Addressing Canada’s Skills Gap

U of A’s SkillsX Advances to the Top 3 of the Canada Comeback Challenge


When I heard about the Canada Comeback Challenge from President Flanagan throughU of A’s social media, I jumped at the opportunity. I have always tried to step out of my comfort zone, and engaging with this challenge seemed like an ideal way to gain experience and connect with students from different fields and across Canada.

What is Canada Comeback Challenge?

The Canada Comeback Challenge is a competition where students tackle a real-world problem facing employers in Canada’s public, private, and non-profit sectors, and compete for a chance to pitch their ideas to an esteemed panel of judges.

This year, the competition was focused on contributing to Canada’s COVID-19 recovery. My team and I were challenged to provide a solution for the growing skill gap in Canada and our solution was a skill assessment platform. Nearly 60 per cent of the Canadian workforce lacks training in new technologies. This skill shortage results in decreased productivity and a high turnover rate that costs Canada more than $70 billion in GDP.

Our solution: SkillsX

SkillsX is a one-stop shop for skills assessment, training, and predicting a company’s future workforce needs. SkillsX provides a training solution for small and medium-sized companies. These companies account for more than half of the Canadian GDP, but do not always have the money or resources for training or consultants. The SkillsX platform consists of a dashboard in which collaborators can take skill assessment tests and engage in training. We are in the process of forming partnerships with local start-ups to trial our platform, as well as universities to deliver targeted training courses tailored to their specific needs. Currently, we have a partnership with Dalriada Drug Discovery to test our platform when the beta version is released.

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Being part of the Canada Comeback Challenge has been an opportunity to challenge myself to learn skills outside of my field of study, such as financials and marketing. It has forced me to think outside the box, and that’s when the real learning process occurs! When you want to develop a start-up with a small group of people, you can´t afford to do only the things that you feel comfortable with. Working in tandem with a multi-disciplinary team of students from the University of Toronto, the University of Niagara, the University of British Columbia, and George Brown College has been a great way to learn about collaboration.

My team also had support from two great professors at the University of Niagara: Galina and Anna. They have been wonderful mentors on this journey. I have learned so much from everyone on my team, and I am grateful to them for having shared this experience along with me.

Top 3

Since October 2020, the competition has gone through three phases. During Phase 1 (more than 1000 teams) we developed a proposal. During Phase 2 (down to 50 teams), we developed a pitch video and design thinking model, and refined our proposal. After advancing to the Top 10, we were then voted into the Top 3, where our peers The Mining Network won the Canada Comeback Challenge. I am so proud of our team and encourage other students to check out the summer challenge!

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About Pablo

Juan Pablo Chavez (he/him) is a first-year master’s student in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Science under Professor Marleny Aranda Saldana’s supervision. He is particularly interested in food chemistry and novel food processing. In his spare time, he enjoys baking and learning new languages. He is a holder of Scotiabank’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award.