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From Site Selection magazine, July 2023

Talent Is the Key to Sustaining Cybersecurity Leadership in Atlantic Canada

Cyclists cross the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where two major cybersecurity projects have recently landed.
Photo Courtesy of Tourism New Brunswick

by Adam Bruns

apital spending on major projects in Atlantic Canada is expected to increase by 13% to nearly C$15 billion* in 2023, says the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC). The 2023 Major Projects Inventory (MPI) released by APEC in June identifies 528 capital projects in various stages of development throughout Atlantic Canada, with a total potential investment value of $225 billion.

Some of those projects are infrastructure. And some are coming in one of the region’s strongest sectors: cybersecurity.

Thales North America, a division of the French global defense and technology company that hired more than 1,000 new employees last year to grow to approximately 6,200 positions in Canada and the United States, continues to fortify its Atlantic Canadian footprint. In April, the company announced a new National Digital Excellence Centre in the Cyber Centre at Knowledge Park in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to strengthen its cybersecurity capabilities in industrial systems. It is the second digital hub of the Group in addition to the NDEC based in Ebbw Vale, Wales, located 2,800 miles due east across the Atlantic. Thales also has a strong partnership with Montréal-based incubator/accelerator Centech, whence it fosters connections with that region’s AI capabilities as well as with startups across the nation.

NDECs are R&D facilities that enable small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro-enterprises to test and develop digital transformation projects alongside large corporations. “The NDEC is being established in partnership with the University of New Brunswick’s McKenna Institute and local economic development agency Ignite, with support from Opportunities New Brunswick (ONB) and from the Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA),” the company announced. 

ONB is investing up to $5.5 million in the form of a payroll rebate over five years to support Thales’ continental expansion of its UK-based NDEC in Canada and establishing its North American Cyber Security Operations Centre. It is estimated that the facility will contribute up to $63 million in direct provincial GDP over a five-year period.

“Together, we will collaborate across a talent-rich innovation value chain — educational institutions, academia, start-ups, small- and medium-sized businesses, industry and governments — to develop the cyber technologies, capabilities and resilience Canada needs to build a future we can all trust,” said Chris Pogue, CEO, Thales Canada.

In response to a query from Site Selection, Pogue writes, “Thales is among the many companies that are coming to see, know and experience first-hand that Atlantic Canada has its finger on the pulse of digital innovation and growth,” he writes. “The opportunities to collaborate across a dynamic and talent-rich ecosystem make it a great place for us to invest.”

Report Shines Light on Digital Talent Shortage

The digital sector has faced labor availability challenges, says a report issued in August 2022 by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.

“Rapid digital adoption during the pandemic has boosted employment to over 37,000 in core digital occupations,” the report said of a sector that includes information, communications and technology (ICT) jobs. The ICT sector accounted for $4.4 billion of Atlantic Canada’s real GDP in 2021 or about 4% of the total, APEC said. The report noted that 11% of jobs in the sector are filled by Canadian immigrants. APEC’s MPI report in June said immigration and positive net migration from other provinces added more than 120,000 to the region’s population over the last two years, while spending on large housing developments is expected to be nearly $900 million higher in 2023 compared to 2019.

“Digital job vacancies in Atlantic Canada have grown faster than those nationally throughout the pandemic,” said the report. “Strong demand for workers and labor shortages pushed average wages up 13% since 2020 Q4,” although wages remained 6% below the national level in the digital sector. Job openings for computer system professionals were growing fastest in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

ONB is on the case, with institutions collaborating to accelerate the cyber cluster and “build capacity in the province with a three-fold projected growth over the next five years bringing the total annual enrollment to nearly 500 students in cybersecurity-related programming and a net new talent pool of more than 1,300 students in cybersecurity-related careers.An increase of upskilling and micro-credentialing is also in progress.”

Those credentials will be needed: Among the projects landing in the province is IBM’s new IBM Client Innovation Centre (CIC) in Fredericton, which the company said in December would ignite the creation of 250 new jobs in New Brunswick. The company’s global network of CICs now features five centers across Canada, including Halifax, Montreal and Gatineau in Quebec and a recently announced CIC in Calgary.

“Canadian businesses are adopting technologies today including Hybrid Cloud and AI at an accelerated rate, and to deliver successful business transformation it is critical these businesses have the right skill set and talent in place,” said Dave McCann, president of IBM Canada. “We are committed to supporting this growing need by expanding our network of Client Innovation Centres across Canada. The IBM CIC in New Brunswick will further support the province’s focus on fostering local tech talent, creating jobs and improving workforce skills training.” 

*all figures in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted (June 20 exchange rate: C$1 = US$0.75)

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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