Invest Ottawa’s Knowledge-Based Industry Talent Strategy

Sep 19, 2019
3 mins | 675 words
By: Natalie MacArthur

Natalie MacArthur

Over the past fifty years, Canada’s average annual gross domestic product has been 3.1%, with a per capita average of 1.9%. This rate was driven primarily by employment growth. However, as Canada’s workforce ages and population growth slows, employment growth becomes increasingly constrained. Without significant change to counteract demographic trends, the number of working-age people versus seniors will reduce significantly. Estimates confirm that from 2015 to 2030, the ratio will drop from 4.2 to 2.7[1]. This reduction threatens Canadians social safety net as the economy stands to face a significant fiscal strain. This reality is compounded by the fact that knowledge-based industries (KBIs) in Canada have been growing at unprecedented rates.

According to the Information and Communication Technology Council, as of 2016, there were 1,220,000 KBI professionals employed in Canada, and that number is rising. Ontario alone will see 88,000 additional technology sector jobs by the end of 2021. The availability of homegrown talent will not suffice, and to address this issue, Invest Ottawa took action to deliver a Talent Attraction Program.

In January 2019, I joined Invest Ottawa as Director of Talent Attraction and was charged with building an inaugural program that serves as a team extension for the human resource needs of the fast-growing startups and scale-ups in Canada’s Capital. Leveraging critical support from the City of Ottawa and FedDev Ontario, and building directly on Invest Ottawa’s five-year strategic plan, annual operating plan, and diversity, inclusion and belonging objectives, our Talent Pilot Program needed to include multi-year local and international recruitment facets.

Our journey began by conducting a discovery process with 20 stakeholder groups, including post-secondary institutions, KBI organizations, private sector firms, and the City of Ottawa. We then built a meaningful multi-year roadmap designed to help Ottawa firms attract, develop and retain the talent required to compete in the global market.

The Talent Attraction Program implementation phase began with the hiring of two Talent Sourcers in April. Our service delivery is a blend of recruitment and marketing best practices with a bespoke technology stack that provides firms with data points that expedite the qualified candidate selection process. It includes disruptive artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to provide candidate and real-time market data reporting that uncovers trends directly impacting hiring strategies. The team also utilizes an applicant tracking system, interactive software developer assignments and candidate behavioural reports which measure aptitude, motivations and personality.

We officially launched the pilot program (publicly) in July, and now have 30 client companies registered. The great on-the-ground work and deployment of national and global sourcing techniques have led the Talent team to build relationships with over 400 candidates and facilitated many introductions and connections with these firms, leading to 30 quality interview rounds. To further augment our talent management strategies, we have also updated our Work in Ottawa webpage and our team has and will continue to attend, host and sponsor a variety of events. Meet us next at:

  • Elevate (Toronto) – Tech Week Uniting the World’s Innovators – on Sept. 24 and 25: Provincial, national and global tech talent sourcing opportunity.
  • Startup Open House (Ottawa) on November 13, 2019: Helping to promote client firms, and facilitate access to new graduate talent from local post-secondary institutions.
  • HackerX events (Ottawa): Raising the visibility of Ottawa as a top global tech hub; helping to promote client firms, and facilitate access to talent.
  • Destination Canada Mobility Forum in (Paris & Brussels) November 2019: Sourcing international talent who could leverage the five-year Visa available; and Canadian Expats

Thank you to the City of Ottawa and FedDev for the continued support of our innovation, entrepreneurship and business community. This Talent Program will support the Nation’s Capital knowledge-based industry with growth and send a signal to others on the global stage in terms of our talent depth and capacity. We look forward to continuing to contribute to the creation of world-class career options for future generations, right here in Ottawa – the best place to work, live, learn and play.

[1] “Attracting the talent Canada needs though immigration”, Advisory Council on Economic Growth, October 20, 2016.

Natalie MacArthur is the Director of Talent Attraction at Invest Ottawa. She has led the development of Invest Ottawa’s Talent (Pilot) Program, which aims to help growing Ottawa firms to attract, develop and retain the top tech and business talent required to thrive, compete and succeed in the global market. As lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in Canada’s Capital, Invest Ottawa is committed to addressing Ottawa’s talent shortage, and helping companies address key talent challenges, accelerate business growth, and create new jobs that fuel our economy.

Leveraging technology, know-how and capabilities in talent management strategy, sourcing and employer branding, the IO Talent Program equips Ottawa’s fast-growing startups, scale-ups and SMEs with a talent advantage by providing coaching and mentorship; access to global tech expertise; and talent solutions and support for every stage of growth. Integrated within its broader suite of venture development and global expansion programs and services for companies, the IO Talent Program leverages Invest Ottawa’s Work in Ottawa and Why Ottawa campaigns to help drive the attraction and retention of top talent, and showcase why Ottawa is the best place to learn, work, live, and play. To learn more, visit

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