5 mins | 750 words
By: Randy Gaudreau
There’s no doubt that in a dynamic industry like tech, having leading-edge knowledge and skills in your toolkit helps to open doors.
But for many, getting the skills and credentials needed to enter the ever-evolving tech world or to keep up with the competition takes time and resources they simply don’t have.
“Ottawa has a significant gap for tech talent,” said Natalie MacArthur, Director of Talent Strategy for Invest Ottawa.
“We saw the opportunity to build a program that would address two challenges at once. By helping those looking to enter tech get access to skills development resources and career opportunities, we’re helping to build Ottawa’s tech talent capacity.”
The Xtreme Talent Accelerator Program (XTAP) was designed to begin to tear down barriers keeping anyone from building or strengthening a career in tech. With workshops and career services being offered cost-free, it provided participants with the skills and credentials they needed to earn their way in and build a thriving career in the tech world.
“There are many barriers to entering the tech workforce”, said Rita Alma, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategist at Invest Ottawa. “And the challenge is further magnified for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and people who are underrepresented in the tech industry, such as racialized and Indigenous people, women, 2SLGBTQ+ folks and people with disabilities.”
Costs are unaffordable
“The idea of adding another ten thousand dollars to an already terrifying amount of student debt was terrifying. XTAP is like a dream come true and an answer to all my problems.”
The costs associated with acquiring new skills alone can be overwhelming. And for many, the thought of taking new loans to get the required education to enter the tech workforce just isn’t a reality.
XTAP participant and elementary teacher Stewart Anoya grew up in a socially and economically marginalized neighbourhood in Toronto. For him, the free workshops and career support available through XTAP was the opportunity he needed to justify the jump into tech he always wanted to make.
“I’m an elementary teacher who is incredibly passionate about my job and has always loved tech,” he wrote. “I was constantly looking for ways to incorporate the two, however, the financial instability and inconsistency of work have been huge barriers in my teaching career.
“The idea of adding another ten thousand dollars to an already terrifying amount of student debt was terrifying,” he added. “XTAP is like a dream come true and an answer to all my problems. The combination of tech learnings and career advice will surely aid me in pivoting my career and entering the tech field.”
Non-Canadian experience and credentials aren’t recognized
For others who immigrated to Canada like Shivanand Solomon, the barriers to finding work in the industry lie mostly in having their skills recognized by Canadian employers. As a tech worker who came to Canada with an existing education, XTAP helped him prove to employers that he has the skills needed to join the Canadian workforce.
“I find that the education I had prior to entering Canada doesn’t count for much in the eyes of Canadian employers,” he said. “Only having survival jobs since immigrating to Canada hasn’t really helped in proving to employers that I have the right combination of skills and experience.
“XTAP carries merit and will give my skillset and resume the validation I think it needs,” he said.
A difficult space to navigate
“I was told that engineering is for boys. It wasn’t until last year that I believed there was a space for me in tech.”
For women looking to join the tech workforce, negative stereotypes commonly prevent them from thinking a career in tech is a possible reality.
An XTAP participant who wanted to remain anonymous in sharing their testimonial wrote that XTAP provided her with a realistic pathway into the tech world, and a solid alternative to taking a do-it-yourself, self-taught approach to learning tech skills.
“[Learning] a new subject on my own is quite challenging – especially with no guidance, no road map or outline,” she wrote. “XTAP would be a great solution to this problem. Its structured curriculum would help challenge and motivate me.”
“Personally, as a woman in tech,” she added, “I don’t have any females in my immediate network that I can reach out to. It’s a difficult space to navigate without guidance, but that’s also been a great motivator for me in succeeding with this career pivot.”
“When I wanted to apply for engineering, I was told that it’s for boys,” she continued. “It wasn’t until last year that I believed there was a space for me in tech. I’m very eager to join XTAP and learn from knowledgeable professionals.”
The Xtreme Talent Accelerator Program (XTAP) helps reskill and upskill Ontario’s workforce and prepares them to seize opportunities in the tech world through fully-funded industry-led workshops and career development support.
If you’re looking to take advantage of XTAP’s free workshops and career support, there are still workshops you can apply to. To stay informed about all available XTAP workshops keep an eye on: investottawa.ca/xtreme-talent-accelerator/