It’s been widely reported that the Canadian technology sector is experiencing – and will continue experiencing – a broad skills shortage, but one organization is hoping to change that by inspiring youth.

The Knowledge Society (TKS), an innovation program for youth, is holding its inaugural Innovate conference at the Corus HQ in Toronto on Aug. 13 for 500 of Canada’s most driven students between the ages of 13 and 16.

The full-day event will expose attendees to the latest cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, the Internet of Things, robotics, financial markets, venture capital, entrepreneurship, and genetic engineering, to hopefully inspire innovation and a desire to work in these fields.

“We have seen the power of youth first-hand at TKS and believe that they are vastly underestimated,” says Navid Nathoo, co-founder and executive director at TKS, in a press release. “The best way to predict the future is to create it, and we need to encourage students to start creating the world they want to live in.”

Innovate is fully subsidized to remove any financial barriers, but there’s a catch: students must apply to attend. Applications will be accepted until June 30.

TKS is looking for young people with “an immense amount of curiosity, resourcefulness and genuine drive to propel our world forward,” the company says, adding that the application process will assess each student’s “desire to learn and initiative to find and solve critical problems facing our society today.”

“We are treating attendees to a world-class conference that many of us will never experience in our lifetime, opening their minds to uncharted territory,” continues Nadeem Nathoo, co-founder and partnerships lead at TKS. “They need to see what’s out there; be exposed to emerging trends and innovations so they can identify their interests and start working on developing tangible skills in those areas.”

Speakers at the conference include senior government officials and CEOs, to top technology investors.

“We are thrilled that Toronto has been chosen to host Innovate,” adds Councillor Michelle Holland, Toronto’s first Advocate for the Innovation Economy. “This is exactly the kind of initiative we want to see as we work to champion the growth of Toronto’s technology and knowledge sector. Ultimately, youth will be the ones to build our cities and grow our economy.”

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