill every open position with the talent they need. Employers are still hunting for the right people, with the right skills, for the right job.
DNS and our partners have taken an active role in facilitating both digital transformation and skills training, but there is still more to achieve. With the right support for digital skills training, Nova Scotia’s digital evolution will continue to chart a path for future economic growth and prosperity that benefits us all.
Together, by taking a collaborative and evidence-based approach to meet emerging workforce needs, we can make 2022 another year of tech industry wins in Nova Scotia.
Note: The Workforce Insights Survey was coordinated between AISC and its 14 industry sector councils to gather labour market information from consenting employers between December 2021 – February 2022. The anonymous results of the survey were used to create the labour market information dashboard. This is a free, virtual tool accessible to provincial businesses and other stakeholders that can be used to inform human resource and strategic planning for your business. It’ll do this by providing concise and timely labour market information. We want to provide Nova Scotian businesses the best data to create the best outcomes.