Unleashing the Power of People

Navigating the sustainable ocean sector’s Talent Landscape towards Ambition 2035

By: Janelle Caballero | Director, Cluster Workforce Growth, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

In the collective potential ocean innovation presents for Canada, Ambition 2035 represents a 5X growth potential in ocean – for industry, communities, for workers – for our country. In May we came together with leaders from coast-to-coast-to-coast in Ottawa for a meaningful conversation around how individual aspirations in ocean can and should contribute to transformational opportunity for Canada’s entire ocean community – and where collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity were all recognized as some of the key enablers in realizing it. In this dynamic and evolving ocean sector – which is set to outpace the broader economy, financial capital is no question a key driver, but there is consensus that there is an equally impactful force we need to address: human capital. It is the strategic and skilled people that join this sector who will help bring our ideas and aspirations to life, grow more ocean companies, and bring their products to markets around the world.

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) recognizes the urgency and importance of attracting talent to the sustainable ocean economy. The key lies in the alignment of shared values, where the foundations of ambition are fortified by purpose-driven connections. It is not just about economic gains; it is about building awareness and delivering a narrative that resonates with jobseekers, where the call of the ocean meets the values that guide their career choices.

In 2019, Canada’s ocean economy employed more than 300,000 individuals and con-tributed $39 billion to the country’s GDP. Looking ahead, the global ocean economy’s projected value of $4 trillion CAD by 2030 and Ambition 2035 presents an aspiration to grow Canada’s ocean economy to $220 billion by 2035. This is a testament to the vast potential awaiting exploration. Yet, amidst this sea of opportunities, challenges also arise. The need to bolster Canada’s ocean sector capacity is undeniable, given the constraints of a limited ocean talent pool and the imperative to stay relevant and competitive.

In the current landscape of the Canadian labour market, the ripples of change are palpable. Workforce trends projected for 2023 are set to leave a profound impact on the sustainable ocean economy. The surge in demand for a flexible workplace culture, characterized by hybrid models and remote work facilitated by cutting-edge technologies, is undeniable. Alongside this, the call for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the ocean space resounds with urgency. Historically underrepresented groups – Indigenous rights holders, women, 2SLGBTQIA+ community members, BIPOC individuals, and the neurodiverse – are asserting their rightful place, adding their unique perspectives and in-sights to the fabric of the industry.

This is a landscape where more Canadian ocean companies are starting and scaling, and the demand for skilled talent reaches unparalleled heights, with employers across industries fiercely vying for the best and brightest minds. The ocean sector’s journey is uniquely challenging, as it navigates the intricate interplay of an aging demographic’s retirements and the multiplying opportunities for digital and technological niche roles, especially for youth and mid-career sector entrants.

OSC talent research conducted in 2022 offered insights into this dichotomy, revealing that only 52% of OSC membership job postings in skilled talent were filled over a two-month period, leaving 48% vacant. Yet amidst this challenge, glimmers of hope are on the horizon. Over 600 ocean sector job boards, internship opportunities, mentorship programs, and accredited courses have been identified. These initiatives and resources are crafting a solid foundation for the nurturing and growth of a robust talent pool and pipeline.

There is meaningful and impactful work being done in this space already to lay the foundation for our talent pool and pipeline development. Yet, the central question remains: how do we attract these skilled and values-aligned individuals to the ocean sector? To-day, jobseekers, including recent graduates and those seeking mid-career shifts, are seeking values-aligned work. This is the juncture where Ambition 2035 and OSC 2.0 make their entrance. Cultivating a larger, more diverse workforce to realize the full potential of the sustainable ocean economy requires a profound understanding of the evolving workplace trends and articulation of our shared vision for sustainable ocean growth in Canada. This is where collaboration and holistic vision-building come into play.

At our Ambition 2035 event in May, we heard the participants and the thoughtful contributions made. Collaboration, respect, integrity, equity, sustainability, impact, and com-munity were top values that were raised and when asked for input into our list of Talent priorities for OSC 2.0, this included:

• flexible training pathways
• mentorship and training for those looking to enter the ocean sector
• further awareness building of Canada’s ocean brand
• facilitating ocean economy workforce data sharing and reporting
• DEI support mechanisms and training, and minimizing of barriers
• linkages from post-secondary talent pipelines to entry-level jobs
• funding allocated for talent pipeline projects
• promotion of a wide variety of jobs in the ocean space

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster’s talent pillar strategy addresses these key areas of growth, and actions on moving the talent needle substantially over the next five-year funding cycle. As we continue to move forward with talent initiatives, we are keeping top of mind that our success lies in forging purpose-centered relationships with individuals, rather than merely focusing on reporting metrics or ticking boxes. We collectively need to facilitate connections with intention, fostering a space where not only are people wel-comed, but where they are motivated to stay, to contribute, and to shape the future we aspire to create. As we continue this shared task of ecosystem talent building, our cen-tral focus will remain on shared values, innovation, inclusivity, and a commitment to a prosperous and sustainable ocean economy.

The path ahead is one where we cultivate relationships with people who are the driving force in shaping the sustainable ocean legacy we leave behind.