Report Highlights Challenges & Opportunities for Windsor-Essex Tech Sector
Windsor, ON (February 27, 2020) – Today, WEtech Alliance released its “Tech Connect” report, the culmination of a seven-month exploration of the tech sector in the Windsor-Essex region made possible through the generous support of the Local Employment Planning Council led by Workforce WindsorEssex. Tech Connect is an initiative to determine how best to support the tech community to engage talent and employers. The findings provide an overview of the key challenges and opportunities for this region, and include a list of recommendations.
“An exploration like this is vital to our region,” said Yvonne Pilon, President and CEO of WEtech Alliance. “We know that one of the key challenges to growing the tech community is tech talent. We’ve heard from several employers in the tech and tech-related industries who are in search of skilled and ready talent. The Tech Connect initiative was created to find the talent and employer gaps and identify how our region might close them.”
In July 2019, WEtech Alliance hired Dr. Victoria Abboud to lead the research. As the Tech Talent Strategist, Dr. Abboud brought her experience in research, education, and tech to develop a strategy that could answer the region’s questions about the tech sector.
“We need to find out how we’re positioned as a tech region and learn what challenges and opportunities we are facing here,” she said. “In order to do that, we developed a pulse check survey, conducted research about the labour market and tech sector, reconvened the Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) Roundtable, and conducted 23 interviews with local leaders in businesses, community organizations, and broader provincial groups to find out what was happening.”
After identifying one key gap almost immediately after beginning the research, WEtech Alliance created the Tech Connect landing page. “The landing page offers information about different topics in tech such as “Tech Community” and “Tech Jobs,” plus a calendar of regional tech events, local tech news and podcasts,” said John-Marc Vachon, Director of Programs and Marketing at WEtech Alliance.
The over 30-page Tech Connect report explores the key challenges identified by the tech sector and offers recommendations based on the research. Many leaders identified the need to develop the regional talent pipeline to ensure that we have skilled talent prepared at all career stages. “A quality candidate can become a quality worker [with mentorship], so we need to hire for potential and build them from the ground up,” said Doug Sartori of Parallel 42 Systems.
With initiatives like Windsor-Essex FIRST Robotics, it’s clear that there are strong examples of preparing the talent pipeline, but there is more to do, suggests Abboud. “We surveyed nearly 250 people of varying career stages and fewer than 59% could identify 3 local tech companies. That’s telling us something. There’s a gap in how we identify our region, how we tell its story, and even how we define ‘tech’ here.”
With a broad perspective on the total workforce in this region, Michelle Suchiu, Executive Director of Workforce WindsorEssex, highlighted that “We know that a healthy and growing regional workforce of tech professionals is a key piece for the present and future of our community. Tech Connect lays important groundwork for developing tech talent strategies that promote the integration of tech talent in the community and elevates existing opportunities.”
Of the recommendations, the four themes that represent the strongest regional opportunities include: (1) diversity, inclusion, and belonging; (2) collaboration among industry, education, and community; (3) employability and evolving skillsets, and (4) building broad system-wide connections. The next steps for Tech Connect include convening the ICT Roundtable to focus on a potential action plan to begin moving forward on the report recommendations and to present the report findings to local organizations and councils.