Age Diversity: A powerful boost for NCR’s expanding economy
A powerful boost for NCR’s expanding economy
BY JEFF BUCKSTEIN
DIVERSITY, INCLUDING THE presence of a multi-generational workforce, provides businesses with significant advantages in a competitive global economy. Invest Ottawa, the lead economic development agency for the City of Ottawa, whose mandate is to help spark the growth and success of local entrepreneurs and firms in the National Capital Region, is keenly aware of the synergies and values that people of all ages working together can provide.
“Diversity and inclusion is a major area of emphasis for Invest Ottawa,” says Sonya Shorey, the firm’s vice-president of marketing and communications. “Together with our community, we strive to help create an even stronger, more integrated entrepreneurial ecosystem with future-ready companies led by female and male founders with a rich mix of attributes, backgrounds and experiences. Diverse perspectives are invaluable.
They can open up new opportunities, drive discovery, innovation and new business models that propel us forward. ” Millennials bring ambition, energy, and a desire to advance humanity and the well-being of the planet as they build their enterprises. Moreover, consumers are becoming savvier, focused on whether their purchases are being directed to a social cause that they care about.
But they often lack experience, and so the help of seasoned entrepreneurs who have already run one or more businesses, provides immense benefits. For example, they assist with vital questions such as “When are you ready to start raising capital? How do you prepare? How do you pitch for financing?
How do you read the investor?” says Shorey. “Having millennials, who are young and excited and very aspirational in many cases, work side by side with baby boomers and others who have been there and done that and are in a position to provide them with the benefits of all their learning, expertise and experience – it is a powerful mix,” Shorey stresses.
“There’s a lot of on-the-spot mentorship that happens here between the baby boomers, Generation Xers and the millennials,” she notes proudly, elaborating that members of Generation X, who are currently between about 39 and 52 years of age, provide a valuable combination of youthful enthusiasm, age and experience.
As Invest Ottawa looks to the future, including what its leaders view as a thriving local economy, it views the younger generations, who have increasingly grown up almost exclusively within a digital world, as a major catalyst in producing the new technologies that will be required as the pace of change continues to accelerate, says Shorey.
She cites the four major local post secondary institutions, including Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, Algonquin College and La Cite, as “outstanding producers of incredible talent in areas of disruptive technology,” which is defined as a technology that displaces an established technology and shakes up an industry.
Millennials are also good at applying such disruptive technologies in novel ways designed to address global problems and challenges, says Shorey.
She cites the example of a start-up company that emerged from the University of Ottawa, and which is currently supported by Invest Ottawa, led by two students who created a shipping container containing a novel hydroponic system inside that enables the growth of fruits and vegetables in any climate, no matter how harsh.
But Invest Ottawa is also keenly aware of sharp challenges on the path ahead, particularly the global competition to recruit, and then retain, the best and the brightest minds. “One of the drivers for our strategic plan is to address some of those hurdles to work together with our ecosystem to make it as lucrative as possible, and to keep talent here, and to attract new talent in,” stresses Shorey.
Invest Ottawa envisions Ottawa as a “future-ready” city capable of applying new technologies in a global technology hub, thereby increasing the NCR’s competitiveness, while also strengthening the local investment climate. The region offers key opportunity areas for skilled entrepreneurs and employees – among them, autonomous vehicles, precision agriculture, and smart cities technologies. Building autonomous vehicles, for example, requires a unique combination of hardware and software, including sensors, that local entrepreneurs are trained for and skilled at, she notes.
“I think millennials will play a very key role in helping us fulfill that vision, together with Generation Xers, baby boomers – everyone working together. Everyone has a unique value along with expertise and perspectives to contribute. Getting back to our focus on diversity and inclusion, the more perspectives we have, the stronger we’ll be and the better we’ll perform,” Shorey stresses.