Funding to boost tech skills of 5,000 job-seekers in Canada

By Jim Wilson, August 23, 2023

Google recently committed a $2.5-million grant to NPower Canada to upskill 5,000 underserved job-seekers with technical and employability skills.

The grant will enable NPower Canada to integrate and deliver Google Career Certificates as a core component of its virtually delivered workforce development programs, and help job-seekers prepare for employment.

The non-profit works with employers to identify the skills and certificates that they need.

“We don’t start our workforce development with the jobseeker; we actually start it with the employer so that we understand their market needs, what are those jobs that need to be filled, what are the skills that are required,” said Julia Blackburn, NPower Canada CEO, in talking with HRD Canada.

Core scholarship-based program

Over the past three years, job seekers have been enrolling in one of NPower Canada’s core scholarship-based programs which integrate the Google IT Support Professional Certificate and the Google UX Design Certificate into its offerings, as well as NPower’s advanced alumni offerings, which leverage Google’s IT Automation with Python, Project Management, and Data Analytics certifications.

“Since 2020, has committed $4.5 million dollars to NPower Canada, supporting over 4,000 job seekers from underserved communities, and we look forward to expanding on this support today” said Sabrina Geremia, VP & country managing director, Google Canada.

“NPower Canada has a proven track record of providing Canadians with the skills needed to match the demands of today’s tech workforce, along with wraparound support like resume building and interview preparation to ensure students are successfully landing jobs.”

Workers are far more concerned about improving and expanding their skills today compared to last year, based on findings of a previous survey. The time that learners spent upskilling was up 37% year-over-year, according to a report from learning platform Skillsoft.

Supplying non-traditional candidates to employers

NPower acts as a bridge between candidates and employers who are looking for specific skills in job-seekers. And the company gives minority groups a chance to engage in meaningful employment.

“We are working with, often, non-traditional candidates for employers, because we are working with people who, for example, may be a newcomer… Newcomers often are struggling to find meaningful employment because the employers aren’t so quick to recognize, perhaps, their international training or international education,” said Blackburn.

“We’re able to bridge that supply of people who do have great skills, and those employers that are looking, and may or may not have as quick access to [candidates] as with other more traditional candidates.”

Employers also gain some added value because of NPower Canada’s work.

“We bring a lot of diversity through our candidates to the employers, which is something that they’re definitely looking [for],” she said. “And it’s a very effective model, because over 80% of the graduates of our program are employed in junior-level roles within six months.”

Recently, HRD announced the Most Diverse and Inclusive Companies in Canada – a list of the crème de la crème of equality-driven organizations.

Helping employers find talent they need

Blackburn hopes that Google’s recent investment in NPower Canada’s program will inspire employers to look for talent far beyond their traditional pipelines.

“We are a bit of a non-traditional pipeline, but we provide incredible talent,” she said. “My hope is that this continues to spread the word about organizations like ours and others that can provide those meaningful pipelines of talent [to employers].”

There have been several initiatives to prepare workers of different backgrounds for a meaningful life in employment.

Ontario, for example, previously announced that starting with students entering Grade 9 in September 2024, all students will be required to earn a Grade 9 or 10 Technological Education credit as part of their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The province also invested $6.5 million to support five innovative projects to help more than 3,770 people with disabilities find jobs with businesses in their communities.

And some employers are actually tapping into these pipelines. Employers have hired at least 100 job-seekers from NPower Canada’s program, said Blackburn.

Amazon also tries to attract workers from the deaf, deafened, oral deaf and hard of hearing communities, and the non-deaf communities.