Lure of growing AI hub attracting top talent despite low Quebec unemployment

MONTREAL — The lure of Montreal’s burgeoning artificial intelligence hub is helping the city to attract highly skilled talent even though Quebec is facing historically low unemployment, officials from tech giants like Google and Microsoft and municipal officials said at an AI conference.

Microsoft data innovation strategist Charles Verdon said the city’s flourishing status as a global centre of deep learning has become a calling card for highly skilled researchers who want to work with fellow experts and large multinational companies.

These people can obtain lucrative employment packages, but the desire to work on specific projects often drives their decision.

“In our field there’s already zero unemployment so it’s really attracting all the key talent out there,” he said in an interview at a Montreal Board of Trade-sponsored AI conference on Monday.

Statistics Canada reported meanwhile that Quebec added the most jobs in Canada in December, pushing the unemployment rate to 4.9 per cent. Montreal’s rate fell to 6.1 per cent while Quebec City’s rate was 3.9 per cent.

“Amongst the Y Generation there’s a huge cool factor about really collaborating on something that’s going to make a difference in the world,” added Microsoft spokeswoman Sylvie Giguere.

“It’s a question of finding the right fit between the opportunity and the candidate more than anything else.”

David Beauchemin, leader of Google’s cloud division in Montreal, said finding specialized talent is always a challenge but Montreal’s developing AI hub has made it easier to lure workers from abroad.

In addition to working for global companies, these people love Montreal’s quality of life, he said.

“By having a hub here that was set up by university researchers, some other companies that we work with and Google itself has helped to just attract and create a buzz — an ecosystem that is self-sustaining.”

Deep Learning pioneer Yushia Bengio told the conference that beyond financial compensation, researchers want to work with great talent and in a city that also cares about ethical questions surrounding the development of AI.

Beauchemin said the province’s low unemployment rate has forced companies to look beyond local candidates to seek out talent from elsewhere.

He added that growing immigration roadblocks forming in the United States have also contributed to some people instead choosing to work in Canada.

Whereas the Americans use a lengthy lottery system, Canada’s federal government has championed a global skills strategy to award working permits in 10 days.

Montreal’s economic development agency for foreign investment says the city’s AI talent is helpful in attracting specialized workers.

The group expects about 250 foreigners, including some 200 from France, have elected to emigrate to Montreal after it conducted seven hiring missions last year, including one near Silicon Valley and two in Paris.

“We feel that with unemployment rates that are as low as we’re seeing them today that there will definitely be a need and some enthusiasm to continue to do those hiring missions abroad,” said Montreal International CEO Hubert Bolduc.

“Talent attracts talent and organizations attract big talent,” he said.

The tech sector in Greater Montreal has added 5,000 workers annually over the last five years. The five per cent annual growth far exceeds the employment growth for other sectors of the economy, added Montreal International chief economist Christian Bernard.

In addition to convincing workers to relocate, the group is working to convince more foreign students to remain in the city after they graduate.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Aaron Goodvin sings at Westerner Days

Aaron Goodvin performed at Westerner Days Wednesday.… Continue reading

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Central Alberta

There’s a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Red Deer and the… Continue reading

WATCH: Sun shines on Red Deer’s Westerner Days parade

George Young has been a Westerner Days parade marshal for about 28… Continue reading

Central Alberta receives funding for regional emergency training

Alberta Municipal Affairs announces $160,000 for training on top of $40,000 previously received

WATCH: Global FMX at Westerner Days

There are three freestyle motocross shows a day at Westerner Park this week

Study links air pollution to drop in national park visitors

DENVER — Visitors appear to be steering clear of some U.S. national… Continue reading

Banff’s bathroom bears returned to the park after 15 months of rehab in Ontari

Three cubs found abandoned in a washroom along the Trans-Canada Highway in… Continue reading

Canada could get caught in cross-fire of U.S. uranium investigation

Canada could get caught in the crossfire after the U.S. Department of… Continue reading

Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled his pre-election cabinet, shuffling… Continue reading

Canada’s premiers meet Indigenous groups, although three major groups decline

BOUCTOUCHE, N.B. — Canada’s premiers are meeting with Indigenous organizations in New… Continue reading

An updated list of federal cabinet ministers following Wednesday’s shuffle

OTTAWA — An updated list of federal cabinet ministers following Wednesday’s shuffle,… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month