Digital and Data Roundtable Summary: September 13, 2018— Fredericton, NB

Hosted by Lisa Setlakwe
Area of Focus: Future of Work

Highlights of Discussion

We are currently in an age of digital acceleration where things like Big Data and AI are having great impacts on our society. In order to ensure all Canadians can benefit from these opportunities, we must look at where we as both a local community and as a country, have competitive advantages we can build on to be global leaders. This requires investing in future potential, acting boldly and making big bets to reinvent ourselves. Companies that are not able to do so may not be able to compete in this new economy.

Canadians must work together to build partnerships and scale solutions into globally competitive businesses. We must also work to provide a strong education base for young Canadians so they have the skills and real-world experience necessary to succeed in this fast paced labour market. We must also support those in the labour market who may face displacement and struggle to adapt to a new highly-skilled digital economy.

The government can play a role as a facilitator, bringing partners to the table to help solve issues and benefit from great technological advancements. However, we must act quickly as this transformation is already underway.

Key Themes


Close partnerships and the creation of mutually beneficial clusters will help facilitate connections and build competitiveness in areas where Canada already leads. Working together with government, industry, academia, etc. will help build expertise, attract investment, and involving students will help build skills.

Traditional Sectors

All industries, including natural resources, are becoming increasingly digitized and will need highly skilled workers. We must ensure these sectors, which contribute heavily to Canada’s economy, continue to innovate and work to integrate emerging technologies within traditional sectors.

Competitive Advantage

We must build off our strengths and look at areas we already have a competitive advantage. In New Brunswick, this includes cybersecurity, and natural resources. Small communities like New Brunswick are great testing beds for new technologies. Could look for opportunities to develop and prove new technologies here, then scale up for an international market. As an exporting country we must look to diversify our trade partners.

Skills Matching

Need better coordination between industry needs and skill training. Need a focus on STEM and digital skills, as well as basic digital literacy. However, with the accelerating pace of digital transformation, it can be difficult to alter educational curriculums.

Lack of Teachers

Can be difficult to attract skilled individuals to choose teaching when there are job shortages which demand a higher salary. This often results in existing teachers being taught new skills, which takes time and may not be adequate. Certain skilled instructors can also demand high salaries which not all institutions are able to afford.

Skill Retention

Skills retention can be difficult in smaller communities such as New Brunswick. Often companies must look at international talent, however, many employees are drawn to larger markets after a certain time period.  

Social Barriers

Need to improve underlying social issues as well including literacy, language barriers, and accessibility – not all students have access to devices or adequate internet connection.  


Reskilling will be necessary for certain workers which may be difficult for people with limited education or tech skills. Will be important to focus on foundational skills as well as digital and tech skills to ensure all Canadians are well placed to benefit. We must also broaden our thinking around where and how people access skills training.

Industries aren’t necessarily demanding formal university degrees which can help shorten the amount of time necessary to attain new skills. Training could be more targeted skills-based learning leading to tighter, more concise certification programs. This can be built quickly, to be more responsive. Greater flexibility around transferring credits between institutions and allowing credit for work related experience could also be beneficial.

Work Integrated Learning

Programs which give students on the job experience will help prepare them to make the switch to the workforce, and provides exposure and awareness of different types of available careers. Exposure for younger elementary aged kids through things like career fairs will also help build awareness. Finally, partnerships between industry and academia allows for greater understanding of industry needs and practical issues that can be addressed through innovation.

Big Data

Large, secure, anonymized data sets have great potential. Working to link provincial data sets could help fuel big data analytics to examine public policy and provide advice to provincial government. Can also help improve services.


Technology Based Learning
We can leverage technology to develop educational tools for both teachers and students. Integrating app-based learning in to the classroom can help build digital literacy skills, problem solving skills, and can be adjusted to each individual’s learning speed. It can also lessen the need for teachers to be experts as most allow the teacher to learn along with the students in a collaborative learning environment.
Canadian Student Skills Exchange
Similar to how the SHAD program is run for high-school students, a Nation-building program could be established for post-secondary students in order to provide learning experiences. Students could spend time at another institution in another part of the country, even crossing between University and College, to attain a new skill (ie: trade program course, living in French region). This could be coupled with work experience in other locations as well.
Personalized Learning Paths
Taking a more holistic approach to learning, students could be evaluated upon entering a post-secondary institution to determine where they are and what skills they need to accomplish as an individual. Program requirements could then be adapted and built with a more tailored plan.

Attendee List

  1. EduCode
  2. Brilliant Labs
  3. My Devices
  4. Ernst & Young
  5. CyberNB
  6. IgniteFredericton
  7. Stantec
  8. Kognitiv Spark
  9. University of New Brunswick (UNB)
  10. Professional Engineers Association
  11. Mariner Partners Inc.
  12. Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB)