IT hiring slump to bring about skills shortage: Survey


Following a slump in hiring activity last year, a majority of Canadian technology companies are facing a talent shortage in 2014, according to a recent survey.

As much as two-thirds or 64 per cent of Canadian IT companies believe they will experience “moderate to significant” skills shortage, a survey conducted by the Canadian arm of international recruitment consultancy firm Hays.

When asked about the potential causes for skills shortages 44 per cent of respondents cited lack of training and professional development, 26 per cent said very few people were entering the labour market.

Hays Canada surveyed 140 Canadian IT employers in November 2013 on their on their hiring plans and outlook. The recruitment firm found that company leaders were “overly optimistic” of their hiring prospects while they were actually “suffering severe skill shortages.”

“Companies would be better served by producing more accurate assessments of their growth prospects and adjusting their hiring plans accordingly,” said Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada.

There was a 13 point difference between forecasted and real decrease in business activity last year – six per cent expected a dip in activity, and yet 19 per cent actually experienced one, according to the survey report.

“This translated into fewer people being hired for permanent positions,” according to a statement from Hays Canada. “Sixteen per cent of IT businesses expected to decrease headcount in 2013 when in fact 31 per cent did.”

As much as 53 per cent of employers expect to increase salaries by three per cent over the next 12 months. About 25 per cent expect to increase salaries by three to six per cent and 7.5 per cent expect to increase salaries by six to 10 per cent.

Other highlights of the survey were:

  • 39.5 per cent of employers expect permanent staff to increase in 2014
  • 21 per cent expect permanent staff to decrease
  • 39.5 per cent expect numbers to remain the same
  • 35 per cent of employers believe economy will strengthen in next six to 12 months
  • 58 per cent believe economy will remain the same

The top five benefits offered by Canadian employers are:

  1. Extended health benefits
  2. Individual performance-related bonuses
  3. Ability to work from home
  4. Pension/RRSP contribution matching
  5. Flexible work hours

Companies that are frustrated by an inability to find skilled professionals, particularly at the mid management level where there is additional pressure to fill vacancies, can hire a slightly less experienced candidate with transferable skills who can be trained and mentored to develop into the ideal employee, according to Hays Canada.

This may mean that employers will have to invest more in their human capital to achieve the desired result but training courses on the latest platforms and systems are essential for employees to keep pace with adoption.

Succession planning should also play a role, the firm said.

Knowledge transfer will become a key issue for many companies that will lose the baby boomer generation to retirement in the coming years.

While 46 per cent of companies have or are implementing a succession plan, that number is too low.

Unsuccessfully transferring knowledge from one demographic to the next will only serve to exacerbate shortages in all industries, Hays said.




  1. The funny thing is, that there doesn’t need to be an issue. Most companies are not training or making efforts to retrain and retain their IT staff. Over working them and casting them aside when they haven’t updated their skill sets on their own dime and time, they’ve turned a lot of people away from the industry.

  2. Pfff… give me a break. Employers offer no on the job training, expect just-in-time workers and no job stability then cry about a skills shortage. I find it especially hilarious that this study is from a recruitment company who has the balls to post jobs and list experience requirements for HW or SW that are longer than the product has even been around. It’s not just them mind you… Robert Half is pretty bad for that as well.

  3. One thing us IT workers forget is that our industry changes faster than any other industry. Anyone who wants to stay employable for decades has to spend their own time learning. You can’t work 9-5 in IT and get away with it. I take at least 3 hours a week of my own time to keep up. As middle management who does 80% admin work, this is something I encourage my staff to do as well. Learn new things and read. Skip that sit com you want to watch, put your fictional novel down and pick up a technical book. Listen to a podcast during your commute. Something!!!! The more exposure and understanding I have the faster I pick things up when it’s time to get down to business. The board of directors knows this and don’t mind giving extra time or paying for training when they know I am eager to keep current. And I have 10yrs experience, I did not just graduate.

    • Good for you. And there are plenty of people, like me who do just that. And guess what? Doesn’t mean squat. “Do you have 3 years experience in …?”

      And I have yet to meet *anyone* in IT who works 9 to 5. You talk about knowledge workers getting off their duffs and learning. Yeah? Try getting the time off. Oh the kvetching and whining.

      Maybe your shop is different. If so, lucky you. That isn’t the experience of most people in I.T. anymore. We’re a commodity to be used up and spit out when we’re not useful anymore–that’s the typical I.T. manager’s view.

  4. Also, I find getting a job in higher level technical positions mean you should be networking!! THIS is how you get your name out and at least a foot in the door.

  5. So many good comments, and true too. Employers lament at “talent shortage” while instituting the most talent-repelling processes known to humanity. They need to realize that Purple Squirrels won’t solve their problems. If a person has, for example, 6 months experience programming in a language, they’re pretty much expert in it. The whole “5 years experience” requirement and “bachelor’s degree required” are nothing more than forms of discrimination. There’s an ugly pattern emerging here when you put together the cuts to the job grants monies, Purple Squirrel postings, and demands to politicians for more foreign worker visas. The recent TD study is just bunk. They claim 2% unemployment in I.T. Try 15%. Employers cite, “lack of skills.” That’s also bunk. The problem with Canadian business is they chew knowledge workers up and spit them out. Many I.T. departments are no better than piecemeal sweatshops. Most do little to nothing to grow talent and certainly don’t value them. People are getting wise to this B.S. (and it is B.S.). They’re creating their own problem. That’s not surprising given how incompetent the average management type is these days.


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