Avinash Persaud, ventureLAB's VP of the Hardware Catalyst Initiative shares his key takeaways after attending the annual US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Commission Meeting in Cancun, Mexico last week.
Last week, I had the privilege of joining Raquel Buenrostro Sánchez, Secretary of Economy, Minister Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade of Canada, and Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative at the Canada-US-Mexico Free Trade Commission meeting with business delegates in Mexico.
I was pleased to join as a Canadian Business Delegate alongside Louise Blais, former UN Ambassador and now Senior Special Advisor to Business Council of Canada, and Leonardo Robles Castillo, TC Energies Executive to listen in on conversations that highlighted issues of aligning regulatory requirements, rapid resolution of trade disputes, sharing of trade data, amongst many others. The room was filled with industry experts from across the region that represented several industries – energy, mining, agriculture, automotive, manufacturing. It was enlightening to hear the various perspectives from each of the industry representatives and the genuine interest in seeking mutually beneficial options to resolve issues affecting productivity, ease of cross-border trade, regulatory alignment, and the ubiquitous red-tape challenges.
Given my background in the semiconductor sector, Louise Blais invited me to share my insights on developing a trilateral strategy for labour upskilling that needs to evolve quickly to match the growing requirements of the North American economy.
I explained to the business delegations that I was concerned that whether intended or not, the term "upskilling" implies 6-month training programmes. In the case of fulfilling the requirements of the semiconductor sector this would not be adequate unless the person being "upskilled" already had at least 3-4 years of specialised microelectronic training. Not only was there a major shortage of talent in North America but this was also a global challenge faced even in places like Taiwan, the focal point of the semiconductor industry. What made this a more critical issue for North America was that any effort to "friend-shore" this industry to North America would fail without addressing this issue urgently.
After sharing my concerns, Louise determined that this was an area that should be brought forward at the trilateral meeting and that I should speak to it directly. It was a fantastic opportunity to address a few critical points that made this issue so vitally important to everyone in attendance.
For every one semiconductor job created, 5.7 new jobs are created in other parts of the economy. Today, Canada’s workforce in electronics-related industries creates nearly 400,000 jobs, representing up to 2 million direct and indirect jobs.
Canada’s major industries from automotive to aerospace and traction in artificial intelligence, 5G and even quantum stand to lose significant ground without an industrial policy that mobilizes investment dedicated to the semiconductor sector.
The opportunity for Canada and its neighbouring countries is now. These conversations are necessary to move the needle forward as we work on restoring and rebuilding the semiconductor supply chain. We must implement a major increase of investment in the local talent pipeline and a base training that requires a minimum of 3-4 years of intensive training to bolster the Canadian and the North American supply chain.
Hardware and semiconductors underpin virtually all modern devices around the world. With the global health and geo-political events in the past 3 years, it has been made clear now more than ever that chips are critical to global competitiveness and supply chain resiliency. Semiconductors are at the forefront of our supply chain and these conversations are key as we continue to rely on this foundational technology.
Canada is home to some of the world’s largest semiconductor companies, productors and designers and at ventureLAB, our mission is to grow these companies to become globally competitive tech titans that build to scale in Canada. Together with our community of entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and partners, we enable technology startups to accelerate the commercialization of transformational products on a global scale.
This is an optimal time for Canada, Mexico and the United States to leverage the window of opportunity to build a stronger semiconductor and innovation ecosystem, one that’s impact goes beyond North America.
Avinash has decades of experience in the technology sector – in software, hardware and semiconductor development and production. He started his career at Bell Northern Research, followed by Nortel, Leitch Technologies, ATI, AMD, Fresco Microchip and most recently Spectra7 Microsystems. Most recently he has set up end-to-end semiconductor supply chains in Asia from wafer production, IC assembly and test, board assemblies and box builds. He is experienced in set up of ISO systems, NPI and PDP development process, product characterisation, and qualification and many other aspects of bringing hardware products to market.
ventureLAB is a leading global founder community for hardware technology and enterprise software companies in Canada. Located at the heart of Ontario’s innovation corridor in York Region, ventureLAB is part of one of the biggest and most diverse tech communities in Canada. Our initiatives focused on raising capital, talent retention, commercializing technology and IP, and customer acquisition have enabled thousands of companies to create over 5,000 jobs and raise more than $340 million in investment capital. At ventureLAB, we grow globally competitive tech titans that build-to-scale in Canada, for global markets.