A group of students walking through a park in the fall.

We have what youth need

AI and Technology, Clean Technology, Digital Media and Entertainment, Food and Agriculture, Health and Life Sciences, Hydrogen
Published On
September 21, 2022

Once famous for traditional energy, Alberta would attract youth from all corners of Canada to get in on the lucrative opportunities in the province’s industry. Now, as the province moves away from traditional energy, new sectors emerge that can pique the interests of any young professional. This promise for prosperity is still very optimistic in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region — it just shifted.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s emerging sectors are the driving force radically transforming and growing the region’s economy. Canada West Foundation’s policy brief, What Now? Oh, the places youth could go!, explained that the opportunities in the Edmonton region outside of the traditional energy sector are vast; with demand for young professionals with all levels of training and education to fill vacancies in clean energy, health and life sciences, food and agriculture, and interactive digital media sectors.

Live, work and play in the Edmonton region

Here’s the Edmonton region’s reality:

  • Ranked most affordable major city in Canada
  • Ranked Top 100 world’s best cities to live and visit
  • Home to the largest connected urban parkland in North America
  • 96% of job vacancies are outside of the traditional energy sector
  • The Edmonton International Airport offers over 50 non-stop destinations, and counting
  • Known as Canada’s “festival city,” events go well beyond city limits

Hydrogen in the clean energy transition

In the transition to clean energy, the hydrogen sector is leading the world from the Edmonton region with over 40 years of experience in the industry. And by 2050, the Government of Canada’s Hydrogen Strategy for Canada projects that hydrogen could deliver up to 30% of Canada’s end-use energy. Already, roughly 66% of all hydrogen produced in Canada comes from Alberta — and most of this is coming out of the Edmonton region.

In fact, Alberta is estimated to become the national leader in the adoption of renewable energy by 2023. And the Edmonton region is carrying the nation’s emerging hydrogen economy, a key part of Canada’s transition to net-zero.

The Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB has “plans underway for more than 25 projects related to the production, transportation and end use of hydrogen, and carbon capture & storage.” Canada West reports that the vacant opportunities in clean energy sectors, like hydrogen, are abundant, and talent is needed from a range of backgrounds:

  • Workers with specialized skills like engineers and business experts like accountants
  • Digitalization will require technology workers, like data scientists, with sector-specific expertise
  • Those who have worked in traditional oil and gas can upskill and reskill to certain clean-tech sub sectors and jobs

Innovation in health and life sciences

The health and life sciences sector has been rapidly growing; 59% of the existing companies in this sector started within the last six years. The region’s talent and resources like the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology,  Applied Virology Institute, and the Alberta Diabetes Institute have drawn 60% of Alberta’s life science sector companies to the Edmonton region.

With this rapid growth, Canada West projects staff shortages in manufacturing, logistics, marketing, and management by 2029. Business and sales development professionals are in demand, and employers are not asking for bachelor’s degrees for many of these opportunities.

AI & high tech across industries

AI & high tech is the catalyst of many innovations in clean tech, agriculture, health and disease prevention, and alternative energy industries. The Edmonton region’s Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) is one of only three partnering centres of the Pan-Canadian AI strategy, attracting tech companies into the region and creating demand for talent. The talent in this industry is highly skilled and well educated; roughly 80% of industry workers have a master’s degree, and 40% have PhDs. Currently, there are over six thousand job vacancies in AI and tech in the Edmonton region that can be filled immediately by young professionals and new grads. Here are some of the skill sets the Edmonton region needs:

  • PhD level software and web developers or architects
  • MBA level business experts
  • Undergrad/MSC level developers specialized in AI/Machine learning systems

Food & Agriculture

Agri-food is one of the largest contributors to Alberta’s economy and is a key sector for investment in the Edmonton region. In Alberta, one third of agri-food jobs are vacant — largely in grain & oilseed, greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture. Many companies in the sector are focusing on sustainable practices and developing environmentally friendly products, and there is a high demand for young workers.

Here are some of the agri-food companies that highlight innovation and commitment to sustainability in the region:

Interactive digital media

The Edmonton region’s strong AI and growing eSports communities bring potential to see new opportunities for collaboration. With regional success stories from companies like BioWare Edmonton, which has produced world-recognized games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age; and Inflexion Games, which was recently acquired by tech giant Tencent and will release the highly anticipated Nightingale early next year, activity in this sector is rapidly growing — driving demand for talent in the region. Interactive digital media jobs in demand are technical and artistic, such as:

  • game developers
  • software engineers
  • digital media designers
  • animators

So, what’s next?

Although the Edmonton region is currently the fastest growing major city in the province, Canadian young adults’ migration patterns indicate that many are hearing a different story about what the Edmonton region can offer them.

Janet Lane, director of the Human Capital Centre at the Canada West Foundation, spoke with Edmonton Global on the Economic Development Matters podcast. She says “their perception, although not necessarily reality, is what’s driving the youth,” said Lane. “Oil and gas has changed. It’s not their grandparents’ oil and gas,” she added. “We are moving into clean and green energy… we are not telling these stories well enough.”

The region is full of opportunities, vibrancy, and experiences for youth, but the narrative needs to shift to give access to them.

Kessia Kopecky