Untrending: Maple Ridge on Innovation in Emerging Cities

City hosting forum on April 4.

The first in a series on innovation and emerging cities.

Technology impacts nearly all areas of our lives, from how we communicate to how we work.

According to Randstad Canada, Canada’s largest staffing firm, “Technology is changing traditional industries, and how business is done and the type of work performed. Virtual technologies dictate how natural resources are sourced, recovered and processed. Transportation and how goods and people are moved are already significantly impacted by technology-driven smart infrastructure, data collection platforms and visualization technologies that are, in turn, impacting city planning, emergency response and critical infrastructure.”

The world of work has changed.

In April, the City of Maple Ridge will play host to an Innovation in Emerging Cities Forum. The aim of the forum is to explore ideas related to technology, business and education to prepare local businesses for innovative investment in the new economy.

So, what is the new economy?

Dr. Sal Ferreras, provost and vice-president, academic of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, one of the keynote speakers at the April event, describes it this way: “Industry 4.0 is a new term that brings together an increasingly connected and integrated world, harnessing big data, analytics, the internet of things, automation and new work patterns that seek to integrate human and automated processes in more flexible ways.”

At the forum, Ferreras will discuss how educational institutions – primary to post-secondary – can best foster innovation, agility and adaptability to a new industrial and economic reality.

Following his afternoon address, Ferraras will join panellists representing technology, skilled trades and First Nations interests to offer perspectives on strategies to attract, develop and retain talent in a rapidly changing environment.

Steve Robinson, owner of Pitt Meadows Plumbing, whose company is one of those represented on the panel, says: “Everything you thought was true, is not true now.”

Five years ago, after more than three decades in the industry, Pitt Meadows Plumbing took the leap with an ambitious business plan dedicated to embracing innovation using solution-driven computer modelling technology and prefabrication to revolutionize the way it does business. Today, it is focusing on leadership development to build capacity within the company and the industry.

This is a common theme across industries in B.C.

Attracting, developing and retaining skilled workers is one of the greatest challenges posed by the integration of new technologies into the way we work.

Baby Boom workers who may not understand new technologies are retiring from the workforce and taking their hands-on industry experience with them.

New workers, who are comfortable with an increasingly connected world, lack on-the-job experience. Qualified personnel are needed who can develop and use these technologies in innovative ways.

B.C.’s tech workforce is proving the fastest growing in Canada and the federal government, in its 2017 budget, is investing heavily in a comprehensive Innovation and Skills Plan.

Opportunity may be knocking, and the city organizers hope the innovation forum will act as a catalyst to grow potential synergy amongst leaders in business, education, and government both locally and regionally.

Tumia Knott, a panellist, is the president of the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group and a councillor with Kwantlen First Nation. Knott stresses the importance of building a regional economy, one that includes more involvement across partnerships – for example between post-secondary institutions and First Nations.

Says Knott: “What’s needed in the new economy is leadership, mentorship, entrepreneurship and relationship-building.”

Raymond Szabada will round out the panel. He is the president and CEO of i-Open Technologies Inc., a systems integrator and provider of spatial technologies to some of North America’s largest organizations.

A founder and chairman of the board for the Sumas Regional Consortium for High Tech, Szabada, is a veteran entrepreneur and seasoned technology executive who sees the opportunity to grow an IT corridor in the region, linking industry to technology. Key to this strategy is attracting a skilled workforce.

Oliver Perez, a member of the Maple Ridge Economic Development Committee and the founder and president of MultiTrends ITNet Services, will moderate the panel.

The agenda for the forum includes a trade show, a panel of government leaders, and a morning keynote address from Canada’s most respected geek, Steve Dotto, titled How Technology is Changing Everything.

Dotto will join a panel featuring leaders from post-secondary education, municipal government, and industry on what’s necessary to foster a climate of innovation in an emerging city like Maple Ridge.

The forum will be held on April 4, 2018.

• More information and registration details can be found at https://innovate.mapleridge.ca. Admission to the day-long forum is free. Watch this space for more information in the coming weeks.

Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. She will emcee the April 4 event. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or find her at vickimcleod.com.

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