When Victoria Flores from Regina Open Door Society and Andrew Wahba from Innovation Saskatchewan met at Small Business Week a few years ago, the two talked about the process of getting newcomers settled in Saskatchewan. Once they started brainstorming how to connect technology professionals to the tech industry in Saskatchewan, the idea of the Tech Skills Showcase came together.
“It started with a hackathon idea, and we put together a proposal,” Flores says. “Once we had the concept, we hosted the first one where people were in an environment to showcase their skills while having potential employers around too.”
Tech Skills Showcase is a networking and challenge-based event that Regina Open Door Society started in 2018 and hosts twice a year. Participants register and prepare in advance, break out into teams of four the morning of the event, and spend the day solving a specific challenge where they will get judged on the final solution.
Flores adds, “The teams are presented with a problem and are challenged to solve the problem using their own unique skills. Will you build an app? Create a database? How can you impress potential employers and show your stuff ”
Instead of making decisions based on resumes, employers can meet participants, see their interpersonal skills, and watch their tech knowledge in action instead. Employment counsellors and instructors are all available before, during, and after the Tech Skills Showcase to support the people who are participating. From providing resume advice to helping with the screening portion, the helpful network of staff makes it happen leading up to the day.
When people immigrate from other countries, there are barriers such as language, work experience, and overseas references that make it difficult to find employment. “We can’t change existing biases overnight, but we can help break down the barriers and find ways to bridge that gap and create connections,” Flores smiles.
Tech Skills Showcase displays the participant’s thinking process and tools, and mentors and employers can see how they work. “Employers will ask questions like, ‘Why are you using java instead of CSS? How are you using the database and cueing up the information?’ It gives them firsthand information where they can see what they know.”
“At the first event, we realized it was a great way to connect people,” Flores shares. “There was one person who was offered a job by everyone, and now she works for SaskTel International. Others found jobs, landed job interviews, and gained confidence in their job search. This event gives them examples of interactions with local employers and feedback they can talk about in interviews.”
During the February 2020 Tech Skills Showcase, they had around 25 people participating, and Regina Open Door Society hopes to continue running the biannual event and engaging more employers. “The idea is that we know more people are moving here with the skills that companies are looking for,” Flores says. “How can we be proactive and let employers know that we are a hub for them to find that talent? We want employers to expect to participate in this.”
HackRegina, Solvera, SaskPower, and SaskTel International have all been a big help with making the Tech Skills Showcase happen and connecting the tech community, so Regina Open Door Society is excited to keep the program growing in Saskatchewan. Flores adds, “We have a growing tech sector and growing population through immigration. It’s about connecting these two groups, helping people who are moving here, and showing them that you don’t have to move to a big city like Toronto to find a job in tech—you can do it here!”