Since the Liberals introduced their innovation budget, there’s been a lot of talk about the new line items. Meanwhile, another project to boost the knowledge economy is winding down and is reporting some success in shoring up the country’s IT skills gap.

Three years after receiving $1.8 million from the Ministry of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, the Business Technology Management (BTM) Initiative has doubled the number of post-secondary school programs and tripled the number of students enrolled. Started by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) in 2010, BTM seeks to create a professional community and national occupational standards for the emerging field that combines digital skills with business acumen.

Gina van Dalen is the managing director of the BTM Forum.
Gina van Dalen is the managing director of the BTM Forum.

“There are so many things to be proud of,” says Gina van Dalen, managing director of the BTM Forum. “There’s a big need for these types of students with combined business and technology skills – we’re filling the pipeline with the right skill sets.”

With 2017 being the last year of funding from the federal grant, the BTM Forum will now seek sustainable funding through a professional association business model. It will provide memberships that come with accreditation and certification services for a wide swath of jobs that call upon both IT skills and business leadership. Jobs in this area include risk management, regulatory compliance, project management, quality assurance, and cyber security.

There are now 20 BTM programs at post-secondary schools across Canada and more than 3,700 students enrolled, with a year-over-year growth rate of 11 per cent, according to BTM’s own annual report. There have been six specialization standards created and 100 employers are contributing to the BTM Forum, which has a membership of 3,500 plus.

Beyond the numbers, the goal of the BTM Forum is national in scope. It wants government to join as members as well, saying BTM will lead to an increase in national GDP as a result of boosted productivity and management of innovation.

“You need the business skills to see how technology can be applied in the business context,” van Dalen says. “That is very lucrative and results in lots of jobs.”

On Monday, the first winner of the National BTM Student Competition was announced in Ryerson Univesity. ITWC worked with ITAC to host the competition, which saw student teams submit blog posts at the end of 2016 and then more thorough business case study responses in March.

Ryerson University won the top prize of $5,000, sponsored by Rogers, by responding to the case study challenge that asked students to solve a problem of an imaginary digital service. The problem was deciding what analytics service, ‘Ultrabrand’ should offer to its high-end clients. To determine how to select a solution, the team considered three different options and used a weighted decision matrix with a five-step methodology.

The Ryerson team that worked on the winning project included Rhyan Mahazudin, Ali Abbas Rawji, Alexandra Lincoln, Saljoq Khurshid and Mark Donaldson.