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Vancouver Sun: We don’t know what skills Canada will need in the future — and that’s the point

08/20/2018

At Hydrogen in Motion, we partner with Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that supports internships for students from any discipline. Our internships allow us to support our innovation needs and access highly skilled, motivated workers — through post-secondary institutions here in B.C.

A recent discussion paper from the Government of Canada calls for input into the changing nature of work and how we can ensure that Canada can compete in a fast-moving digital economy. The “era of disruption” is rewriting roles and remaking workplaces.

Evaluating the skills needed for a modern economy is prudent. Yet it’s also difficult. We know that organizations of all types will need workers with the digital skills to navigate the new world. But they will also need strong “soft” or human skills.

As a 2016 survey by the Business Council of Canada revealed, among the 90 major Canadian companies surveyed, the top three most important competencies for mid-level hires were non-technical: leadership, people/relationship, and collaboration/teamwork. One of the biggest challenges for companies right now is finding the right combination of attributes in an employee, and that problem will only become greater in the future.

As successful companies know, innovation requires flexibility and, to some extent, an embrace of the unknown. We can establish a roadmap for the next few years. But what any industry will look like in 10 or 20 years is difficult to predict. A recent RBC report claims that in the next decade 25 percent of jobs will be disrupted due to technology and half of Canadian jobs will require a significant adjustment in the skills required.

In such an uncertain state, admitting that we simply don’t know what exact skills we’ll need in the future may be the most important step. In a technology company like Hydrogen in Motion, we know that one thing we’ll need is a high degree of adaptability: the ability to navigate new territory and grow accordingly. To support this type of workforce, we need to focus as much on how emerging workers develop as what they’re taught. We need development strategies that are broad and flexible enough to meet the needs of an unknown future.

For example, co-ops, internships, or field experience — broadly known as work-integrated learning — are increasingly important to the digital economy and to any company looking to innovate. A company like ours can support business priorities while developing students as potential employees.

At Hydrogen in Motion, we partner with Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that supports internships for students from any discipline. Our internships allow us to support our innovation needs and access highly skilled, motivated workers — through post-secondary institutions here in B.C.

This work-integrated learning model provides a bridge to early-stage research and lets companies of any size find new graduates who provide the edge they need to do innovative work. Moreover, post-secondary institutions generally offer a global pool of candidates, with local and international students already on the employer’s doorstep. Such opportunities are extremely valuable for companies working in a global market.

For interns, work experience helps them develop the skills they need on the job. They learn how to collaborate in a corporate setting. They learn about the business, from its strategic goals to its company culture. They learn how to adapt their technical skills to the problem at hand, which may be quite different from their experience in a classroom. They learn how to use the digital and research tools of the workplace, many of which are entirely new to the interns. And, they adapt to working in diverse, multidisciplinary, and multicultural environments.

Work-integrated learning supports a transition into the workforce that’s essential for a generation that will need flexibility and quick thinking to adapt in the future. It also helps students build their professional networks and improve their long-term employability.

As the name implies, the value of “work-integrated learning” is in both the “work” and the “learning.” The best internships are those that leverage and extend the technical skills of the intern to not only help businesses address their challenges and develop new technologies, processes and services, but also develop new skills they can only acquire on the job.

To succeed in a digital future, Canadian companies do not need young workers to arrive fully formed. What we need are flexible workers whose combination of hard and soft skills provide the foundation they will need to keep pace with the challenges they face.

Grace Quan is the CEO of Hydrogen in Motion and is leading the next generation in portable energy storage.

 

 


Media Contacts

Heather Young
Director, Communications
604-818-0020 | hyoung@mitacs.ca

Mitacs

ErinRose Handy
Manager, Communications
604-754-1440 | ehandy@mitacs.ca

Mitacs

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