Language selection



Skills: "Talent for the new economy"

Diversification"Talent for the New Economy"



Western Canada has a young, entrepreneurial, and highly educated workforce that can spark new growth. The economy and jobs are changing. We must grow westerner's skills and attract global talent to compete in the knowledge economy.


Greater use of artificial intelligence and automation means that many repetitive and procedural jobs will change or even disappear. Impacts will be felt in the construction, energy, transportation, and agriculture sectors that underpin the western economy with well-paying jobs.


The explosion of disruptive technologies and platforms such as Facebook, Amazon, and Uber are changing how business is done and what jobs look like. Rapidly evolving fields such as cloud computing, agile development, and cyber security are creating widespread demand for digital skills and multi-disciplinary approaches.


In some occupations, there has been a shift away from full-time employment towards temporary and project-based work. This opens up opportunities for entrepreneurial, flexible, and remote work, but it also creates greater demand for lifelong learning supports.


Western Canada can lead the way towards an economy that is empowering and inclusive. To get this right, governments, post-secondary institutions, industry, and other partners need to improve education and training programs.


Strengthen Education and Upskilling

The western provinces lead the country in population growth. Our youth population is projected to grow at double the national rate. Though western Canadians are increasingly pursuing post-secondary education, there are notable differences in their skills. For example, students in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have below-average literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving scores.

Higher education dramatically closes the gap in employment outcomes and earnings for Indigenous Peoples. However, Indigenous Peoples in the West are three times less likely to have completed bachelor degrees or higher, compared to the non-Indigenous population.

Skills gaps such as these are challenging for workers and employers alike. In 2017, more than half of Canada's high-growth businesses had difficulty finding the talent needed to grow. To help fill these gaps, and support overall growth of the economy, employers must be able to attract top talent from around the world. In addition, having the right mix of skills and including everyone is critical for our future but too often, the people in greatest need of education or training opportunities are among the least likely to receive them.

Currently, only one in five graduates are in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Women are increasingly enrolling in these programs, but not advancing in STEM careers. The West is home to 37 per cent to Canada's apprentices, but only 11 per cent are women.

The diversity of western Canada's population is a strength, but there needs to be inclusive opportunities to expand skills and develop career pathways. Industry and community partners need to explore innovative training options, such as boot-camps, mobile workshops, and online resources to address skill shortages.


Grow West Spotlight

Connect Western Businesses to Global Talent

The Government of Canada's Global Talent Stream (GTS) gives innovative Canadian businesses fast access to top global talent when Canadian workers are unavailable. This permanent stream fast tracks work visa applications for eligible workers with skills required by Canadian employers in fields such as Information Technology and STEM, in as little as 10 business days.


Read this story

Since its launch in 2017, Canadian employers participating in the GTS have committed to create 40,000 new jobs for Canadians and permanent residents, develop more than 10,000 co-op placements, and invest more than $90 million in skills development and training.

Vancouver-based Terramerra used the GTS to quickly hire an international expert in microscopic worms when they were unable to find the right skills in Canada. The scientist is helping Terramerra develop innovative environmentally safe bio-pesticides, while providing on-the-job training to colleagues and co-op students from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. He is also sharing his knowledge and expertise with Canadian academics, who will in turn transfer this knowledge to the universities' students—Canada's future scientists.


Grow West Spotlight

New Career Pathways for Indigenous Peoples

Over the last 10 years, Canada's Indigenous population has grown twice as fast as the non-Indigenous population. On average, Indigenous Peoples have lower labour force participation rates than non-Indigenous, and closing this gap would add an estimated $7 billion to Canada's GDP.


Read this story

Partnerships between Indigenous communities, industry, and other organizations have led to stronger education, skills, and career opportunities. For example, Aki Energy, one of Manitoba's premier social enterprises, aims to partner with First Nations in the province to lower their energy bills through renewable energy projects including geothermal and solar energy options. Aki Energy provides training for local employment as well as technical expertise, financing, and project management to ensure the renewable energy projects create economic growth for Indigenous Peoples in the province.


Western Canadians must develop the right mix of skills for the new economy.


The Government of Canada's newly established Future Skills Centre will lead projects that identify demand for emerging skills, explore innovative approaches to skills development, and support the adoption of best practices across Canada. CanCode aims to equip Canadian youth, including underrepresented groups, with the skills they need to be prepared for further studies, including advanced digital skills and STEM courses. To date, CanCode has reached about 350,000 girls, over 68,000 Indigenous students, over 100,000 youth at risk, and 34,000 newcomers to Canada.

Budget 2019 includes nearly $800 million to increase work-integrated learning opportunities for post-secondary students. This will add up to 84,000 new placements per year by 2023-24. It will also address gender disparity and promote skills programs for underrepresented groups. In addition, the government will modernize the Youth Employment Strategy, launch the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program, and make the Global Talent Stream a permanent program. The new Canada Training Benefit will also help workers take the time they need to keep their skills relevant and in-demand.

The Government of Canada's new Skilled Trades Awareness and Readiness Program will help encourage Canadians to explore and prepare for careers in the skilled trades. This includes groups that face barriers such as women, Indigenous Peoples, newcomers to Canada, persons with disabilities, and youth.

Western provinces are also taking action. For example, both British Columbia and Alberta have announced the creation of new post-secondary spaces in technology programs to support continued sector growth.


To ensure western Canada's workforce is inclusive and future-ready, we need to find better ways to:


Strengthen Innovation Ecosystems

Develop Essential Skills that Keep Pace with Change

Western Canadians need learning supports throughout their lives. To meet shifting demands, post-secondary institutions and employers need to work closely to identify gaps and opportunities to upskill. Business and leadership skills can be developed earlier and across all fields of study.

Support High-Growth Western Firms

Connect Academic Skills with Practical Experience

Educators and employers need to improve work-integrated learning opportunities. This leads to better career outcomes for students, while giving businesses access to talent and new ideas.

Build Inclusive Technology Sectors

Strengthen Career Pathways

Early exposure to trades and STEM can open career pathways in areas of growth. In addition, programs should be more responsive to the needs of Indigenous Peoples, women, and youth.

Build Inclusive Technology Sectors

Attract Global Talent

Businesses and academic institutions need access to global talent when skills are not available locally. Governments should simplify immigration processes, improve foreign credential recognition, and invest in settlement supports in the West.

Accelerate Innovation Adoption

Include and Empower Western Canadians

We need to reduce and eliminate barriers faced by underrepresented groups. We all need to take concrete steps to challenge the unconscious bias that leads to inequity and exclusion.

Next Steps

Date modified: