By Jovana Jankovic

Today, we bring you some business news and its relevance to the digital media literacy we practice and preach here at Hands On Media. Did you know that some experts worry we are in the midst of a widening IT skills gap in Canada? Many industry insiders report that Canada just isn't competitive in the global marketplace when it comes to technology. We can change this for the next generation by starting youngsters off early and bringing digital literacy and tech skills into the classroom. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the governing body that administers the .ca domain, just released a new report called “From Broadband Access to Smart Economies: Technology, skills and Canada’s future.” You can read the full report here, but here are a couple of key takeaways:

* Many large Canadian IT companies surveyed in this report say that it’s difficult for them to find the talent they need in Canada — 40% of respondents report they had trouble recruiting IT professionals with the right skills.

* 49% of respondents believe that Canadian technology companies are not adequately equipped to compete in the global marketplace, while 75% stated the importance of “made-in-Canada” solutions for the kinds of technology challenges Canada faces today and in the near future.

A few weeks ago, the CIRA held their sixth annual Canadian Internet Forum at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. A number of panelists and speakers expressed concern that the digital literacy skills gap is widening in Canada. According to the Ottawa Business Journal, “panelist Tanya Woods, vice-president of policy and legal affairs for the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, said a lack of digital literacy in young Canadians from kindergarten to post-secondary school will negatively affect the IT industry in the years ahead.”

The panel on which Ms. Woods spoke was particular focused on the current state and future potential of the multi-platform video game industry. Did you know that Canada’s video game industry grew by 31% between 2013 and 2015? The industry currently contributes $3 billion to the country’s GDP—and yet talent is hard to find. Young people interested in technology may be pleased to learn that video games, a beloved form of leisure, could present a very real and rewarding career opportunity for them in the future!

So, how do we jump-start the process of a lifelong commitment to learning about technology (and digital media in particular)? Educators, with the help of our in-class student workshops, can act as "media mentors," engaging with kids to encourage them to use technology in creative, active, and interesting ways, rather than simply passively consuming media. Setting up this active engagement encourages kids to then “mess around” on their own with digital media tools—experimenting with new tools and developing new skills that will eventually be highly sought-after in a professional setting.

A recent report by the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada asserts that “Canada simply does not have enough young people selecting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines in school nor ICT (information and communications technology) as a career choice to meet its current and future needs.”

Let’s change this by bringing technology and digital media creation tools into the classroom now! Young people already think of digital media devices as a daily part of their lives, but getting them to think of these tools and activities as not simply a form of leisure but as a viable and rewarding career choice can shrink Canada’s IT skills gap in one generation. Learn more about our in-class workshops here.

Yes it is summertime, but you can begin to plan your students’ digital media education for the 2016-2017 academic year now!