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Canada’s Comeback – when a skills crisis becomes a competitive advantage

Although Canada was not as impacted as other nations, the effect of 2008 global financial crisis was felt in a sudden Canadian economic downturn following almost 15 years of growth. In 2009, after 12 years of surplus, the Canadian government posted a fiscal deficit. From that point on, the country has focused on regaining its economic footing and, almost 10 years later, we are seeing success.

According to the results of a recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), there appears to be increased optimism from economists and business leaders, suggesting that Canada is ready for a comeback. In fact, many economists have taken it a step further and are predicting that Canadian GDP growth in 2017 is poised to outpace that of not only the United States but also the other G7 nations.

The study further reveals that executives are also expressing optimism over growth opportunities for their own businesses. But as the economy develops and opportunities for success are more abundant, other challenges are presenting themselves – most significantly there is a growing skills gap which is hampering their ability to find the resources needed to meet the demand of our growing economy.

A new and unique aspect to this skills gap is the disruption of business and operating models by the rapid evolution of digital technologies. Historic technological shifts call for agility, and when the market is moving quickly, business leaders know they have to work with speed or they will be left behind.

In this new digital and disrupted workforce transformation, the skills demanded by organizations in both the public and private sectors are at a premium. To address these challenges, executives in Canada say that both sectors must work together to increase investments and to improve collaboration and information sharing among ecosystem partners. The good news is that those partners appear to be listening. According to the IBV study, the majority of policy executives recognize the need to improve collaboration with stakeholders and indicate they plan to do so in the next five years.

With this is mind, Canada is positioned for economic growth, but will need the support of business, government, and academia to help accelerate its pace. Business leaders should prioritize enabling a culture where individuals are supported and motivated to practice ongoing skills development. They must also leverage new technologies to drive workforce transformation that will not only help foster leading-edge expertise, but will also retain Canadian talent.

Further, governments have a responsibility to continue support of initiatives that bring industry and academia together to address the skills gap, while academia needs to ensure their programs are developing the skills required for the future workforce.

We have an unprecedented opportunity in Canada to further advance our economy, and smart business leaders are recognizing that a digital and disrupted workforce is an absolute necessity to do so. Businesses that are successfully dominating their industry areembracing disruption and dedicating themselves to continual transformation, giving them an advantage that will be difficult to dislodge.

By David Preston, IBM Canada, Partner with Global Business Services

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