Fueling the next-gen talent pipeline: talent development, attraction and retention advice for the smart mobility industry

December 9, 2021

In the world of smart mobility, it is imperative for innovators, companies, investors, regulators and communities to drive the safe development, commercialization, and deployment of connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and smart mobility solutions. But equally important is the opportunity for the industry to have access to talent and retain a competitive and diverse workforce equipped to handle these emerging technologies.

Gone are the days where vehicles could be fixed solely with a wrench. Now, smart mobility innovations such as Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and fleets, electric vehicles, low-speed automated shuttles and drones are considered computers on wheels (or in the case of drones with wings!). These technologies are combined with next-gen networks, cybersecurity, 5G, AI, IoT, big data, and AR/VR. But to drive this future forward, the workforce must be equipped with the skills needed to revolutionize how we work, live, and play. At the same time, smart mobility innovators must attract talent to drive these innovations forward.

As the National Capital Region among the top five most concentrated tech markets in North America, fostering innovation with a large pool of highly skilled tech workers, our ecosystem must keep its finger on the pulse to develop and retain top tech talent. On December 2, CAV Canada 2021 brought world-class speakers to the stage and airwaves to dive into CAV and smart mobility talent strategies for developing, attracting and retaining a competitive, diverse, and inclusive workforce.

We share the best practices on strategic talent attraction and internal mobility, key skills in demand, employee engagement and workforce planning within the smart mobility and post-pandemic landscape.

Go for passion and excitement

With the CAV and smart mobility space an emerging industry, likely, you’re not going to find employees who check off all the boxes or even have experience specifically in CAV and smart mobility technologies. During our panel discussion at CAV Canada 2021 on talent development, attraction and retention strategies, Tenille Houston, CEO of Autoguardian by SmartCone, mentioned that “when it comes to talent acquisition, find people that are passionate about tech and the future of tech as a whole.” This industry is still relatively new, so it’s difficult to find people naturally in the autonomous and smart mobility space.

Grant Courville, Vice President of Products and Strategy at Blackberry QNX, reiterated, “experience is great, but talent and passion” is what Blackberry QNX looks for as a larger multinational in the next-gen space. The inflection point of CAVs, smart mobility, next-gen technology, and the ability of such technologies to impact the economy and society, naturally attracts passionate people who want to have purposeful and impactful work. Finding passionate and excited people to drive the future forward is key, and companies should nurture and evolve their skills once onboard.

Don’t be limited by location

According to Manpower’s 2021 Talent Shortage Survey, 48% of Canadian employers report difficulty filling jobs, the highest number in at least ten years. On the flip side, the pandemic opened the doors for new ways of working, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity.

When it involves hiring the best tech talent, think beyond homegrown talent and the physical location of your company’s headquarters to recruit skilled professionals. Your company’s city can naturally attract talent looking to relocate to advance their careers in addition to the purposeful work your company is achieving.

Highlighting why your organization’s location is the best place to work, live, and play as part of your recruitment marketing strategy can help drive top talent attraction and retention while showcasing your city’s features to talent looking for better opportunities. Jamie Petten, CEO of Kanata North Business Association, also iterates that organizations “need to convey the impact of the work being done in their company and also in their ecosystem. The value proposition needs to be there.”

Map out your company’s career development program

Employees want to know where they are headed within your organization in terms of career growth, and it’s key to attracting and retaining talent. Therefore, when determining your organization’s career development plan as a component of your talent attraction and retention strategy, it’s important to consider career development from two perspectives: the organization and the employee.

According to MaRS, “an organization must consider its overall direction and goals in order to assess the competencies that they need from their workforce to be successful. It is equally important that the organization take into account an employee’s motivation to succeed as an individual.”

Identifying gaps in skillset and offering upskilling opportunities can keep employees motivated to succeed. With this in mind, building a career development program relevant to both your organization and employee will help ensure a long-term career path and relationship with your staff.

And especially in the CAV and smart mobility industry, CTO of Ford Motor Co – Commercial at Ford, Rahul Singh, mentions that “there will always be new technology in mobility and CAVs so organizations must have a continuous learning plan of reskilling.”

Partner and collaborate with your tech ecosystem

Consider collaborating within your local tech ecosystem to foster connections and access to a talent pool. From connecting with fellow HR professionals to partnering with academia, embracing the power of collaboration within your tech ecosystem is imperative to achieving a self-sustaining ecosystem while the next-gen tech talent pipeline develops.

“Build an ecosystem of partners that work together to attract talent. [Companies] all need talent to grow and we can all help each other,” says Grant. You never know if another company has talent hitting the metaphorical ceiling at their company.

Additionally, let’s not forget academia as a key ingredient for a flourishing tech ecosystem. Colleges and universities are a springboard for finding talent and developing human capital, so it’s necessary to collaborate with schools. Jamie Petten states, “postsecondary institutions need to invest in the industry and even get their students in the industry. This must be nurtured and embraced to ensure connections are made.”

Seek assistance from your nearby economic development agency

Your local economic development agency knows best about leveraging technology, know-how and capabilities in talent management strategy, sourcing and employer branding, or even helping with connections to job seekers. For example, Invest Ottawa’s talent program equips Ottawa’s fast-growing startups, scaleups and SMEs with a talent advantage by providing coaching and mentorship, access to global tech expertise, along with talent solutions and support for every stage of growth.

When the availability of homegrown tech talent is insufficient to meet hiring requirements, economic development agencies can offer a helping hand to assist companies in addressing key talent challenges and creating new jobs that fuel the economy.

Specifically focused on CAVs, Area X.O, operated by Invest Ottawa in collaboration with and delivered by leading industry organizations, developed the CAV Talent Catalyst program. The program launches career growth and offers participants a hands-on learning experience with CAV technologies to address automotive and mobility skills gap to minimize disruption to the sector. Programs like the CAV Talent Catalyst program can close the gap in recruiting talent, specifically in the CAV industry. AutoGuardian’s Tenille Houston says, “programs and support like the CAV Talent program brought connections and
pre-vetted talent looking for some type of role in this new and emerging space. Having these training programs available and resources to find the people interested in this industry is key for getting talent. There is so much ability to take someone and reskill them with this space.”


CAV Canada 2021 may have passed, but creating a future-ready workforce remains key to driving the future forward. Are you interested in attracting talent in the CAV and smart mobility ecosystem? Learn how Invest Ottawa with Area X.O can connect industry employers with tech talent.

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