Remembering the tortoise won the race

After pushing, cajoling and gnashing of teeth by those working to Internet-time, including the Software Human Resource Council (SHRC), two pilot surveys are in varying stages of analysis with Human Resource Development Canada and Statistics Canada, prior to release to the SHRC for general distribution. A survey of employers last year followed last fall by a survey of employees in three narrow industries tested the 21 new occupational designations that augment the three job categories Statistics Canada previously used to cover the computer information system design and related services industry. Findings from the 1,100 responses to the employers survey could be released by mid-April while the employee survey findings could follow early this summer, reports Paul Stoll, senior analyst with Sectoral and Occupational Studies, HRDC.

“It is hard to do these things on a schedule if we want to ensure that the appropriate review process is adhered to,” he says in justification of the timing. “We’re always feeling pressure on this project, but the difficulty is that it simply takes this long to organize research with the methodological rigour that we feel is required.”

He notes that the high quality Statistics Canada provides is important because “we want to take the debate away from issues of accuracy and move it into the realm of what can we do about the situation.”

Stoll reports that HRDC has also completed a pilot of four case studies of how firms are carrying out their IT functions in preparation for a larger series of perhaps as many as two dozen case studies across Canada which he hopes will be completed by early fall. The information gleaned from the case studies would validate the proposed questions on the surveys which will expand the pilot surveys to 20,000 companies and 100,000 employees. These surveys will measure employment issues including churn and training and be done with a web-based questionnaire. Stoll anticipates they might start in early 2002 and take less than a year. However he admits it could take a couple of months for HRDC and Statistics Canada just to negotiate a contract for the survey.

Individuals in the federal government have been working 12-hour days for a year to provide something our sector can use, adds SHRC president Paul Swinwood. Validating the 21 new streams in the IT employment sectors in Canada will cause a major different look at the IT employment sector, he says.

“The timing of it, of course, is unacceptable from both the Software Council’s and the industry’s approach,” he admits. The Council’s ultimate goal is a snapshot of the sector every quarter. “It’s coming, but when you’re playing with systemic change on an organization like StatsCanada, it doesn’t happen overnight.”

As encouragement, he cites SHRC’s success at working with Citizenship and Immigration to reduce to just one week the visa approval of 55 per cent of people with specific skills, talents and education applying for temporary work in Canada.

“From a statistician’s point of view, 1000 years is an insignificant time frame,” he says. “Trends over 20 or 30 years are the historical basis upon which (Statistics Canada staff) are working. We will get it to the point where it will be relevant to our sector’s industries who do long range planning, which for this sector we’re talking six months.”