Sharpening Canada’s Skills Advantage

Understanding the critical skills Canada needs to become a global leader in innovation.
Sharpening Canada’s Skills Advantage
Daniel Munro
Research Advisor
Creig Lamb
Alumni, Senior Policy Analyst
October 3, 2022
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About this report: 

In this first report of the Mitacs Skills for Innovation series, Creig Lamb, (Co-Founder, Shift Insights, BII+E alumni) and Dr. Daniel Munro (Co-Founder, Shift Insights, Senior Fellow at Munk School of Global Affairs) provide clarity on the technical and professional skills needed for different kinds of innovation.

Despite a highly educated population and a labour force of skilled and motivated people, Canada’s innovation performance continues to lag behind its global peers. This report seeks to better understand the specific skills Canadian talent must develop in order to address this gap and complete the full suite of tasks within the innovation continuum. These can be broadly divided into two categories: general skills, required across all types of innovation; and specialized skills, that some but not all people on innovation teams must have to succeed.

General skills are things like curiosity and creativity, statistical literacy, and basic digital skills such as the ability to navigate online research, and the application of scientific principles and methods, such as developing a hypothesis. Soft skills, like emotional intelligence, collaboration, listening, and communication are also included here. 

More specialized skill sets consist of advanced data and digital skills such as programming, computer science, and statistical analysis, as well as management and design skills, including prototyping, testing, and solutions design. 

This and future reports in the Skills for Innovation Series by Mitacs will generate insights to help educators, businesses, students, workers, and others build better strategies for developing, recruiting and harnessing talent to improve our national innovation performance.

Read this report to help you:

  • Identify the different stages, and activities related to innovation.
  • Understand the types of skills needed for different kinds of innovation.
  • Build better strategies for developing, recruiting, and harnessing talent for innovation success.
  • Learn how best these skill sets can be applied and distributed along the innovation continuum.
  • Gain insight into the perspectives of interns and organizations on innovation skills. 

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This report is produced by Mitacs in partnership with the Brookfield Institute and Shift Insights.

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Key findings from the report:

  • Science skills are top-of-mind for Mitacs’ innovating firms. 
  • Critical thinking, problem identification and curiosity are amongst the top skills required for innovation.
  • When employers require technical skills for innovation, they frequently need complementary skills as well.
  • Internal technology and new or improved products were the most common types of innovation. 
  • Innovation skills deemed most important by organizations are not necessarily the skills graduate students express the most confidence in.

Methodology

A multifaceted research strategy was used to understand what skills and knowledge organizations and individuals need to succeed in different kinds, stages, and activities related to innovation.

The report is built upon a comprehensive review of relevant literature on skills for innovation, focusing especially on literature and data that offer insights about the specialized skills required for different kinds and stages of innovation.

The main data collection instruments were surveys of organizations and interns who used Mitacs’s Elevate and Accelerate programs.

Partner organization surveys were used to understand the kind of innovation they were pursuing; the stage it was at; 12 broad categories of skills and knowledge and 55 specific skills and knowledge they felt it was important to have on the project team and for the student intern specifically to have.

Daniel Munro
Research Advisor
Creig Lamb
Alumni, Senior Policy Analyst
October 3, 2022
Print Page

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