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How does one create lasting change? For over twenty-five years, Technology North Corporation has been answering this question where it can, whenever it can, with its team of dedicated consultants and industry experts.

Established at the dawn of a groundbreaking era in 1998, the internet epoch, where the world united under the invisible strands of the web, Technology North Corporation was born from a casual lunch meeting in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. TN’s founders saw the firsthand effects of the first digital revolution’s immense transformation of human life, both positive and negative. The Y2K dilemma further caused the company to become an evolving entity that could serve as a protective insurance and guidance in the corporate world. The Y2K incident resolved itself without the sky falling, but the corporation they had created outlived the threat, and so did the expertise and guiding knowledge they had earned.

As the Internet continued its breakneck evolution, TN found itself split between multiple founder’s visions, pondering which path would best serve its clientele and stakeholders. During the late 2000s, the corporation underwent numerous structural changes, culminating in Founder Ling Huang taking sole ownership of the company by the end of 2009. For over fifteen years, TN worked across Canada and the US to implement efficient and lasting systems, applications, and consultations. The firm worked with over three dozen different organizations ranging from provincial governments, municipalities, Canadian NGOs, and other corporations, saving millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of time.

TN’ CEO Ling Huang, Premier Jason Kenny and MLA Muhammad Yaseen at Alberta Newcomer Recognition Award presentation event

“I didn’t just co-found the company, I bought it twice,” Ling would often say. “Had I known what would become of it today, I would’ve bought it thrice.”

Though the business and consultation aspect of Technology North was good, Ling found himself in a different situation. He is a trained engineer and Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP), but he is also a father with a son on the autism spectrum. His younger son, Brian, had been undergoing extensive autism intervention since the diagnosis in 2004, and Ling was forced to contend with the reality of public healthcare and treatment.

Their son’s intervention program was difficult and obtuse, with very little transparency to where their money was going. Further examination and investigation discovered that the entire human service sector was completely underserved; It depended on the traditional methods of pen and paper, which often proved unreliable for crucial deadlines where essential care and resources were at stake. After years of dealing with this, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Using his company’s resources and experts to create assistive technology in the hopes to modernize the care system, TN’s first endeavor was a children’s service management application, which centralized all care plans, data collection and data analytics in web and mobile platforms for clients in Canada, the US, and other countries across the world. Not only did this provide valuable data analytics for the company and convenience for the clients, but this venture was also the beginning of TN’s team transition from consultant to innovation house.

A new mission was born: the goal of creating enabling technology to take care of people.

EY Entrepeneur of Year 2022 award ceremony

As Brian started secondary education in 2014, a question weighed on Ling’s mind: What is his son going to do after he is finished high school? Though he hoped for the best, he had to confront the reality of the situation. Knowing his son’s condition and the barriers he would face, Brian would be unlikely to find a job, and much less likely to retain a job. Reaching out to the community, Ling realized that he wasn’t alone, and few others had ideas on what to do. Thus began an eight-year-long journey to search for a better life for youth and adults living with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), not just for his son, but for all the families with members on the spectrum.

According to the CDC’s 2023 ADDM report, 3% of US citizens over 18 years old are on the autism spectrum with 85-90% of individuals being either unemployed or underemployed. At the same time, the Canadian ICT sector continued to thrive through the pandemic, yet the shortage of qualified workers remained a challenge.

After extensive research using a practical, grounded approach, Ling began to see a matter of supply and demand. On the supply side, there is significant funding invested in employment readiness training, placement, and job coaching; yet few, if any permanent employees produced. On the demand side, businesses are struggling to find entry-level talent and are becoming increasingly aware of environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives and desire to push for meaningful inclusive employment, while also meeting labor shortages.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is an ailment that affects approximately 1 in 66 youth in Canada, and much of the support for such individuals end at 21. Because autism is a spectrum, the top 1% to 2% of the functional autistic population have many options and are likely to gain employment with the current work culture, but the rest struggle with integration into the workforce, which ultimately hurts both the individual, the family, and Canada’s economic potential.

Having seen the results and trends of existing programs, TN embarked on their own pilot project to solve this issue: a system to provide meaningful and sustainable employment. Despite society’s desire to improve, barriers such as fear, lack of knowledge, limited support-at-work approaches, and ineffective projects halt the progress of any employment movements beyond lip service.

Technology North Digital Services (TNDS) pilot employment program focuses on the long-term future of the high-impact population, i.e., the autism population that lies between 2% to 60% on the functionality scale, representing 40% to 60% of individuals on the autism spectrum who lie outside the conventionally employable range. By giving candidates guided expertise, industry experience, and social skills, TN’s purpose is to deliver practical and financially sound solutions and programs to empower individuals on the spectrum based on their characteristics and strengths, enabling workplace excellence, greater independence, and ultimately, improved quality of life.

2019-06-Ling and Temple Grandin
Brian Holds EY award

TNDS developed a set of principles, methodologies, and programs to better support ASD employment, and nearing four-year operation has proven that specialized autism employment is feasible, accessible, sustainable. The “A-Team” pilot has generated more than 600K CAD revenue since its inception, digitized over 2,000+ boxes, 3.5 million pages with zero error and proven their incredible ability and competency beyond any doubt.

A-Team Project Meeting
A Team at WeSenior Centre with client

100% satisfaction of employee, family and customer, 100% retention rate.

TN’s RoboCoach technology and framework has made a national impact, and with a co-lead and partnership with the Canadian national Autism CanTech program, is now scaling and expanding internationally. TN is currently in the process of working with its multitude of partners at the municipal, provincial, and institutional levels to create more locations and jobs across Canada and beyond. Since its introduction, TNDS is researching and growing to accommodate other mental conditions like ADHD, anxiety, and other neurodivergent individuals.

To TN’s CEO Ling Huang, the societal benefits are clear. The community must innovate and invent a future for those like his son, and the many other disadvantaged youth and adults in which they can fully participate in the great things life has to offer. Continuing on this trajectory, Technology North will potentially be at the forefront of many more political and societal projects to come.

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