Canadian IT job market hits recruitment high

The latest research in Canada’s information technology job market suggests demand for skilled IT professionals has reached an all-time high. A report released yesterday by CNC Global Ltd. claims some figures are higher than before the dot-com meltdown.

An IT recruitment company based in Toronto, CNC Global says the demand spike is a sure sign that companies are becoming more aware of the importance of technology. But many companies are also struggling to fill IT positions because of shortages in the talent pool, the firm adds.

CNC Global’s latest quarterly reports, IT Staffing Requirements in the Canadian Market, notes that during the first quarter of 2007, the number of Canadian companies hiring IT staff reached an all-time high, surpassing demand levels experienced during the build-up to Y2K.

The latest hiring numbers, the report says, reflect a 10 per cent increase over the previous quarter. The surge in demand for IT professionals is a trend other industry insiders are experiencing as well.

Canada is moving back to a “full employment rate for IT,” says Terri Joosten, CEO of Toronto-based Career Door Inc., whose recruitment services include IT career fairs. Joosten says that with more than 600,000 IT professionals employed across the country, the market situation is akin to what it was prior to 2000.

“It’s arguably even tighter,” said Joosten. “That’s because, since 2000, a lot of the people who were unsuccessful in getting positions have left the marketplace to pursue other business opportunities.”

In addition, there aren’t as many students getting into hi-tech careers since the IT bubble burst in 2000, Joosten notes. In view of this, she says, it’s reasonable to believe the demand for IT professionals is even higher today than back then.

Not everybody, however, shares the view that there’s an IT skills crunch, or a hiring bonanza, in Canada.
Max Haroon, president of the Society of Internet Professionals (SIP), an international non-profit organization that offers accreditation to Internet professionals, refutes the view that there’s a shortage of skilled IT workers in Canada.
“It’s a myth,” he says. “Industry and government, for whatever reason, always claim the sky is falling. It never does.”

Haroon says the reality is that people in a position to take advantage of opportunities here do get jobs, while those “unfortunate people who cannot” are left out in the cold. Disillusionment is partly responsible for the drop in IT enrolments, especially among foreign students studying in Canada, says the SIP president.

“Many come here with a view to graduating, getting a job, and leading a better life, but after graduation they don’t get the jobs they seek and are disappointed.”

Joosten, however, offers a different perspective on this apparent disconnect. “I think we’re still in the ‘goodbye lunch’ phase,” she says. “There are still a lot of IT professionals who haven’t made their first career move since 2000, and are only now starting to look for better work opportunities.”

After the IT bubble burst in 2000, Joosten says, the IT labour market became really tough, and some IT folk may have been forced to take a pay cut, or work an inordinate number of hours for the same salary.

But with the resurgence in the IT market, she says, many employers have either increased wages or do not require such a challenging work schedule.

Suddenly with options opening up, “an increasing number of people are leaving their organizations [for better opportunities] and we’re seeing more goodbye lunches.”

Joosten predicts these signs are just the beginnings of a phenomenon that will gradually gain momentum and become a trend. She also attributed declining enrolment in IT courses to memories of what happened in the aftermath of the 2000 dot-com bust.

This view is shared by John Bouffard, president of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) based in Mississauga, Ont. Bouffard says recollections of the downturn are still colouring many perceptions and preventing workers from recognizing current opportunities in the field.

The CIPS president says this negative mindset needs to be changed, and people should be made aware of the tremendous career options that now exist in the IT market.

That this is a time of unprecedented opportunity in IT is also the view of Terry Power, president of CNC Global. “The demand for IT professionals has been increasing steadily over the past 36 months.”

Besides putting pressure on the talent supply, Power says the surging demand is forcing companies to adopt new ways of attracting the talent that they need.

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