To Attract Tech Talent, Canada Touts Diversity

To Attract Tech Talent, Canada Touts Diversity

We’ve looked before at how Canada is responding to efforts to tighten immigration policy in the US and UK by reaching out to global talent, particularly in the tech sector, who may now be having second thoughts about looking for work in those countries. As the Trump Administration cracks down on H-1B visas and the UK prepares to withdraw from the EU and end open migration from the continent, Canada is actually liberalizing its immigration policies to entice more skilled workers from abroad (including Americans) to join the tech startup communities in Vancouver and Toronto.

None of this is particularly surprising, but it is noteworthy how central the values of inclusion and pluralism are to the case Canada is making for itself as a talent destination. For example, answering a leading question on Quora on Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau identified diversity as one of the greatest strengths of the country’s education system and workforce, emphasizing that “a group of smart, capable people focus[ing] on the same problem from a range of different perspectives, backgrounds and lived experiences is much more likely to come up with great answers than a homogeneous group would”:

The reason University of Waterloo is the top recruiting spot for Silicon Valley certainly has to do with the incredible multiculturalism of its graduates, and not just for the high quality of education. And that’s true right across Canadian schools and institutions.

And we want to encourage that in an active way, by reaching out beyond our borders: Our global talent stream will facilitate two-week work permit processing time, so companies in Canada will be able to bring in highly-skilled international workers, including engineers, quickly and efficiently. It will give employers a faster and more predictable process for bringing in top talent and new skills to Canada. We want to help high-growth companies bring in the talent they need quickly by slashing the processing time for a Canada visa application from six months to just 10 business days.

On top of that, our government is committed to evidence-based policy and respecting academic freedom, while making the necessary investments in pure and applied science. For example, we have more STEM graduates every year in the province of Ontario than in the entire state of California.

In a similar vein, Salim Teja, EVP of Ventures at the Toronto startup incubator MaRS, recently underlined in a Time op-ed that “Toronto’s diverse community has fostered a rapidly growing startup scene,” making it an increasingly attractive place for tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists:

Toronto recognizes that diversity both breeds innovation and is good for business. As the EVP of Venture Services at a Toronto innovation hub, I’ve seen the power of diversity on the startup teams we are advising. Of the roughly 1,000 startups within our ecosystem, 54% have at least one foreign-born founder – a higher percentage than Silicon Valley. … Recently named one of the world’s most innovative cities, Toronto is home to between 2,500 and 4,100 active tech startups, the world’s largest innovation hub, and world-class academic and research institutions.

And with 150,000 full-time students enrolled in universities in the Greater Toronto Area — many focused on science and engineering fields — the region benefits from a robust pool of entrepreneurial and tech talent. Of course, this hasn’t always been the case: while Canada has historically been victim to a “brain drain” of academic talent emigrating to the U.S., Trump’s policies will undoubtedly lead to more talent staying in Toronto; and we may start seeing the reverse as Silicon Valley talent leaves to head north. University of Toronto has already seen a 70% increase in applications from American students following Trump’s win.