Reskilling

From oil to IT, Canadian “energy city” partners to launch EDGE UP rapid reskilling program

Even before the 2008 financial crisis and the 2015 Paris Agreement, the oil and gas sector experienced volatility amidst shifting global markets. In Alberta, Canada, the northern country’s energy epicenter and home to the 3rd largest crude oil reserves globally, changing demographics and stricter regulations are forcing the 130-year-old sector to adapt and displacing a strong workforce along the way.
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Even before the 2008 financial crisis and the 2015 Paris Agreement, the oil and gas sector experienced volatility amidst shifting global markets. In Alberta, Canada, the northern country’s energy epicenter and home to the 3rd largest crude oil reserves globally, changing demographics and stricter regulations are forcing the 130-year-old sector to adapt and displacing a strong workforce along the way. 

Calgary, the province’s largest city and known nationally as Canada’s ‘energy city’, is home to the head offices of almost every major company in the energy-value chain. Mandated with positioning the city and its business community for long-term economic success while growing the workforce, Calgary Economic Development (CED) saw the structural change coming and had to take action. They needed a scalable way to re-skill displaced oil and gas workers to fill talent needs in the city’s burgeoning tech scene.

The situation

Structural change in Calgary’s energy industry is displacing mid-career oil and gas workers.

Calgary, a city historically reliant on the oil and gas industry, faced significant challenges when the sector experienced a downturn. Displaced oil and gas professionals found themselves in need of new career opportunities to support both their livelihoods and the city's economy. Transitioning into the fast-evolving digital job market was a formidable challenge for many workers, as they lacked the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue careers in the information technology (IT) sector.

“Our labour market forecasts a demand of 9,000 skilled digital workers in Alberta by 2023. The need for this talent is indicative of a burgeoning digital-based economy in the province that is poised to strengthen the industrial fabric of Alberta in the coming years,”

- Namir Anani, President & CEO of ICTC

The solution

An innovative rapid re-skilling program so displaced workers can gain employment in in-demand IT roles.

With mid-career professionals exiting the workforce at unpredictable rates, CED needed a way to ensure workers could quickly pivot outside of the industry they’d spent years in while adapting many of the skills they already possessed.

In 2019, EDGE UP (Energy to Digital Growth Education and Upskilling Project) began as a two-year pilot. 

EDGE UP was a novel program in this space, built around a consortium of partners from economic development, higher education, government service delivery, and experiential learning to rapidly re-skill displaced oil and gas workers for careers in information technology (IT). The C$1.5 million pilot, funded by the Future Skills Centre through the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program, guided participants through a 4-5 month streamed training schedule in product management, data analytics, cybersecurity, software development, IT network management, or cloud computing. During the final phase of their schedule, workers completed a capstone work-integrated learning component through the Riipen work-based learning platform.

When CED began building the consortium and needed both a technology platform and an experiential learning program delivery partner that could scale alongside the program, Riipen was an ideal fit. Riipen’s technology platform was already in use at higher education institutions across Alberta, including the consortium members, helping educators source experiential learning projects for their courses. After EDGE UP administrators realized they could source the capstone WIL projects, vet employer partners, and monitor placement progress all from within one platform, they saw a clear pathway to scaling the program beyond its pilot. Plus, Riipen’s professional services team helped administrators become platform experts, while seamlessly onboarding program participants. A true plug-and-play partnership.

“Calgarians are problem solvers and there is strong demand among workers for upskilling and reskilling programs for the many good jobs in tech in our city. Calgary has a highly skilled talent that is able to pivot to new career opportunities with the training from our post-secondaries and private sector partners for skills that companies need.”

- Mary Moran, President and Chief Executive Officer, Calgary Economic Development

Partnership outcomes

Since launching in 2019, EDGE UP has garnered over C$5.5 million in funding and trained 320 workers for in-demand IT roles, while proving that economic development, higher education, governments, and technology providers can innovate together to solve generational problems. 

Future Skills Centre’s evaluation partner, Blueprint, found that EDGE UP successfully reached its target population, with 94% of participants completing the required programming.

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