Canada sees a 17 per cent jump in IT skills demand

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Canada’s thriving economy is producing a growing demand for qualified IT professionals, leading companies to hire at an increased rate of 17 per cent from last year, according to a report by IT recruitment firm CNC Global.

“The strength in the economy continues to drive spending in IT,” said Toronto, Ont.-based CNC Global’s president, Terry Power, adding the spenders include companies in the technology sector as well as corporate Canada’s IT departments.

The hiring boost is also due to the changing face of IT in the business, as it increasingly takes on a strategic role, said Power. “More and more, they want people that have some additional business-related skill sets as opposed to just technical skill sets.”

Not surprisingly, CNC Global’s report suggests the “top skills” for 2007’s second quarter are project management, business analysis, and communications skills.

According to Kevin Dee, CEO of Eagle Professional Resources Inc., Toronto, Ont.-based IT staffing firm, there is less differentiation between the traditional “backroom coders” and the idea of outsourcing projects to low-priced countries like India and China. “I get the impression there is less demand for, and going to be less demand for, those types of backroom coding people.”

Power notes, however, the demand that exists is for IT professionals with specific expertise, as opposed to generalists, but even then, certain areas of expertise are more in need than others.

Infrastructure security is one area, given companies’ better awareness around security related issues, he said.

Web development is another – accounting for one in five job orders – by companies looking for that competitive advantage with online customer interactive applications. “Web developers are in demand because companies look for ways to make it easier for clients to interact with them,” said Power.

Dee has observed IT skills most in demand to be those around “packaged-type software”, such as SAP, Peoplesoft and Oracle Financials.

“They are enterprise-type applications that corporations continue to invest in and that go through cycles,” he said, adding the skills continue to be required as new versions of the applications are launched.

Regionally, Ontario accounted for 50 per cent of the surge, while the East and West split the other half equally. Much of the demand in Ontario, he said, is driven by banks, telecommunication and insurance companies, and government. “It’s just the sheer concentration of large corporations.” Edmonton saw an increase by 69 per cent over the last year, largely due to companies seeking IT skills and technology to help them reach their business goals.

Dee said there are numerous reasons for the boost in the need for IT skills demand over the last year. The increase in Western Canada is driven by the successful oil and gas industry and the resultant spin off.

In particular, Alberta being “flush with cash” and having the means to pursue various initiatives; and business growth in Vancouver is due to the upcoming Olympics event.

Although Toronto and South-western Ontario have always had a large demand for IT expertise, it’s more pronounced now that financial services companies have mostly got issues around SOX compliance under control and are able to divert budgets towards more operational efficiency-type projects.

In light of the boost in demand for IT skills, CNC Global announced it will adopt the name of its sister company, Boston, Mass.-based Sapphire Technologies.

“With the growth in the IT sector, more and more clients are looking for us to support them on a global scale,” said Power, adding the name change will grant the Canadian counterpart global brand recognition for foreign-trained workers looking to emigrate.

But to a lesser extent, turnover plays a small role as professionals switch companies in response to the broader array of job choices in the marketplace, said Power. A significant portion of the demand stems from contract jobs, versus full-time, as companies find it easier to augment staff with contract employees.

There’s also “upward pressure” around salaries, too, as companies get more competitive for IT talent, he said.

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