Empowering Canadians with the skills needed to get back to work

By and Claude Guay | 3 minute read | July 27, 2020

Woman with headphones on laptop taking notes

Now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal when it comes to preparing our workforce for the future. We must double down on our efforts to provide Canadians with the skills they need to get back to work and navigate a new digital economy. IBM is partnering with key stakeholders to address this urgent need, but all organizations – across all industries – must join forces to build a robust pool of Canadian talent to help our country recover from the pandemic and emerge stronger.


Before the pandemic, there was much discussion about the workforce of the future and the impending skills revolution thanks to transformative technologies like automation and artificial intelligence (AI) that will have a profound impact on all industries and professions.

Some might argue that the job uncertainty many Canadians are facing right now makes the effort towards workforce transformation ill-timed; I believe, however, that there has never been a better time to strengthen our focus. Instead of being more cautious, we should be accelerating our collective approach to education, training, re-skilling, and recruiting to empower Canadians in our recovery from COVID-19.

Statistics Canada reports that June saw nearly 2 million fewer jobs compared with earlier this year, and a staggering 27% youth unemployment rate. Moreover, as many businesses struggle to stay open, there is growing concern that some of the jobs lost may not resurface at all. While new jobs will be created, existing jobs could also change and will require new skills.

When I speak with business leaders today, it’s clear that their ability to access talent and emerging skills will be a factor in their company’s recovery and growth as their own digital transformations have accelerated during this time.

While this skills gap presents a massive challenge, it’s also an immense opportunity as we look at ways to better prepare Canadians for the new digital jobs of the future, which are essential as our country and economy begin to recover.

At IBM, we are taking several approaches in helping people to develop their skills to keep pace as the Canadian job market evolves.

IBM SkillsBuild

One such approach is being delivered using IBM’s SkillsBuild digital learning platform through a collaboration between IBM and two Canadian non-profit organizations that provide employment assistance. The first organization is ACCES Employment, a job development agency that assists job seekers from diverse backgrounds who face barriers to employment; the second is YES, which is an organization dedicated to youth employment services.

TD Bank Group is also providing additional support to ACCES through their commitment to funding programs directed at empowering women and newcomer IT professionals to find career success in Canada.

IBM’s SkillsBuild offers free, best in class content and in-depth guidance to help learners align their skills and personality with in-demand job roles, engage in online learning, receive guidance from IBM mentors, and work on real projects to create portfolios.

SkillsBuild Reignite

IBM is also extending the SkillsBuild platform – called SkillsBuild Reignite – for job seekers looking to take courses for free online and without first establishing a relationship with a not-for-profit organization, helping them to find new jobs in high growth sectors like web development, AI and cybersecurity.

Some of the greatest challenges facing businesses today need skills that don’t require a traditional degree. There is a critical need to make sure Canadians are gaining these meaningful skills that align to industry needs. Regardless of background, education or life experience, SkillsBuild can equip learners with the professional skills and mentorship they need to navigate a new digital economy.

While it is still early days since the launch of the program in Canada, nearly 760 hours and 1,800 courses have been completed, with some people having already received job offers in technology-related fields. These numbers are indicative of the possibilities SkillsRebuild can provide.

Within the complex and daunting challenges we are facing as we navigate through the pandemic, there is also tremendous opportunity. To act on and realize the potential of this opportunity, however, all organizations – across all industries – must join forces to help build a robust pool of Canadian talent. If we are able to achieve this, I believe we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.


Portrait of Claude Guay

Claude Guay

President, IBM Canada