Information and communications technology (ICT) is changing societies, impacting our daily lives and revolutionizing global trade.
This rapidly evolving technology is transforming everything it touches, with its limits still nowhere in sight.
The exponentially increasing power of ICT is reflected in growth statistics that are without precedent for any previous technology. From 1995 to 2014, the number of Internet users globally grew 80-fold from 35 million to 2.8 billion—almost 40 per cent of the world’s population. Mobile phone penetration has been even more spectacular—from 80 million users to more than 5.2 billion in just two decades.
Nova Scotia’s start-up community is impressive and continues to grow. Because global companies are choosing to locate here and expand their businesses, we must ensure we maximize opportunities for Nova Scotians to access top-notch ICT employment opportunities. Preparing our workforce to meet the needs of this dynamic sector is the first step.
How is Nova Scotia doing? The story is mixed but with growing momentum:
- The ICT industry in the province contributes 8.2 per cent of business sector GDP compared to 7.7 per cent nationally.
- Nova Scotia has spawned a very impressive ICT start-up community. In the Banham Group’s 2015 list of the top 25 Canadian up-and-coming ICT start-ups, Nova Scotia was first on a per capita basis and second overall. Many of these are based at the Volta Labs incubator in Halifax.
- Two global corporations (IBM and EY) have recently established advanced data analytics operations in Halifax.
- Homegrown sectors—including shipbuilding and aquaculture, among many others—are poised to multiply their growth opportunities through ICT applications.
There are three ways we believe we can build on our ICT momentum:
- 5.1Mandatory coding instruction in Primary through to Grade 12
- 5.2Develop a skilled ICT workforce
- 5.3Support for ICT start-ups
5.1 Mandatory Coding Instruction in Primary to Grade 12
Nova Scotia should be the first province in Canada to implement mandatory coding classes in our schools to better equip our young people for the future. An investment today in these skills will help make Nova Scotia a location of choice for businesses. Along with the economic benefits, coding and an emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) in the curriculum will help to “future proof” our youth, teaching them computer programming along with creativity, teamwork and critical thinking.
5.2 Develop a Skilled ICT Workforce
The growing economic impact of ICT is generating a corresponding requirement for an exceptionally broad range of skills. That is why Nova Scotia’s universities and the NSCC should develop a range of ICT programs to keep our workforce at the leading edge of the sector.
Successful ICT education and skills development will:
- Provide start-ups with a local supply of the skilled workers required to grow rapidly
- Build a highly-qualified talent base to support the growth of existing enterprises and to attract investment to Nova Scotia
- Create new opportunities to increase the workforce participation of under-represented groups and new immigrants
The Coalition therefore recommends that post-secondary education institutions support ICT talent development that encompasses the following features:
- Universities and the NSCC should expand and enhance undergrad and graduate-level ICT programs
- Teacher training specialties in the ICT disciplines must be provided to enable implementation of universal coding instruction in P-12
- One or more universities or the NSCC should develop a high-quality, 6-to-12-month program for ICT and computer science. This program would be designed to facilitate career change or to add ICT skills to an existing career
- Post-secondary education institutions and the private sector should develop co-op programs for students in ICT-related fields
5.3 Supporting ICT Start-Ups
The importance of ICT start-ups can’t be overstated. Our goal is to double the number of start-ups here in our province, and reach or exceed Canada’s average seed and venture investment by 2025. We believe government, post-secondary institutions, and industry all have a role to play in supporting and growing Nova Scotia’s vibrant start-up community. We should:
- Focus provincial government support to leverage private sector investment in high-growth start-ups
- Enhance support for “sandboxes,” incubators, and accelerators to increase the chances that start-ups will succeed
- Develop a global approach to start-ups