Talent clusters

Personal confession time.  Since university I haven’t had anything like a ‘mentor’.  I’ve had good and talented bosses and colleagues that I would debate well into the evening on issues of interest but no one that I can identify as providing good teaching moments on an ongoing basis.  You know the kind of person I am talking about.  They come at issues from a perspective of maturity and reflection that you just don’t have at a young age (although I am starting to creep up there at 41). 

That’s the feeling I have when I get a chance to talk with Gerry Pond, the erstwhile CEO of NBTel and now sage of New Brunswick’s ICT industry.  He told me he’s been involved in nine startups – five failures and four going concerns – a pretty good track record.  We sat down for over three hours yesterday morning over an increasingly cold decanter of decaf coffee.

It’s impossible to distill this conversation into a blog post but there are bits and pieces that I can shave off.  For example, he is not too thrilled with the notion of ‘clusters’ – at least as a deliberate creature of policy.  He finds that the selection process is too arbitrary.  For example, a big chunk of New Brunswick’s ICT activity is in the telecom and Internet space but that is not defined by the province as a cluster.

He thinks we should be talking about talent clusters.  We should be mapping the specific ICT skills that reside in the province (.Net, Java, etc.) and then building on those.  The bulk of all ICT activity is based on these specific skills so that’s where the focus should be.   You could determine the current talent clusters and the feeder system for these clusters (universities, colleges, etc.).  You could align your repatriation and immigration efforts around these skillsets as well.

It is interesting.  The slogans become New Brunswick: the .Net province or Java means more than coffee in New Brunswick.  Okay, I’m not going to quit my day job but you get the point.

For further reading, here is a white paper on professional skills in the ICT industry.  Here is an interesting Powerpoint on what Europe is doing to foster ICT skills.

2 thoughts on “Talent clusters

  1. Nicely put. I may not be sold on the benefits regional development, but I think everyone can get behind smart thinking like that.

  2. The concept of clusters was initially interesting but has been spoiled by becoming a highly overused fashionable government buzzword.

    The reality is that focus brings results. Focus can come in the form of an anchor company that generates spin offs with suppliers and break away business. It can come in the form of some sort of competitive advantage native to an area or region; perhaps tidal power expertise associated with the world’s highest tide. It can come in the form of sustained and substantial government funding like the automotive sector in Ontario of the aerospace sector in Quebec.

    Sometimes we overcomplicate things. Businesses exist to make profit. If we spend our energy bringing in (or growing) businesses that have sound rational to be profitable by operating in New Brunswick, that would bring some results.

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