By Jesse Thomas – Global News

Nova Scotia announces a $1.3-million investment towards a youth employment training program with a focus on information technology. Jesse Thomas / Global News

The information and technology sector is one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in Canada and in Nova Scotia it’s no different.

Companies in the province are looking for employees to continue to meet the growing demand for skilled workers, Lena Metlege Diab, the province’s minister of labour and advanced education, said on Friday.

Diab announced the government’s plan to spend $1.3 million in a partnership with NPower Canada to help Nova Scotian youth gain skills and job training to gain employment in the IT sector.

“We know young Nova Scotians and youth across the country have been greatly affected by the economic challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Diab. “That’s why connecting youth to careers in our strategic growth sectors has become an even greater priority.”

“We know young Nova Scotians and youth across the country have been greatly affected by the economic challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Diab. “That’s why connecting youth to careers in our strategic growth sectors has become an even greater priority.”

NPower Canada will deliver the job training sessions for 350 young people from ages 18 to 29, with a focus on developing skills to work in the technology sector, in areas like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and web development.

“This is an employer-driven program and the reason why this is happening is because the employers of this province have said, ‘We need this,’ and as a province, we are so happy to be able to invest in it and partner with our businesses,” said Diab. “Because we know we have the youth here and we know we have the talent here.”

NPower says the employment program will roll out over the next three years and put 50 students at a time through 15-week online skills training sessions, beginning in January 2021.

“We are thrilled to bring NPower Canada to Nova Scotia,” said Julia Blackburn, CEO of NPower Canada. “Youth unemployment and underemployment continues to be a challenge across Canada, while the rapid growth of Nova Scotia’s technology sector offers new hope and opportunity.

“We look forward to working with the province of Nova Scotia, along with local and national partners, to equip underserved youth with the in-demand skills required by today’s IT workforce — closing the tech skills gap and providing employers with the junior-level IT talent they need.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted youth and created economic challenges and limited opportunities to access good jobs, said Diad and its programs like this which will help them acquire new skills and give them opportunities for jobs that are needed now.

“We know young Nova Scotians and youth across the country have been greatly affected by the economic challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Diab. “That’s why connecting youth to careers in our strategic growth sectors has become an even greater priority.”

Graduates from the NPower program will receive a diploma with credentials that are recognized by the industry but also provide supports for finding job placements and further professional developments.

“For Canadian youth exploring job opportunities amidst COVID-19, the expansion of NPower Canada is welcome news,” said Lynn Clark with IBM. “Some of the fastest-growing fields like technology need skills that don’t always require a traditional degree.”

NPower says they will prioritize applications from youth from underrepresented communities like eligible participants from the African Nova Scotians, Indigenous communities, along with newcomers and youth living with disabilities.