STEM educated newcomers have the skills to unlock innovation. They just need the opportunity.
Published February 1, 2022.
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-educated newcomers are often significant players in generating technological and scientific breakthroughs that fuel innovation across the country.
Research shows immigrants are more innovative because they tend to be willing to take calculated risks like they do in choosing to come to a new country. Thanks to their unique lived and professional experiences, brought from abroad, they bring with them new and different approaches to the workplace. On top of this, STEM-trained professionals are strong critical thinkers and problem solvers.
This combination makes STEM-trained newcomers a powerhouse in terms of their ability to impact Canadian organizations. Especially, with a STEM labour shortage for Canada projected to continue into 2024. As well, the federal government is prioritizing investment in STEM innovation in digital health, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and cybersecurity, offering additional opportunities for newcomers with STEM education.
Supporting newcomers in the innovation economy
Despite this good news, a report released by Century Initiative, a non-partisan network of academics, business and charitable sector professionals, says more needs to be done to support newcomers, in their contributions to the Canadian innovation economy.
Sara Ditta, Lead Researcher for the Century Initiative report says a range of measures from stronger settlement and pathway programs to increased accessibility of child care, can create the conditions for more innovation initiated by newcomers.
“Immigrants are making an outsized contribution to innovation in Canada, often at higher levels than those who were born in Canada,” says Ditta. “While strong steps have been made to support immigration programs, and in particular, federal commitments to increase immigration levels, Canada can do more to help immigrant innovators.”
Hiring immigrants can drive innovation
Ditta indicates that when business leaders make the case for diversity, often, they refer to a business’s profitability but data suggests businesses with diverse teams are also better at generating new ideas, products and solutions. “Organizations with greater diversity have been shown to be more innovative and profitable,” says Ditta, citing research from Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
According to Ditta, if Canada can better leverage the talents of immigrant innovators, particularly STEM-educated newcomers, the benefits would be felt by the Canadian companies hiring these individuals and, ultimately, lead to a more prosperous and innovative future for all Canadians.
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