CIO Peer Forum 2023 | Sessions

4 Corners Discussion: Lassonde – York University and Shopify Inc.

Wednesday May 3, 10:45 am - 12:05 pm

Session description

The four-corners session is comprised of 4 – 20 minute long speed-dating style information exchanges.  You will be assigned to a group which will sequentially visit each “corner”.

Session Details:

Canada is facing a digital skills shortage that, if left unaddressed, will present a major barrier to business growth across all sectors and industries. A recent survey of Canadian businesses found that 62 per cent reported having difficulty finding job candidates with the right technical skills, especially in technology-related fields.  

To close the skills gap, employers are looking to collaborate with universities to produce not just work-ready graduates, but highly qualified professionals who can anticipate ICT-sector needs and help shape their evolution. Organizations increasingly want access to the latest expertise, world-class research, and specialized resources that a university and its graduates provide.  

Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the skills shortage in STEM fields has grown exponentially over the last few years. If our tech companies are to remain competitive in a constantly evolving global digital economy, we must act quickly to respond to existing information and communications technology (ICT) skills gaps or risk falling behind. This means that our efforts to attract talent and upskill the current workforce must keep a pulse on the evolving needs and demands of the sector. 

For Canada, scaling up the tech workforce means creating affordable education pathways that will facilitate increased access to digital tech careers. Although Canada has a wealth of untapped tech talent potential, expanding the existing talent pool will require taking bold steps to transform the future of learning and employment in Canada’s tech sector. 

It was with this goal in mind that our team at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering collaborated with key leaders and experts in the tech sector to create a new fully work-integrated Bachelor of Applied Science in Digital Technologies program. These partners include Ceridian, CGI, Cinchy Inc., Cisco Canada, Connected, EY Canada, General Motors of Canada Company, IBM Canada, mimik Technology Inc., RBC, Saa Dene Group, Shopify Inc., TELUS Health, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and TribalScale Inc. 

Launching Fall 2023, the four-year program will provide learners with the opportunity to earn a competitive salary while dedicating approximately 20 per cent of their work hours to theoretical, in-class learning during five-day block periods every six-to-seven weeks. 

The benefits of our program will be two-fold. By combining a high-quality education with work-integrated learning, students will be able to immediately apply and build on their academic knowledge. Employers on the other hand can also expect to benefit from the model which will help them fill skills gaps within their companies by giving them access to a stream of highly skilled workers. 

A first for Canada, this model has been used widely across the United Kingdom and has proven to be a powerful vehicle for social mobility. In a 2021 Impact Report, Manchester Metropolitan University, one of the leading providers of this type of program in the UK, reported that 78 per cent of their graduates received a pay raise and 64 per cent received a promotion during their program. A survey of their first cohort of Digital & Technology Solutions graduates shows a 46 per cent higher salary than the average UK computing graduate. 

By bringing this fully work-integrated model to Canada, Lassonde’s goal is to open the doors for learners who may not have the time and/or money to pursue a degree and provide them with the necessary supports to build meaningful networks as they grow in their fields. 

What’s more, there has been a sharp increase in demand for more experiential learning opportunities over the last few years, a direct result of the pandemic. CIOs know that remaining competitive within this new normal will require keeping pace with the changing nature of both working and learning. 

An innovative post-secondary response to the skills shortage in the ICT sector can help affected businesses train, recruit and retain skilled digital technology specialists. As Canada’s tech sector navigates the digital economy, post-secondary institutions must keep their sights on developing and implementing solutions that will help Canadian businesses remain competitive in the global market. 

In this session, CIOs will learn about new opportunities to partner with universities to shape the way academic programming is delivered. They’ll hear firsthand from a Canadian company about why they’ve decided to host learners in this program and the real revenue-generating roles in which they’ll work to make important contributions to the organization. CIOs will discover that by collaborating with universities to provide workplace experiences that empower students to think critically and creatively, their company can produce graduates who are not only ready for work – but ready for the future.