As we begin 2022 and look towards Canada’s future, we must consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the Canadian workforce and how NPower Canada can continue to scale to help even more Canadians achieve success in the digital economy.
As a response to increasing demand to upskill and reskill job seekers of all ages for rewarding tech careers, NPower Canada’s Board of Directors has ratified our mission statement:
NPower Canada creates pathways to economic prosperity for Canada’s underserved youth and adults by launching them into meaningful and sustainable digital careers.
When NPower Canada was founded, the model was designed to serve 100 youth a year and provide economic opportunities for underserved Canadian youth to build a diverse workforce. We launched in Ontario in 2014 to equip youth with in-demand tech skills and launch them into sustainable digital careers. Our humble mission quickly grew in scope thanks to supportive funding and employer partners, community support, and dedicated staff. In the last seven years, we have had over 3,400 youth graduate from our programs across four provinces – Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia, and soon, Quebec!
In May 2020, Canada found itself with a record unemployment rate – 13.7%. While many jobs were re-added to the economy as restrictions were lifted, many Canadians could not return to their jobs due to increased digitization and automation, leaving individuals of all ages without the right skills to reenter the workforce. COVID-19 exacerbated employment for many barriered adults, including Indigenous peoples and recent immigrants to Canada. In 2020, the employment rate for landed immigrants was 10.4%, compared to 6.0% in 2019, according to Statistics Canada.
Almost overnight, every company became a tech company. The pandemic and business closures forced companies to pivot online to survive, which led to an increased demand for talent in the tech field. We were flooded with inquiries from adults who have been displaced from those sectors hardest-hit by the pandemic, in roles that automation has increasingly made redundant, and who are now looking to switch careers and join the growing digital economy.
Expanding outside of Ontario was a goal we set as part of our 2019-2021 strategic plan. Despite extreme economic disruption brought on by the pandemic, we were successful in launching our first programs in Alberta in May 2019, Nova Scotia in January 2021, and British Columbia in September 2021. Additionally, thanks to our successful pivot to online delivery amidst COVID-19 closures, we were able to offer our programs to job seekers outside of city centres, including remote and Indigenous communities.
In October 2020, we piloted the ReNEW Tech Reskilling Program, generously funded by Employment Ontario. The pilot was aimed at training incumbent and unemployed adults in Ontario, aged 31+, with in-demand tech skills. For the first two cohorts of our pilot, we achieved 83% certification rates. As we made adjustments based on the specific needs of adult learners, we are happy to report that 69 of the 70 adults enrolled in our third ReNEW cohort are on track to complete training and earn their certifications by the end of February 2022. 79% of participants in our third cohort identify as racialized or Indigenous, and 56% identify as Newcomers to Canada; groups hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our ability to scale our programs is made possible by our generous funders who recognize the need for both adults and youth to become well versed in tech skills which are essential to almost every role in the digital economy. We want to thank Digital Technology Supercluster, Google, Microsoft, CIBC, TD, Walmart Foundation, and the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development for their help in achieving our mission.
While addressing youth unemployment – which is double the national unemployment rate – remains a priority for NPower Canada, youth and adults of all ages who face barriers to employment now have opportunities to participate in our programs.
We will continue to prioritize individuals who face multiple barriers to employment and need us the most, and encourage youth and adults from the following groups to apply for our programs: women, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC), LGBTQ2S+Trans+ and gender diverse people, individuals with disabilities, and newcomers.