Ken McKinnon


Demand for IT professionals expected to soar in businesses across Canada

Recent research is forecasting a massive demand for a technically-skilled workforce by 2021, and Bow Valley College is launching the new Information Technology Systems Diploma this fall to meet that business demand.

With ever-present smartphones and requests to Alexa across the country, it’s no question that technology affects the way people move through their every-day lives. But it’s also making an impact on how our businesses operate, increasing the need for reliable automation and security, mobile workforces and information technology (IT) support.

A recent report by ICTC indicates Canada will see a demand for approximately 216,000 digitally-skilled workers by 2021, and the country doesn’t currently have a supply of skilled workers to fill that need. 

To help fill the skills gap, Bow Valley College is launching a new Information Technology Systems (ITS) Diploma beginning this fall. The program will provide graduates with the practical skills required to enter into the IT sector and prepare them for the completion of industry-recognized certificates.

To design the program, Bow Valley College consulted with businesses across Alberta to discover what businesses need in the next generation of IT professionals. 

Additionally, the college partnered with the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and Calgary Economic Development to research the future of IT in the country. 

Ken McKinnon is the first instructor hired for the new ITS program at Bow Valley College, and began work preparing the new classes this April. 

With 30 years of experience in IT in Calgary, both as a consultant and a hiring manager, McKinnon said Calgary will see a greater demand for IT professionals in the coming years, and the first group of graduates from this program will quickly become the beneficiaries of the growing need.

“Two years from now, when the economy picks up, there will be lots of opportunities out there,” he said. “There are going to be people that will need to be trained and ready to go at that time, so we need to start now. If people are wanting to get into IT, now is the time to do it.” 

With a love of pinball machines that turned into a love of technology, McKinnon started his career in the 1980s and has seen first-hand how fast the IT industry has evolved. He’s worked with an array of clients, including oil and gas companies and post-secondary institutions, and said that IT is important to every business today. 

“In the 90s and early 2000s, Alberta was very unique because of the focus on oil and gas engineering programs and geology programs,” he said. “That was unique to our geography, but I think that today we’re much more diverse. There’s a mind-boggling amount of software needs and purposes out there for (IT professionals).”

Canada’s Information and Communications Technology sector grew by 2.5 per cent from 2016 to 2017 alone, according to another recent ICTC study. This growth is more than double that of the entire economy during that same time period. 

With 12 years as the manager of human structure and operations in IT at the Alberta University of the Arts (formerly Alberta College of Art and Design), McKinnon opted to join Bow Valley College as an instructor because he recognized the need for more skilled junior IT professionals in the market.
As a hiring manager, he knows what businesses look for in graduates, and he plans to prepare them for the growing market.

“There aren’t many post-secondary institutions in Canada offering a two-year program in general IT skills like this one is,” said McKinnon. “Bow Valley College will address programming, hardware, operating systems and networking which is a nice, broad spectrum. I know from experience these are a void that needs to be filled. We’re going to future-proof these students, because there is a foundation of learning and adapting to change.” 

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