Province funds new tech training program for under-represented groups

The province is kicking in $7 million to expand a program designed to draw more young people into the growing technology sector.

On Friday, Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said as many as 2,000 more people will be able to improve and upgrade their skills through the Canadian Tech Accelerator program.

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“We know the pandemic created additional challenges for young and under-represented people across the province. They have faced unprecedented challenges in navigating the pandemic, including finding meaningful jobs to build their careers,” he said.

“Connecting those who have been disproportionately affected to hands-on training and learning opportunities in the tech sector is critical to launch and grow their careers.”

The program targets people between the ages of 17 and 30 and gives priority to those who are Indigenous, Black, people of colour, women, LGBTQ, immigrants and living with disabilities.

Through programs delivered by NPower Canada, the initiative offers training and coaching to get young people into the sector and improve their chances of landing a job.

NPower Canada chief executive Julia Blackburn said young people who feel they haven’t had a chance to reach their potential may find a home in the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator.

“Our program is not just about training people for technical jobs, it’s about preparing them for the future of work. This includes an increasing number of careers that are tech-enabled as organizations look to use digital technology in new ways,” she said.

Blackburn stressed that poverty reduction through youth unemployment is what her company does, noting 80 per cent of those who go through the program are employed within a year, and usually much sooner.

Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, said the program sounds promising.

“It is encouraging to see policy makers and funders recognizing the opportunity in expanding the tech workforce by preparing more young people for tech careers,” he said.

“This program should increase both diversity and skill in B.C.’s tech workforce, which will pay dividends for years to come.”

The program is a $15.5-million partnership between the provincial government, Digital Technology Supercluster, Microsoft Canada, NPower Canada and Blueprint.

Applications for the junior IT analyst program and the junior data analyst program are open until Jan. 24. Applications for the spring session will remain open until May 16.

Last month, the province also kicked in $15 million to fund the $29-million Innovator Skills Initiative program, which is designed to create opportunities in the tech industry for 3,000 people from under-represented groups.

The Innovator Skills Initiative gives B.C. companies grants of up to $10,000 per employee hired for technology jobs and tech-enabled roles.

The grant covers a new employee’s salary for four months. There are 3,000 grants available. Organizations can apply for as many as 10 positions.

The program prioritizes placement for people who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and historically under-represented in the technology sector.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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