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By Lynda Leonard, Senior Vice-President ITAC
Our industry has a virtually insatiable appetite for talent. Even when the economic outlook is less than positive, many companies in our community are actively recruiting.
One of the keys to building a robust talent pool is ensuring that the young men and women that our society is educating grow up with interest and passion for the technical disciplines upon which our industry is based. This starts with encouraging enthusiasm for math, science, engineering and technology at the earliest stage in a young person’s development. Fostering this early enthusiasm is not an easy job. These disciplines aren’t easy and, in some cases, social pressures about what’s cool and what isn’t provide easy exits from these courses of study.
Fortunately, there is a small army of educators and activists determined to instil their own passions for science in the next generation of students. I was fortunate enough to have at least one teacher, Mr. Lopez-Perrera, who worked valiantly to show me the miracles of science. Not all of us are so lucky and for many keeping the fires stoked in math and science becomes an extracurricular activity.
Working with funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and with the Science and Technology Awareness Network (STAN), ITAC is just completing an inventory of organizations dedicated to promoting math and science among K to 12 students in Ontario. The current inventory lists nearly 200 programs ranging from the science fairs run by the Youth Science Foundation, to science camps designed by Actua specifically for First Nations Communities.
I’m delighted to report that the ICT industry itself plays a significant part in this movement. Many, many of our companies sponsor, promote and otherwise support the work of these organizations. But beyond that, some have even developed and run programs of their own. IBM, for example, puts on a summer camp for budding computer scientists, and as Rob Long outlines in one of our features stories, Nortel has developed a number of programs for both students and their teachers.
Yet in spite of all this dedicated activity, it sometimes feels like we’re losing the battle. Enrolments in post-secondary computer science programs are not strong. And in a generation the ratio of female to male engineering students remains stuck at 1:5. Clearly we all need to join the movement.
Science literacy and the heightened curiosity it engenders are foundations for a rich quality of life. Our own personal efforts through formal or informal mentorship with the students in our families and communities can pay off in wonderful ways. I can set the next generation of technology entrepreneurs on their career paths. It can inspire a budding research scientist. But, more fundamentally, it can also equip the people who will inherit an increasingly complex and dynamic world with the fundamental tools necessary for good citizenship in the 21st century.
By Jason Grosse
The ICT industry is full of companies who are making a conscious effort to address the declining interest in ICT as a career. They are doing this by taking their message directly to young Canadians.
Nortel is a great example of this approach. The company runs its own programs like Nortel LearniT, which is Nortel’s key initiative aimed at educating students and teachers about the positive influence digital technologies can have on learning. The company also partners with global initiatives like Curriki, which is a global initiative designed to make learning materials available online for free. The major initiatives are followed by sponsorships of the One Laptop per Child Program, and partnerships with local organizations such as ACTUA.
Nortel’s global charitable activities are run by a team of four and across Canada its efforts are directed by Rob Long, Manager of Community Relations for Nortel Canada. ITAC Online spoke to Rob about some of the things that Nortel is doing to educate and prepare young Canadians for careers in technology.
How have the programs grown and changed since you’ve been with Nortel?
In this issue of ITAC Online we are focusing on Education. In Nortel’s
case, what are some of the programs that are either funded or run by Nortel?
Do the programs focus on particular areas or certain segments of society?
What about programs for boys and girls separately?
How do these programs help Canada’s IT industry?
Is Canada’s ICT industry doing a good job in getting the word out to
young people that IT careers are a great choice?
What are some of the things that Nortel has done to eliminate the
barriers to choosing a job in IT such as the perception of being “un-cool”
or “just for boys”
"As a business that relies heavily on innovation, Bell is keenly aware how difficult it is to recruit the best resources in this industry," says Stéphane Boisvert, President of Bell Canada Enterprise business. "Our pool of talent is declining. Falling enrolment in IT programs is now forcing companies to take more intensive, drastic measures to recruit the best talent. The problem is national in scope, and it requires a strong, concerted reaction. To turn the tide, we are going to need determination, a strategic plan, and leadership from both the private and public sectors."
Though this problem has been building for years, it has not gotten any better. So Mr. Boisvert took a bold initiative in late 2007. He led in the formation of the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow's ICT Skills (CCICT) along with a broad cross section of ICT supplier and user companies, educators, and subject matter experts (including ITAC).
The CCICT's mission is to ensure that Canadian organizations can engage information and communications technology professionals who have knowledge, skills and talents to meet the evolving and diverse needs of this exciting field. At a recent meeting, the ITAC Board lent its strong support to the work of the CCICT.
The CCICT's marquee event will be a National ICT Week in late 2009. The Week's activities will inform students, educators, employers and immigrant organizations about the exciting changes in ICT careers.
Equally important, the CCICT plans to tackle a rebranded business/IT post-secondary curriculum; improve awareness of, and access to, the growing array of specialized multidisciplinary IT programs; and help employers develop best practices for attracting, retaining and developing ICT talent.
The CCICT has also hired the Conference Board of Canada to conduct a national survey of high school students, parents and guidance counsellors on their attitudes regarding ICT careers. The results will be released in early 2009.
The organization recently appointed ITAC Board member David Ticoll to function as its first Executive Director.
We encourage ITAC members to support the efforts of the CCICT, and to consider joining it. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ICT Industry Views on Economic Stimulus Package
The ICT industry is not asking for a bail-out. Even in the current economic environment, companies like RIM and Open Text are actively canvassing to fill hundreds of jobs. Our industry continues to have a bright future as a key driver of Canada’s growth, productivity and prosperity. That being said, our industry is going to suffer from the economic slowdown, and we have been saying for some time that improvements are needed to government programs so as to better allow our industry to realize its potential for Canada. This need becomes much more critical in these times of financial and economic disruption. Moreover, the plans already announced in other jurisdictions could place Canada at a competitive disadvantage if we do not similarly focus our investments on the future.
As you will see from our letter we have made a number of proposals to the government, proposals that have been identified as both needed and economically sound in on ongoing policy work and that will direct economic stimulus to valuable and effective investments in the future of the Canadian economy. The list is as follows, with further information in the letter itself.
We have also reiterated the view of our industry that the Canadian government should have a strategy for the ICT industry because of its unique role and importance in helping secure Canada’s future prosperity. This is a long standing request that has been supported, for example, by the Telecom Policy Review Panel in its 2006 report.
In these difficult times, it is important that our ICT industry stand together to ensure that our voice is heard among the many that are clamouring for the attention of policymakers.
We are therefore asking that you write to Ministers and other policymakers in the federal government, as well as provincial governments so that the stimulus plans that will be discussed between the Premiers and the Prime Minister are focused on the investments needed for Canada’s future success. We hope that your letters will support ITAC’s proposals, perhaps emphasizing portions of particular interest to your company. ITAC will be happy to provide you with any further information or advice you may need in this regard. Please don’t hesitate to reply to me or contact me at (613) 238 - 4822 ext. 231
ITAC's Pre-Budget Submission
ITAC Explores the Role of IP in the Formation of
Tech Ventures in New White Paper
The Third Joint
ITAC/Global Semiconductor Alliance Forum: The Audacity of Imagination
For a complete listing of all ITAC events go to: http://www.itac.ca/index.php/site/events/
Open Text is Growing
“In the current slow economy, we’re looking for good people who can help Open Text grow as a global leader,” said Tom Jenkins, Executive Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of Open Text. “We offer a tremendous opportunity for people to be part of a company that is expanding in the region. Increasing our local presence demonstrates once again how we continue to deepen our roots in Waterloo, a strong and vibrant community that has always been the perfect place for Open Text’s global home.”
For more information on career opportunities at Open Text, go to: http://www.opentext.com/2/global/company-careers.html.
Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit
The 22nd International Olympiad in Informatics Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit
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