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Building a sustainable pipeline of IT talent for the Canadian government

By Jamie O’Hare 
Published: November 15, 2022
READ TIME: 4 minutes
As Canada grapples with declining unemployment and increased job vacancy rates, both private and public sector are forced to rethink their talent strategy to fill the growing demand for resources.

Cross-industry labour shortages, coupled with the rise of remote and hybrid working models and the expansion of corporate internet networks, has particularly affected talent availability within the IT industry. Yet, the existing supply of these resources struggles to keep up with demand. Businesses are faced with an urgent need to upskill talent to prepare them for a workforce of the future — and fast. Not just to meet increasing needs for skilled IT talent to drive digitalization and innovation, but to address the risks that come with it.

It’s no surprise that demand for IT resources has skyrocketed as 41% of Canadian business leaders said they’re more concerned than ever about managing IT and cyber threats. With no sector immune to cybersecurity threats, organizations are being challenged to think about their approach to talent differently, to scale teams as quickly and effectively as possible.

At EY, we look to tackle these tough problems by asking Better Questions. And this is exactly what we did. After being approached by the Government of Canada, our Government and Public Sector teams identified an opportunity to bridge the gap between IT resource supply and demand to help organizations think outside the box by leveraging members of the broader community to build a sustainable cybersecurity workforce. Here’s what we did.

Bridging the gap for IT resource demand

Thousands of IT positions remained vacant at the Government of Canada due to high demand and a lack of qualified professionals. This left many government departments struggling to implement new IT mandates while working to maintain existing operations. Though recruitment efforts and training programs were well underway, they weren’t moving fast enough.

We needed to build a workforce. Enter, the Cyber Workforce Enablement Program (CWEP), an EY held Government of Canada (GoC) Supply Arrangement that places upskilled military veterans in vacant IT positions throughout various departments.

Since 2020, EY Canada has been collaborating with WithYouWithMe to address the IT talent gap by upskilling Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) veterans and their spouses for positions within the Government of Canada (GoC). The WYWM platform upskills veterans and their spouses for free in technology-based roles based on aptitude testing and intense hands-on training. Then, through the CWEP, EY works with GoC departments to identify requirements of IT roles, placing program graduates with the right complementary skills.

CAF veterans are some of our country’s most highly trained personnel, yet they face disproportionately high under- and unemployment rates following their military service. Luckily, they possess many inherent soft skills and aptitude that can be beneficial for the labour market. They have been training to do extraordinary things their entire career — IT is simply their next mission.

What’s more, these individuals have typically held a security clearance during their military career, meaning they qualify for clearance, which EY assists with re-obtaining for GoC postings. By matching high-potential and upskilled candidates with crucial public service roles, the CWEP is both addressing the labour shortage while helping find meaningful employment for veterans and infusing new IT talent for Canadian organizations.

Embarking on the next mission with the right tools

Along with WYWM, EY Canada’s CWEP program is currently upskilling thousands of veterans and their spouses for free, empowering them to confidently step into one of 57 IT domains across the Government of Canada including:

  • Cyber
  • RPA
  • AI
  • Cloud
  • Process Automation
  • Data Analyst
  • Developers
  • Administrators
  • Threat Hunters
  • Technical Writers
  • Project Coordinators

But before candidates are matched to their respective roles, they undergo vigorous testing following a similar methodology used by the military for new recruits. This includes:

  • Over 300 hours of specialized training tailored to each individual based on aptitude testing, personality testing, psychometric testing and learning style assessments.
  • Following the initial 300 hours of hands-on training and certification the resource is deployable, however, they continue to receive additional upskilling and support to meet the specific needs of the Canadian Government departments they’ll serve.
  • EY manages security clearance requirements for each veteran participating in the CWEP program.
  • Since the CWEP contract has already been competed and awarded, SSC partner departments can submit a Task Authorization via P2P to connect CWEP-trained veterans to their IT teams, creating a sustainable pipeline of IT talent for Canada.
  • Departments have the option and are encouraged to hire the veteran resource full time following the initial contract period at no additional cost. As of today, 24 CAF Veterans are full time civil servants thanks to the program.

Every CWEP candidate is a highly skilled IT professional, ready to help each department accomplish its IT objectives and manage its existing environment. Best of all, on completion of the initial contract, the department has the option to hire the veteran as a full-time employee at no additional cost — helping to solve their IT staffing challenges.

At EY, we believe that the strength of an organization comes from the variability and diversity of its workforce to bring new ideas and perspectives to the table. CWEP builds a workforce that didn’t exist before — furthering the Canadian Government’s IT mission while providing meaningful, inclusive and long-term employment for CAF veterans and their partners.

Learn more about EY Canada’s
Cyber Workforce Enablement Program.

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