ADaPT: Digital competencies

Due to rapidly shifting digital skills needs, a disconnect exists between the skills of many post-secondary graduates and the technical skills required by employers.

Post-pandemic, digital skills will be more critical than ever before.  The pace of digitalization has accelerated across sectors and research shows that digital skills include a wide range of competencies. Finding alternative pathways for students and graduates not in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as well as ways to up-skill and re-skill existing employees, are among the greatest challenges facing Canada’s workforce.

These digital skills are sought in combination with other competencies, including innovation, entrepreneurship, an understanding of the technology adoption processes, as well as skills such as communication, creativity, and adaptability. Innovative approaches are needed to better define the digital competencies required to fill this talent gap and create new opportunities.

Skills Development Stories: ADaPT

On May 19, 2021, Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute and TECHNATION, Canada’s leading national technology industry association, announced the expansion of the Advanced Digital and Professional Training (ADaPT) skills development and work placement program, Defining Digital Competencies project. The new FSC investment of $4.2 million will enable the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University and TECHNATION to expand the Defining Digital Competencies project, to reach more job seekers and support the  building of their digital and professional development competencies and skills of job seekers, while addressing the ongoing shortage of skilled talent within the technology sector.

ADaPT explores new approaches to defining digital competencies and creates new pathway opportunities into digital roles for non-STEM graduates, internationally-educated professionals, and high-potential workers who lack traditional credentials. This project delivers unique skills training through a blended approach to foster digital and professional competencies among the participants.

The program has demonstrated its success in transitioning graduates from a variety of disciplines into digital jobs. With an average job placement of over 87 per cent over eight years, and a 94 per cent placement rate during the pandemic, the innovative ADaPT model has proven its value. The program  responds to research that identified a disconnect between supply and demand for skills, as well as  gaps in  perceived levels of competency.  

ADaPT has helped transition more than 900 post-secondary graduates into meaningful careers while providing employers, particularly in the information and communications technologies (ICT) sector, with talent to fill the acute skills demand. By combining practical digital and technical skills with professional skills and Communications and interpersonal skills, as well as career coaching and placement, the program has created opportunities for youth facing barriers – fully 75 per cent of participants are from designated and under-represented groups in the workforce (women, racialized people, persons with disabilities and Indigenous people).

The ADaPT program’s regional focus on Ontario, Alberta and Atlantic Canada will remain, but the additional investment will foster greater engagement with remote communities. It will also allow for testing of affordable and accessible delivery approaches that serve diverse Canadians, especially women, racialized minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. This next phase of the project will aim to provide meaningful, paid work placement to more than 500 trained participants. The goal is to create pathways into digital roles and the information and communication technology (ICT) sector for the participants.  

By expanding the current ADaPT model to more participants across different Canadian communities and rural areas, this project strives to enhance career pathways and address challenges faced by underrepresented groups and immigrants, including those who have experienced trauma through racism or violence. Personalized supports, including coaching and advocacy to employers, will be available to participants. Training will take place either through virtual classrooms or through self-guided work, with career counselling support available to address the needs of participants in gaining knowledge and experience. 

TECHNATION and Ryerson’s Diversity Institute will build upon established partnerships with industry and employers to support community engagement, dissemination, training, and placement of ADaPT graduates. TECHNATION’s successful Career Ready Program, containing a network of more than 1,000 companies – as well as its CareerFinder platform – will be leveraged to support program participants.

Evaluation Strategy

This project is evaluated using tools and approaches aligned with its goals, context, and stage of development. The evaluation focuses on generating the right evidence at the right moment to move the intervention forward. Read more about our evaluation strategy.

Between September 2020 and June 2021, six ADaPT cohorts were delivered in Toronto, Calgary and Halifax. Given the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ADaPT pivoted their original program plans to meet the project objectives. As FSC’s evidence generation lead, Blueprint worked with the Diversity Institute and TECHNATION to conduct an evaluation of ADaPT from September 2020 to October 2021. This report summarizes the findings from this evaluation.

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