This week Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered a budget speech focusing on two familiar concepts: skills and innovation. They’ve been a recurring pair of players in conversations across the country – in classrooms and boardrooms, including one right here at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E). There is much goodwill in trying to connect people with the skills they need to succeed.
There’s a growing understanding that inclusive growth is the name of the game, and that focusing on full throttle innovation, without understanding the consequences for people, recklessly and needlessly risks leaving too many behind.
When BII+E sought to start a conversation about what the rise of technology would mean for Canadians through our report The Talented Mr. Robot, we were overwhelmed by the diverse range of players that came forward to discuss possible solutions. One of these conversations focused on the need to teach digital literacy to new audiences, and the Digital Literacy + Coding Pilot was born.
A Future for All Youth?
Our research tells us that over the next 20 years, the impacts of automation are likely to be felt most by the lowest earners and those with the least access to education.
Meanwhile, many growing industries are demanding highly skilled workers holding at least a bachelor’s degree, often in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields (STEM). This presents a challenge for a significant proportion of Canada’s youth, particularly women and visible minorities. For instance, women only make up 39% of STEM field graduates aged 25 to 34, despite representing 66% of non-STEM graduates. Additionally, local evidence suggests that high school graduation rates are disproportionately low for Canada’s Indigenous, Black, and Latin American youth, making it difficult for these young people to even apply to university.
So the question is: How might we ensure that all youth, particularly those most at risk of being impacted by automation, are able to build the critical skills and experience needed to thrive in today’s uncertain economy? Solving this problem is necessary not only for Canada’s future economic growth, but also for ensuring the future prosperity of all Canadians.