Saskatchewan Polytechnic drives digital skills with rapid and agile delivery

By Dr. Larry Rosia, president and CEO

The adage that the only certainties in life are death and taxes is only partially true.

Today, let’s add another other certainty: The future of work is digital.

In every sector, from the C-suite to the shop floor, a digital component now exists. And while the COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted how and where work is done, it is clear the pandemic accelerated a digital shift that was already well underway before many of us had heard of the novel coronavirus.

A new study using Microsoft data shows that two years’ worth of transformation occurred in just two months, with the further consequence that the pandemic has exacerbated gaps in digital skills across a range of sectors.

“Just as all office workers now communicate and document work with computers and software, nearly all future jobs will have digital elements,” said the study authors, echoing findings from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Labour Organization and many other global analysts on skills and jobs.

Since all jobs now have digital elements, it is imperative that workers have the digital skills to work at those jobs.

This is the gap that institutions like Saskatchewan Polytechnic are purpose-built to solve. Digital skills have become increasingly more important because this is what our industry and government stakeholders tell us they need.

For example, the Government of Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan calls for tripling the growth of Saskatchewan’s tech sector as it aims to promote the creation of 100,000 new jobs by 2030.

One sector where job growth is likely is agriculture and food production. Attracting ag tech companies to the province to develop emerging technologies to support and grow the sector is one way to create jobs.

Last year Economic Development Regina (EDR), Cultivator powered by Conexus, and a venture capital fund called Emmertech launched the AgTech Accelerator. Its goal is to elevate Saskatchewan’s and Regina’s roles as leaders in ag innovation.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic joined the group as a post-secondary partner. Our Digital Integration Centre of Excellence (DICE), which assists businesses and entrepreneurs in commercializing new products and services using digital technology, is a great resource to ag tech start-ups. Just as important, the collaboration is expected to open opportunities for students to gain the digital skills they will need to work in the emerging (and potentially lucrative) field of ag tech.

While you might be thinking, this is great for full-time students and new entrants to the job market, but what about learners already deep into their careers and already part of the workforce?

This is where reskilling and upskilling with Surge micro-credentials, a new program offered by Saskatchewan Polytechnic, come in.

The advantages of micro-credentials are that they are inexpensive and can be completed quickly. Many Surge training opportunities cost $200 or less. Typically, micro-credentials can be completed in less than 15 hours.

Best of all, because they are developed in consultation with industry, Surge micro-credentials are relevant to today’s work world. It is not surprising the offerings have a digital focus.

Examples include digital communications, where the user learns the basics of managing his or her calendar, how to leverage Microsoft Teams as an effective tool, “netiquette” (online etiquette) and the “how-tos” of digital citizenship.

Another offering introduces the user to artificial intelligence and machine learning using Python, which is a program used by businesses worldwide to harvest insights from data to help users make informed decisions.

With Surge micro-credentials, users can pick up marketable skills in a fraction of the time it takes to complete a certificate or a degree. At the same time, employers can be assured their workers have the digital skills to keep their companies competitive.

While there can be no argument that the COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive, it has not stopped the momentum of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Jobs are changing. The future of work is digital.

Are we prepared?

Published February 2022