Ontario government is panning for NextGen Jobs

Digital Media is the hot sector du jour in Ontario, and for good reason. It is one of those rising sectors that are the great hope to support economic growth in an age of de-industrialization. In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a bit of a government-led gold rush going on.

At ICE08, we learned that Ontario’s Ministry of Research & Innovation is investing $9 million in OCAD’s’ Digital Futures Initiative to expand training and research programs in digital media. Sara Diamond, President of OCAD, is a remarkable force of nature and under her leadership, OCAD is aggressively pursuing a reinvigorated research agenda and building partnerships with technology and content industry partners large and small.

We also learned that $10 million is being invested in a new Stratford campus for the University of Waterloo, bringing UW’s acknowledged strength in technology together with Stratford’s vibrant arts and culture community, focusing on digital media.


Both announcements came out of are in addition to the new Next Generation of Jobs Fund, a $1.15 billion initiative modelled after Ontario’s Auto Investment Strategy, which put $500 million into strategic projects and leveraged private investment of $7 billion. The Next Generation of Jobs Fund focuses on three broad sectors: green/clean tech, bio/pharma/health and digital media/ICT. There are three program streams:

What is a “Strategic Opportunity?”

An opportunity where:

  • A large scale global market opportunity exists, coupled with a unique strategy to deal with the competition, or a niche global market opportunity where Ontario has significant capacity and little competition and;
  • Ontario has a demonstrated competitive advantage such as strong private sector strengths including global market leadership, and globally competitive research strength.

Now, here’s an innovation challenge for the Strategic Opportunities Program itself:

How do you identify and evaluate the best strategic opportunities?

The Ministry is holding a series of workshops and doing a SWOT analysis within each of the three focus areas. (sigh)

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good SWOT analysis as much as the next strategy consultant. But have you seen a SWOT analysis yet that provides the needed insight or foresight implied by the goal of developing “next generation jobs”, particularly in an environment of accelerating tech and cultural change?

In the auto industry, panning for job gold is pretty straightforward – you call up the Big 3, the major import manufacturers, the parts and auto technology makers and you’ve got a pretty manageable group to work with. Eventually BIGCO installs some equipment or builds a plant somewhere. Now look at a map of the 11,000 enterprises in the entertainment and creative industries in the Toronto CMA, including digital media and ICT, and you’ll see the problem: 77% of this $9 billion industry are sole practitioners or micro-enterprises. That’s a mighty big river to pan in!

In order for this strategy to be successful, strategic opportunities have to be found, validated by expertise and evaluated against investment criteria in order to be funded. Is there a community engagement strategy that could support this process? What role does strategic foresight, design thinking and collaborative innovation play in its execution? I’m interested in finding out. Leave a comment if you have some thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Ontario government is panning for NextGen Jobs”

  1. I just wanted to note that I made a correction to the post above. The money for OCAD and UW are IN ADDITION TO and outside of the Next Gen Jobs Fund itself. Thank you to my friends at MRI for pointing out that fact.

    Now if I could just convince them to actually COMMENT on blogs directly to make their point! Glad that you’re at least out there reading. 🙂

  2. In looking to create jobs – really an effect of creating sustainable, profitable companies – the focus has to be on growth.

    It is not a question of whether the company or sector is large or small today (or yesterday), but what opportunities will grow.

    The statistic that drives this home is that between 1985 and 1999, 7% of firms created 56% of the employment growth in Canada. The numbers are similar in the US.

    The trick is to find those 7% and support them and their environment, not spread that support around to the other 93% that just plod along.

    So regardless of whether they are a micro or a global enterprise, ask if they have what it takes to grow fast.

  3. Is there a strategy to keep these businesses small while also treating them together. Would some larger middle-institution be needed? I’m tempted to think, that in this world of distributed communication, that we might have an opportunity to have distributed growth.

    Maybe we should ask why 7% of companies created 56% of the growth. Might it be because they were lucky? skilled? crazy?

    How can we coordinate big, work small, and think at all scales?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *