Canada-wide surge in demand for IT professionals, report reveals


Demand for IT professionals in Canada has reached an “all-time high”, according to a report released yesterday by CNC Global Limited, an IT recruiting firm headquartered in Toronto.

The demand spike is a sure-fire sign companies are becoming more aware of the importance of technology, said CNC Global in a statement.

But it added that many companies “are also having difficulty filling [IT positions] due to shortages in the talent pool.”

CNC Global’s quarterly reports – titled IT Staffing Requirements in the Canadian Market – seek to identify key hiring trends among a broad spectrum of Canadian firms, from small and midsized businesses (SMBs) to blue chip companies.

The latest report 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.

We’re moving back to “a full employment rate for IT,” said Terri Joosten, CEO of Toronto based Career Door Inc., whose recruitment services include organizing of IT career fairs.

Joosten said with more than 600,000 IT professionals employed across the country, the market situation is akin to what it was prior to the year 2000 dot-com bust.

IT Career Fairs

An excellent way for prospective new employers and employees to connect is at career fairs.

“It’s arguably even tighter,” said Joosten. “That’s because – since 2000 – a lot of the people who were unsuccessful in getting positions, 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 noted. In view of this, she said, 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.

For one, IT World Canada regularly receives letters from a broad range of IT professionals, who relate how tough it still is for them to land a job in keeping with their qualifications and experience.

Secondly, the notion of a “talent crunch” is called into question by some industry insiders, who interact with IT professionals on a regular basis.

One of them is Max Haroon, president of the Society of Internet Professionals (SIP), an international non-profit organization that offers accreditation to Internet professionals.

At the recent IT360 session held in Toronto, Haroon refuted the view that there’s a shortage of skilled IT people in Canada.

“It’s a myth,” he said. “Industry and government for whatever reason always claim the sky is falling. It never does.”

Haroon said the reality is people in a position to take advantage of opportunities here 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, the SIP president said.

“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 between optimistic reports of a hiring bonanza, and the real life experience of skilled IT pros who say they are hard put to land proper jobs.

“I think we’re still in the ‘goodbye lunch’ phase,” she said. “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 said, the IT labour market became really tough, and some IT folk may have been forced to take a pay cuts, or work an inordinate number of hours for the same salary.

But with the resurgence in the IT market, she said, many employers have either increased wages, or aren’t requiring such a challenging work schedule.

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

However, she noted that these are just the beginnings of a phenomenon that will gradually gain momentum and become a trend. “Not until [a lot of people] make their first move, and some two perhaps, because they made a wrong move the first time, will we really feel the market is as tight as it was prior to 2000.”

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.

In a discussion with IT World Canada at the recent IT360 event in Toronto, Bouffard said recollections of the year 2000 IT downturn is still colouring many people’s perceptions and preventing them from recognizing current opportunities in the field.

Parents and guardians – recalling the downturn – may be deterring students from enrolling in IT courses, he said.

The CIPS president said this negative mind set needs to be changed, and people must 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 CNC Global president, Terry Power. “The demand for IT professionals,” he said, “has been increasing steadily over the past 36 months.”

He said hiring trends in the last quarter are in line with developments witnessed over the past three years in the IT sector.

Besides putting pressure on the talent supply, Power said the surging demand is forcing companies to adopt new ways of attracting the talent that they need. “We’re seeing this right across the country.”

While the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) continues to account for more than half of all requirements across the country, the CNC Global report indicates strong regional growth, especially in Western Canada.

The strongest growth in the West was in Calgary. Requirements jumped almost 20 per cent there, with a focus on architects, business analysts and help desk support personnel.

Nationally, the report identifies the following trends:

Strong demand for full-time IT workers – The need for full-time roles continues to grow in all regions across the country. Such positions, the report says, account for 50 per cent of all demand in the GTA.

Growth in contract positions – While, typically, a spike in demand for full-timers comes at the expense of contract IT positio

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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