A group of Black STEM students at school

The State of Black Canadians in STEM

The State of Black Canadians in STEM

Canada could be missing over 33,000 Black tech workers by 2024 and it’s not because of supply

BPTN compared the findings of the 2019 tech worker report by the Brookfield Institute with the Black population counts from the 2016 census and found that in 2016 there was a gap of 8,725 Black tech workers in Canada. Our study further shows that, based on projected growth rates in the tech sector, this gap could grow as large as 33,644 by 2024 if we do nothing.

The underrepresentation of Black tech workers is hurting Canada economically. While there are regular reports of a shortage of qualified tech workers to support one of the fastest-growing sectors in our economy, we see a situation where Black talent continues to be underutilized relative to their presence in the population. As Canada positions itself as a global hub of tech innovation, we will need to create an environment that nurtures and encourages our local Black talent, from kindergarten to university, to pursue careers in STEM. We will also need to ensure that Black Canadians find opportunities within our economy.

If left unresolved, this lack of representative inclusion will lead to even further marginalization of our Black communities and will cost the Canadian economy. We estimate that the economic impact of lost wages for missing Black tech workers would represent about $1.4B annually by 2024. This is a conservative estimate using average tech sector wages relative to those outside the sector in 2016. Sustained strong wage growth in the sector means that this is likely substantially higher today.

Canadian tech sector growth projections show that annual demand for workers is in the range of 57,700 annually. At representative levels, Black tech workers should make up about 2,450 of those hires. The good news is that between local graduation and immigration, we see about 10,700 STEM-qualified Black workers entering the Canadian economy each year. So annual supply is 4.3 times what is required to meet representative annual growth and provides an opportunity to close the historical sector gaps as well. There is no shortage of Black tech talent in Canada.

Based on data from Statistics Canada and CIC News, the annual supply is comprised of about 8,600  immigrants from Black majority regions with STEM qualifications and about 2,100 local-born Black STEM post-secondary graduates. Immigration accounts for 80% of the annual Black STEM qualified labour supply. But first-generation immigrants only make up about 56% of Canada’s Black population. This points to weakness in local-born STEM educational attainment for Black Canadians and an over-reliance on immigration for our STEM labour supply. This is risky and could backfire if immigration is cut or halted or if immigrants choose other destinations.

Our education sector is not producing STEM-qualified Black graduates at representative levels. A Statistics Canada Census Report shows that STEM credentials are only 16% of all post-secondary credentials achieved by Black students compared to 23% of all minorities. The challenges with Black inclusion in our educational systems are well documented and include high suspension, expulsion and streaming rates. A compounding issue is the lack of race disaggregated data collection and reporting which means the problem cannot be easily understood and tracked.

To tackle the challenge of Black tech sector inclusion, we have partnered with a number of leading Canadian companies to help close the gap. These corporate champions include RBC, League, Bell, Rogers, Deloitte, CIBC, Hootsuite, Sun Life, Facebook, Shopify, Canada Life, Rakuten Kobo, Top Hat and Softchoice. In May of 2021, this group made a commitment to hire up to 324 Black identified tech workers within 1 year. We are happy to report that over the past year, they added over 1,000 Black identified workers and are committed to the initiative for another 2 years.  

We are also partnered with RBC Future Launch to tackle the gap in STEM education within Black Canadian communities. BPTN is supporting organizations like Techsdale, Power to Girls, Imhotep’s Legacy Academy, the STEMHub Foundation and the West Island Black Community Association by providing $200k annually to fund their STEM education work with Black youth. Going forward, we intend to leverage our existing corporate partnership and our infrastructure to grow both the dollar value and the number of organizations we support in an effort to help close the STEM education gap.

But BPTN recognizes that our efforts alone will not be enough to close these gaps. Our vision is for a vibrant Black STEM education and ecosystem that provides positive support for Black youth from kindergarten right through to their careers. This is a long-term community effort that will require participation from schools, governments, families, communities, and corporations. As such we call on governments and our education sector to do their part by:

  1. Maintaining immigration at the 8.5k level per year;
  2. Growing the local-born, post-secondary STEM grad mix from 16% to 23% per year; and
  3. Mandating the collection of race and disaggregated post-secondary data.

#BlackCANSTEM #ClosingTheNetworkGap #BlackSTEMecosystem #BetOnBlack

Black STEM education and support Ecosystem from K-8 to career-level.

Reference detailed data here.

About Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN)

Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) is the largest Black community of tech professionals in North America. Founded in 2018, BPTN bridges the network gap in the tech industry by providing Black technical and business professionals with access to senior executive sponsorship, skills building and a strong peer network to level up their careers. BPTN partners with companies to attract, hire and retain Black talent. With more than 50 thousand members and 66 customers, BPTN has launched Obsidi.com a multi-sided networking platform of choice for professionals looking to learn, grown and level up their careers. Learn more here.

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