When Communitech unveiled its Academy program back in July of 2018, it did so as a response to issues increasingly pushing to the fore around the future of work and the retraining of people, issues generated by technological change and the pace at which it was transforming the economy.
Since then, nearly 1,000 people have taken part in Academy programming, including courses, workshops, video training and bootcamps – and it all started with a $500,000 grant from the provincial government, part of a province-wide, $9-million initiative launched early in 2018 called the Skills Catalyst Fund.
On Friday, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton, stood in Area 151 at Communitech and announced that the Skills Catalyst Fund is in for a significant expansion – to the tune of $20 million – and he cited the success of Academy among the reasons for the reinvestment.
“Right here, of course, in Kitchener, Communitech launched its Academy, where it leads workers through bootcamps that [teach] the basics of digital marketing, tech sales, data science, user experience and artificial intelligence,” McNaughton said.
Ontario Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development,
Monte McNaughton. (Communitech photo: Anthony Reinhart)
“That experience was the springboard preparing them for jobs in Ontario's growing tech sector. As you can see, Skills Catalyst [Fund] recipients are providing exactly the kind of collaborative opportunities that our workplace needs.”
McNaughton said his ministry would soon launch a call for proposals and projects from organizations seeking to access the new money.
“I encourage businesses, not-for-profits and other organizations with innovative training ideas to submit their brightest, best ideas.
“We're looking for ideas that truly bridge the gap between education, training and industry needs. I look forward to supporting even more creative innovative projects like the one that we've seen here at Communitech, through our Skills Catalyst Fund.”
Communitech CEO Iain Klugman said the initial Catalyst Skills Fund grant was the spark not only for the Academy program, but additionally kickstarted funding that fuelled other local programming.
“[The Skills Catalyst Fund] was the genesis of what's called our Future of Work and Learning initiative,” he said. “And this has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in private-sector investment. Once again, it's often that first investment that is so important.
“This program was the sort of seed money that allowed us to kick off the Communitech Academy, [which] is really focusing on training people with the skills necessary for the digital economy. And that includes leadership training, that includes sales and marketing training, it can include training people on UX research methodologies, and retraining.
“And it's open enrolment to anyone across across Waterloo Region who is looking to reskill.
“So we're thrilled with this announcement.”