The B.C. government is expanding the Innovator Skills Initiative (ISI) thanks to an additional $14 million in funding from MITACS and the Information and Communication Technology Council.
This new funding is in addition to the $15 million committed by the province in June, bringing the total investment into the Innovator Skills Initiative program to $29 million.
Administered by crown agency Innovate BC, the ISI provides grants to businesses and non-profits to help under-represented people get their first job in the tech sector or in a tech-enabled role.
The Innovator Skills Initiative program provides B.C. companies with grants up to $10,000 per employee hired for technology jobs and tech-enabled roles. The grant covers a new employee’s salary for four months.
The additional funding means more than 3,000 people from under-represented groups throughout the province will have more opportunities to join B.C.’s booming tech sector. There are 3,000 grants available. Organizations can apply for as many as 10 positions.
“We are building an economy that works for everyone – one that is sustainable, innovative and inclusive of all British Columbians. When COVID-19 swept the province, hardships fell disproportionately on many including Indigenous, Black, people of colour, youth, women and gender-diverse people, 2SLGBTQ+ and people from marginalized communities,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation.
“At the same time, many B.C. companies are growing and need help filling in-demand technology roles. This program will help clear pathways for skilled, under-represented people who deserve meaningful, long-term employment that helps them support their families.”
The program has been redesigned to provide employers with access to larger grants, doubling the previous maximum grant amount from $5,000 to $10,000 per employee to hire workers who are either students or who already have industry-recognized credentials.
The redesign also makes the program more inclusive by prioritizing placements for people who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and historically under-represented in the technology sector.
Preference will be given to employers hiring candidates who self-identify as Indigenous, Black, people of colour, women and non-binary people, 2SLGBTQ+ and people from under-represented communities.
The program redesign is a result of consultations with multiple stakeholders held by Brenda Bailey, Parliamentary Secretary for Technology and Innovation. Engagement sessions were held with 21 organizations that support under-represented communities including First Nations Technology Council, Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada, and HR Tech Group.
“I want to thank everyone who provided invaluable input to the Innovator Skills Initiative program redesign. With your expertise, we have created a program that will help more people become part of our strong, innovative and inclusive technology sector with career starts that can lead to permanent, good jobs,” Bailey said.
“With the program changes in place, B.C. companies will have an easier time accessing the program and quickly putting new employees with the right technology skills in place. By consulting with businesses and people from marginalized communities, we have created a program that will help strengthen the diversity of the tech sector.”
Applications are open until spring 2022 or until the funds are disbursed.
Innovate BC is a Techcouver Community Partner.