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Finding the softer side of technology

Published in the Toronto Star
By Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of CivicAction, and Mark Boyajian, the President of Canada Operations at CGI and CivicAction Board Member. 

People have embraced technology in most aspects of life. From where we stay when we travel to how we get around or get our work done, technology is everywhere and is something people have grown to expect. This transformation could create a great opportunity for youth trying to get their foot in the door today, but only if they build the skills needed to succeed.

Over the last five years, more than 45,000 new information and communication technologies (ICT) jobs have been created across Canada annually. Locally, a 2016 Economic Graph report by CivicAction and LinkedIn showed that Toronto’s workforce is rich in technology skills, making this a great place to start a technology career. According to MaRS, in September alone, $1.4 billion of new investment announcements by tech companies were made in Toronto.

Despite these trends, only one out of every 20 ICT jobs are held by youth currently, compared to one out of every seven jobs held by youth in the overall economy. Why is this an issue? Because it’s expected that 65 per cent of kids entering primary school today will hold jobs that don’t exist yet.

In order to better prepare young people for work today and tomorrow CivicAction, working with LinkedIn and Knockri, released “Now Hiring: The Skills Companies Want that Young Canadians Need” a new report that looked at thousands of job postings and LinkedIn profiles to see which sectors have the greatest number of entry-level opportunities and the skills needed to land them.

The report identified five sectors: retail, health care and social assistance, finance and insurance, skilled trades, and technology with the highest volume of entry-level opportunities.

The report showed that in the technology sector, the top five most sought‑after skills for new hires are communication, English, literacy, organization and being detail-oriented — all considered “soft skills.” Across all the sectors identified, communication was also the number one skill employers are looking for.

Skills like as empathy and creativity also made the list of in-demand skills. Research shows that almost everyone has the ability to empathize, but some don’t tap into their full potential. Empathy is projected to become more important in the future as it is among the hardest skills to automate, but empathy must be modelled to be learned.

The “Now Hiring” report recommends a few next steps, including creating micro training such as online learning that reflects employers’ changing needs, motivating youth to strengthen their “soft skills” to help future-proof their employability, and adopting hiring practices that assess skills over credentials.

For employers looking for a roadmap on how to think differently about hiring, check out CivicAction’s HireNext tool. Government and the private sector both have a role to play in modernizing their practices and policies to help job seekers gain the skills to meet the new demand.

Find out more about SkillsConnect and HireNext

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