ALBERTA’S GOT TALENT. Just this week, I had coffee with one of Alberta’s talented, a woman in her mid-40s who I’ll call ALICE.
ALICE (not her real name) is at a cross-road: Not sure if she’ll stick it out in Alberta (a place that’s been her home for the last fifteen years) or return to her place of birth (the lower mainland of British Columbia) & pursue another dream.
ALICE is unique: She’s a cultural creative at ease in innovation space AND has proven herself a more-than-capable organizer of people, finances & organizations.
A story-teller by trade, ALICE is now taking a deep dive into formal education, teaching at post-secondaries within Alberta & finishing up a degree program working alongside Artificial Intelligence gurus at the University of Alberta.
ALICE, YOU NEED TO STAY IN ALBERTA!
Sitting across from ALICE at a table in my favourite Calgary coffeeshop, Euphoria, caffeine-levels rising, I feel myself wanting to scream:
“Alice, please, we NEED people like YOU in Alberta! Stay…for God’s sake…for all of our sakes…stay!”
But even in this dangerously-caffeinated-state, I don’t do anything quite so dramatic.
Then, a question bubbles up inside me:
How can I ask this cultural leader to remain in Alberta?
Really, how can I expect any ambitious, talented Albertan in the prime of their life to remain in a province filled-to-overflowing with uncertainty?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ALBERTA TO COMPETE GLOBALLY?
This September, I co-authored an article titled ‘What it means for Alberta to compete globally’ with Joseph Doucet, dean of business at the University of Alberta. Our hit-’em-between-the eyes message? Yes, Alberta needs to attract dollars & produce whatever-it-is-we-produce more competitively but job one is attracting & retaining talent.
And two months later, THAT VERY TALENT is staring at me from across the table at a local coffee shop. ALICE IS the poster-child; she fits the bill exactly as Joe & I described:
“For Alberta’s economy to compete, we need to attract and retain individuals who are themselves globally competitive, in their skills, spirit, tenacity, entrepreneurial thinking, even their ability to function in workplaces disrupted by automation.”
ALICE is THAT talent; she’s creative and entrepreneurial (even figuring out how to do podcasting as a business) and icing-on-the-cake, she knows how to navigate in an increasingly AI-infused world.
There is definitely something out of whack. ALICE is the talent our province requires to be competitive yet this young woman is unclear about the role she can play in Alberta.
I need to be careful here. Don’t want to get called out as a boomer—‘ok boomer’—one of those from an older generation wanting ALICE to stay for MY benefit.
Cognitive dissonance is a thing these days. Young people looking to their parents as ‘planet killers’. Boomers calling out younger generations as ‘snowflakes’. Younger generations wondering how they fit in, where to construct new platforms in a modern-day province built on the fertile ground of wheat & oil.
ALICE, ALBERTA NEEDS YOUR ARTISTIC TALENT.
Oh look, Joe Doucet has just published another opinion-piece, “Artificial Intelligence Could be Alberta’s Next Oilsands” and he’s right to be excited. What’s missing from this talent pool—to create the formidable forces required to make Alberta competitive in an AI world?
You guessed right; it’s TALENT LIKE ALICE. Quoting Joe and his co-author:
“Edmonton has a deep pool of computer scientists and engineers, but is lacking when it comes to workers who can translate the science of AI. It needs more students from the social sciences and the humanities— individuals who not only understand the science, but who bring with them a diverse set of integrative skills. Multidisciplinary teams that can compete with differing thoughts and opinions are critical to future success.”
BUT ARE THE ART FOLKS ONSIDE?
Fellow-blogger (and fellow-boomer) Don Hill is an ‘arts-guy’ and he’s suspect of promises of “inter-disciplinary collaboration” by post-secondaries, even nice guys like Joe Doucet. Maybe deep-down ALICE is too.
“This has never worked to the benefit of the art guys,” laments Don. “Four decades, I’ve run with this notion of Hey! we need to work together, but since we’re putting in the most cash, you’re going to be disciplined about what we mean by inter-disciplinary.”
Demanding that the arts folks “explain on paper, in a linear, logical, business-like fashion, with spreadsheets and a clear path forward, well…you get the drill,” rants Don. “Only the poseurs tend to get the support.”
I’LL HAVE A SHOT OF MOXY WITH THAT COFFEE, PLEASE.
My conclusion? This business of making Alberta more competitive can’t be off-loaded to the private sector, to governments, or even to creative academics like Joe Doucet.
To convince people like ALICE to stay in Alberta (channeling Don now)… “we’re going to need the edge, the moxy, the sense to knock ourselves on the side of the head with a zen-brick and break away from habits of ‘success’ in the frame we’ve grown comfortable.”
This is job one for every Albertan who calls this place home.
So, the next time you are sitting down for a coffee with a talented ALICE, let her (or him) know Alberta needs what she (or he) has to offer.
And summon the moxy to push whatever boundaries need pushing to create the conditions for ALICE to flourish.