B.C. invests $15 million for more diversity in tech sector

THE B.C. government is investing $15 million in the Innovator Skills Initiative (ISI) to prioritize under-represented people in the technology sector.

The ISI, through the StrongerBC Future Leaders program, offers $5,000 for up to 3,000 paid placements at businesses in B.C. that are hiring for tech or tech-related roles. The funding supplements the salary of a new employee.

Brenda Bailey, Parliamentary Secretary for Technology and Innovation, is leading stakeholder engagement with people and organizations from under-represented communities to hear how the B.C. government can prioritize inclusion through the ISI program to help people get their first job in the tech sector.

“Too many well-deserving women, gender-diverse people, Indigenous, Black and people of colour, and other marginalized communities have struggled to enter the growing technology sector and this needs to change,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “This work being done by Parliamentary Secretary Bailey will help create a more diverse tech sector and provide people with a solid future, with good jobs and opportunities for advancement. By filling talent shortages, B.C. businesses have the opportunity to expand and grow.”

Bailey co-founded Canada’s first women-owned and operated video game studio in 2011. As part of her mandate, Bailey is committed to ensuring placements for under-represented people are available in the tech sector by increasing the number of ISI grants, and that B.C.-based tech companies can hire and grow.

The engagement sessions will include women and gender-diverse people, Indigenous, Black and people of colour (IBPOC), and people with disabilities, among others. Meetings will take place with various groups, such as Inclusion BC, Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society, Black Business Association of BC, Ethos Lab, MOSAIC, Traction on Demand, First Nations Technology Council, and Jelly Digital Marketing and other identified groups. Consultations started in May and will run until end of June 2021.

“We want to ensure under-represented people have access to the career opportunities that they deserve,” Bailey said. “The B.C. government is proud to provide grants that will help fund up to 3,000 paid positions for people who have historically been under-represented in the tech sector. Filling these jobs will make a positive difference to the B.C. economy, particularly for communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

The ISI is administered by Innovate BC, a Crown agency that connects innovators in every industry and region with funding, resources and the support they need to build and grow companies.

“B.C. companies need tech talent to succeed in today’s economy,” said Andrew Petter, chair of Innovate BC. “By assisting under-represented people to secure tech jobs, the ISI program creates a double benefit – it opens doors of opportunity for workers while helping B.C. businesses to grow and thrive.”

Feedback collected through the engagement process will be used to shape the ISI program to ensure it prioritizes inclusion and will be more accessible to under-represented people. Consideration is also being given to how to make the program simpler for businesses to use through modifications like streamlining administrative requirements and accessing talent and funding more quickly.

Applications are expected to open in summer 2021 for placements to the program in fall 2021.

“I believe the power of this program is that of opportunity. Creating tech job opportunities for women and non-binary people, Indigenous and Black people, people of colour and others is a brilliant way to support those hardest hit during the pandemic,” said Jackee Kasandy, co-founder of Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society. “Getting a meaningful job that matches a person’s training or education can make all the difference to their well-being.”

The Innovator Skills Initiative program is part of B.C.’s StrongerBC Future Leaders program that will invest close to $45 million to provide skills training and employment opportunities for more than 5,000 young people across British Columbia.

Quick Facts

* The new $15-million investment brings the total Innovator Skills Initiative investment to nearly $21 million since it launched in 2015.

* Over 1,250 people have accessed the Innovator Skills Initiative program since 2015.

Learn More:

To learn more about Innovate BC, visit: https://innovatebc.ca/

To learn more about the StrongerBC Future Leaders program, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/economic-recovery/youth