Vector Institute, Communitech partner to expand AI training program across Canada

Reports show one of the main barriers to AI adoption is the ongoing talent crunch.

The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence is bringing its talent recruitment platform and AI training program to Communitech.

The partnership between the two organizations hopes to bolster AI expertise and application across the country as Canada grapples with a limited tech talent pool.

Vector’s AI training program, dubbed FastLane, will be made available to Communitech’s network of startup and scale-up founders from across the country. FastLane will also connect with researchers, businesses, startups, and government partners engaged in Communitech’s Future of X programs, such as the Future of Cities and Future of Health collaboratives. Companies onboarded into the FastLane program will get access to Vector’s Talent Hub, the research institute’s online job board.

Through this collaboration, Vector said it will work with Communitech to connect people with collaborative learning opportunities through Vector’s Talent Hub.

”There simply aren’t enough skilled professionals available, even with the recent contractions across the technology industry.”

Since Communitech was founded in 1997, the Kitchener-Waterloo tech hub claims that it has supported more than 1,200 founders by providing opportunities to access talent, capital, and sales.

Having Vector on board will “add more than extra horsepower to our mission of helping Canada’s tech founders start, grow, and succeed,” said Chris Albinson, CEO and president at Communitech.

Established in 2017, Vector works with institutions, businesses, and government agencies to build AI talent and bolster the country’s AI expertise. It offers customized programming on AI such as bootcamps that use techniques like natural language processing, computer vision, and forecast and reinforcement learning, or access to talent services to help companies compete by hiring in-demand AI talent. Vector is funded by the federal and Ontario governments through the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI strategy, as well as industry sponsors.

Vector launched FastLane in 2021 to provide an expanded suite of training courses and collaborative projects meant to help businesses develop a deeper understanding of AI’s business value through experiments and improving AI fluency. FastLane is funded in part by the Government of Ontario, and took in more than 50 companies for its inaugural cohort.

A spokesperson for Vector told BetaKit that over 140 startups and scale-ups have signed up for FastLane to date. Companies remain eligible to participate in FastLane as long as they are active in the AI talent and upskilling programs they provide.

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The accelerated digital transformation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored the labour shortage in multiple innovation verticals on a global scale, including AI.

Multiple reports have found that advances in AI have been stifled due to an AI skills crisis. According to a McKinsey report, AI adoption has plateaued after five years of steady growth, and one reason is the talent crunch.

An AI project requires a team that includes data scientists, engineers, product managers, and designers, however “there simply aren’t enough skilled professionals available, even with the recent contractions across the technology industry.”

In McKinsey’s survey, the majority of respondents report difficulty in hiring for each AI-related role in the past year, and most say it either wasn’t any easier or was more difficult to acquire this talent than in previous years.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a staff writer for BetaKit.

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