Canadian labour forecast looks to 2012

Ottawa-based Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) will commence a study that will provide a forecast of what the state of the Canadian labour market will be by 2012.

The ICTC Outlook 2012-2015 on Human Resources in the ICT Labour Market will look at the trends in the ICT market today in the areas of enterprise IT, telecom and network adoption and spending, as well as trends in outsourcing to gauge labour requirements in the ICT sector five years from now.

“What we are attempting to do is look forward to 2015, and given some assumptions in the IT market, we are trying to get a handle of what the labour market will be,” said Paul Swinwood, president of the ICTC.

The study, scheduled for release next spring, is being conducted in light of the projected 89,000 IT professionals the market will require between now and 2010 coupled with continuing decline in computer science enrolments and graduates, said Swinwood.

With the Outlook report ICTC aims to provide stakeholders in the ICT industry – private organizations, government agencies and the academia – a framework to help device strategies to improve the Canadian ICT labour market.

In the academia for instance, the study hopes to provide the universities a sense of what kind of changes will be needed in the education level to cope with labour market trends five years down the road, said Swinwood.

“We have some sectors that are in decline, such as in the manufacturing and forestry. If this is the sort of (IT expertise) we are going to need, systemic changes in the universities will take time,” he said.

The ICTC Outlook report also aims to provide insights to the Canadian immigration process in the area of “re-skilling” and re-training newcomers to Canada. If properly integrated into the Canadian IT supply chain, foreign trained IT professionals can provide expertise in offshore project management, for instance, a role that will become increasingly in-demand in the labour market, said Swinwood.

As an example, an immigrant from India with proper training and orientation can help a Canadian business manage an offshore project in India, especially where cultural and communication challenges may occur

To be a significant player in the global economy, Canada needs to start with a well-adopted labour market, Swinwood explained, citing that the country’s standing has already fallen in global competitiveness rankings.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s recent global e-readiness ranking showed Canada fell from ninth to the 13th place. Although Canada was evaluated based on various metrics, its low score on innovation caused a drop in its overall score. The country scored only four out of 10 in innovation, according to the EIU report.

“Without (the ICT professionals) we will continue to fall. We will not be able to participate in the global development of what is going on so we could lose out on the economic development around the IT sector,” said Swinwood.

The ICTC executive also stressed that businesses will not wait for Canada’s labour sector to catch up with the rest of the global economy, “because as we become more global, a company… won’t pass up on the business opportunity” and may resort to outsourcing to fulfill its business requirements.

Despite the looming skills shortage, however, Canadian IT professionals are still meeting the requirements of employers today. The difficulty is when companies don’t act fast enough in their hiring decision, said Sandra Lavoy, regional vice-president for IT recruitment firm Robert Half International in Ottawa.

“In the last 60 days, eight of our candidates said no to our job (offers) because our clients took too long to make a decision, in some cases almost two months,” said Lavoy. “If you’re not moving within a two-week span you are risking losing your candidate.”

IT expertise that are particularly in demand these days, Lavoy said, include project management, IT risk, .Net and business analysis, and is fairly certain such jobs would continue to be a need in the market in the long-term.

As far as making a Canadian labour market forecast as far ahead as 2012, Lavoy said it may be difficult given that the IT market is “up and down, and sometimes drastically.”

“Who would have thought in 2000 that we would have a major (market) crash?” she said.

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