Posted by Ashleigh Ryan |

Toronto's Got Talent...and Lots of It!

The Toronto Region’s tech boom is showing no signs of slowing down. In the last five years, Toronto added over 80,000 tech jobs – more than any other North American city. This past September alone brought over $1.4 billion in investment from U.S. and Canadian technology companies, including a new Canadian headquarters for Microsoft; a $200 million expansion to Uber’s Advanced Technologies group; and a new Toronto office for Shopify. Since then, Intel, Pinterest, Instacart, WeWork Labs, and Accenture have all announced a Toronto expansion.

The region’s exceptional talent pool is a big driver of this success. With over 670,000 STEM degree holders and one of the most educated populations in the world, our region is full of incredibly bright people with a diverse range of skillsets and knowledge. The question is, do we have enough of them?

Cities and academic institutions all over the world are realizing the need for a strong talent pipeline to supply local tech companies, particularly in burgeoning new fields like artificial intelligence. MIT, for example, recently announced a $1 billion plan to create a new college for AI in response to the sharply increasing demand for skills in areas such as machine learning and computer vision. China has pledged to create a similar school for machine learning, with the help of Google exec Kai-Fu Lee, in its mission to become the world’s leader in AI by 2030.

The thing is, we did it first.

Canada has a long history of supporting research in artificial intelligence. The Toronto-based Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) first introduced the “Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Society” program in 1983. Today, CIFAR is leading the Government of Canada’s $125 million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy – the world’s first national AI strategy focused on supporting research and developing talent. Toronto’s Vector Institute is headed by none other than Google’s Geoffrey Hinton, one of the earliest proponents of deep learning application.

Building on this momentum, the Vector Institute is working with postsecondary institutions across the province to increase the number of applied AI grads to 1,000 per year by 2023. The Ontario government has also committed to increasing the number of graduates in STEM disciplines from 40,000 to 50,000 over the same period.

The Toronto Region is also benefitting from an enormous brain gain in recent years. In 2017, 94,465 immigrants settled here – a rise from 90,675 in 2016 and 88,905 in 2015.  More than half (53.5%) of those who immigrated to the Toronto Region between 2011 and 2016 have a university degree or diploma at bachelor level or above and 10% are STEM professionals. Adding them all up, our region’s tech workforce is growing by tens of thousands each year – regardless of how many companies come.

But some in the industry fear we’re still not doing enough – that there aren’t enough graduates and new immigrants waiting in the wings to sustain all this growth.

To this we say, Toronto is changing – for the better.

The Toronto Region has one of the most diverse industrial economies in North America. Nowhere else do you find a top 5 tech, automotive, food and beverage, digital media, and life sciences sector. That gives us a unique advantage, as it allows businesses to tap into supply chains and expertise that exist outside their immediate cluster. Tech companies can draw people from a wide array of technology-focused industries to be found here, from broadcasting and publishing, to finance and insurance. This gives us stability as a region, while providing tremendous opportunity for workers and businesses. In fact, one of Toronto’s strongest growth areas is in fintech, building on our high concentration of leading international banks as well as STEM talent. Many coding bootcamps have cropped up in Toronto to help workers transition to the industry, from HackerYou and Product School to the innovative Insight Data Science Fellows Program.

Our competitive wages in tech are also a great advantage for businesses, but they’re bound to change as demand for our talent increases. As wages go up – and in Toronto, they have a lot of room to grow relative to other tech hubs – more workers and students will be motivated to enter the industry, further adding to our talent pipeline.

The Toronto Region is one of the largest and fastest growing metropolitan regions in North America. By 2036, the region is projected to grow from 7.7 million to more than 10 million people. We have the people, the stellar academic institutions, and the public commitment to build a world-class technology workforce. The question is not whether we have enough talent, but what can we expect from it. At least for now, the future is bright.  
 
 

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Ashleigh Ryan

Ashleigh RyanResearch & Insights Analyst

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