Providing an EDGE UP to careers in tech
Calgarians are renowned for their ability to adapt to challenges in an ever-changing world. When oil prices plunged in 2016 and the energy sector restructured, Diana Wong Doolan was among many in Calgary’s highly educated workforce suddenly out of work and looking at new career options.
To enable more people to secure jobs inthe digital economy, one program from Calgary Economic Development gives displaced energy professionals like Diana an edge up in the transition to in-demand jobs. The Energy to Digital Growth Education and Upskilling Project (EDGE UP) provides retraining for displaced professionals specifically for jobs in Calgary’s growing digital economy. The program aims to retain local talent in all stages of their career and help them continue to make valuable contributions to Calgary’s economic recovery, vital for long-term prosperity.
“I looked at the [EDGE UP] program and it seemed like a goo d fit to emphasize my transferable skills,” says Diana, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, a Master of Engineering from the University of Calgary, and worked in the energy sector for over a decade. “I was looking for an opportunity to expand my skills and be able to rebrand and market myself as being capable of being able to land a role in tech.”
EDGE UP launched in 2019 with support from Future Skills Canada, Information and Communication Technology Council Canada, local post-secondary institutions, and employers. It is a model for cities in Canada to test new approaches to skills development and is one of several micro-credentialling programs that have emerged in Calgary in recent years including Lighthouse Labs and NPower Canada.
The EDGE UP pilot program worked with 98 displaced mid-career professionals to help fill some of the thousands of tech jobs being created in all sectors of Calgary’s economy. EDGE UP 2.0 recently launched with 320 training places and more training streams.
Employers in Calgary have an unrelenting need for tech talent and prefer to hire locals, creating a demand for short-term skills development programs. Diana is one example of many Calgarians who have transitioned to a new career in tech. Through the program, Diana is now a graduate of EDGE UP's Full Stack Software Development program.
“EDGE-UP helped provide the confidence to network and reach out to people in tech,” says Diana. “There were multiple benefits of participating in the program, the technical training was one part, but the connection and relationship building with the people in my cohort provided a network I am still connected to.”
Diana now works for Benevity, one of the half dozen $1-billion unicorn tech companies that have emerged in Calgary in recent years. She is using her hybrid of professional acumen and new skills in software development. Programs like EDGE UP and grads like Diana are a testament to Calgary’s resilient and entrepreneurial spirit.
“Continuing to know that just because you're having a bad day doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to offer. You were good in your role before, and you’ll be good again. It's building the momentum to having those successes,” she says.
The economic challenges of the last few years and the challenges that persist today have reinforced for Diana and others the value of resilience and the importance of a future-focused strategy to succeed in a changing world.
“Trying to get people who are transitioning to see and value the transferable skills they have, but also getting potential employers to recognize and be open to those transferable skills will help accelerate Calgary’s growth in filling jobs, creating new companies and bringing more opportunities to the city,” explains Diana.
Talent and tech innovation are major focuses of the economic strategy Calgary in the New Economy and together they are enablers of a more diverse and resilient economy.
“Tech is pervasive in our lives everywhere. In all our jobs, in all industries, it is necessary to have more technology,” Diana concludes. “As things continue to evolve, I think having the resilience of surviving whatever happens to you gives you the confidence to say I have more control than I think.”