Technology and Innovation Talent Gap Memo

Jun 29, 2020 | News

June 29, 2020
NATI Membership, Partners, and Stakeholders

RE: Technology and Innovation Talent Gap

Talent is the most pressing issue facing the technology and innovation sector in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador today – whether it is experienced, seasoned leadership or entry level coding skills, all employers have expressed major concerns with the availability of tech-related talent in this province.

The sector is experiencing explosive growth, already representing a $1.6 billion industry, and employing upwards of 6,500 people. Verafin’s $515 million recapitalization deal in 2019 was the largest in Canadian history. Mature companies like Vision33 and Compusult are delivering on contracts around the world, while firms like Kraken Robotics are securing deals in the $35-$40 million range. Ocean tech companies such as Genoa Design are scaling up and filling their new office space to capacity, while others are taking advantage of opportunities stemming from the Ocean Supercluster. Still more companies such as Avalon Holographics, Colab Software, Mysa, ClearRisk, and Sequence Bio are growing quickly and leading the world in their technology development, securing venture capital, getting accepted into world class accelerators like Y Combinator in California, and making an indelible mark upon the world. Our local Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship has been recognized as a Top 5 new Centre in the world, and Genesis, our tech incubator, received accolades as a Top Challenger by UBI Global and are poised to already outgrow their new facilities in the Emera Innovation Exchange building in St. John’s.

The limiting factor for continued growth, scale, and success is a lack of talent:

  1. NATI Fast Five (fastest five growing tech companies) are poised to add 500-750 new staff over the next 3-5 years.
  2. 92% of tech sector companies are planning to expand and hire but 86% already say it is difficult to find the talent they need.
  3. In 2019, the public post-secondary system produced approximately 50 computer science/computer engineering and software development related grads, while demand is in the hundreds per year.
  4. Even in light of COVID-19, many technology companies in this province continue to hire, with hiring expected to increase.
  5. National and regional forecasts show future skills will be more and more tech-based – jobs will transition and this province alone will require thousands of tech-savvy new roles in the next 3-5 years.
  6. While the province has an immigration target of 1,700 per year, approximately 6,000 per year are leaving the workforce, meaning the demand for talent will only rise.

Clearly, there is a need to drastically improve our tech-related talent pool, pulling on a variety of levers to transition our labour force to support a technology and innovation-based economy. Some of these levers include:

  1. Short-term initiatives such as re-training, immigration, modular block/apprenticeship style education and work placements, and strong efforts to encourage underrepresented groups to participate (including more women and indigenous in tech).
  2. Medium-term initiatives such as increasing the number of graduates from public postsecondary education programs and immigration.
  3. Long-term initiatives such as K-12 curriculum and advanced placement programming in high schools that allow youth to recognize the incredible opportunity the tech sector affords them, and that a high standard of living is available right here at home in companies that are global best at what they do.

As the number one priority for our members, NATI is focused on and supports the efforts of our local community and partners to close the talent gap, helping our sector to grow and scale right here, and helping all sectors of the economy to become more globally competitive. The success of the technology and innovation sector is vital to the province’s future economic prosperity, and it is people that fuel the sector and its growth.


Paul Preston

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