IT skills don’t match employer needs: Report

There will be a labour and skills shortage in the information and communications technology (ICT) field within the next five years, creating a need for more ICT professionals and thus a need for more people to study ICT at the post secondary level, according to a report by the Ottawa-based technology and communications councils Information Technology Asssociation of Canada (ITAC) and Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).

“There’s a mismatch between education and (what) employers (want),” said John O’Grady, a partner at Prism Economics and Analysis, who also authored the report.

About 106,000 jobs will open up by 2016 especially for highly qualified ICT professionals such as computer and information systems, telecommunications and broadcast managers. There is a lack of skilled ICT workers to fill these jobs because not enough young people are going into ICT at post-secondary institutions and the ICT job requirements are quickly changing, according to the report.

There are numerous solutions to combat the lack of qualified candidates in the ICT sector. One of those solutions is to encourage education in math and sciences for youth and to persuade them to pursue careers in ICT, said Terry Power, chair of the ICTC labour market intelligence committee.

At the post-secondary level, it is important for colleges and universities to offer blended programs with a mix of both college practical courses and university theoretical-style courses to ensure graduates can apply what they learn at school in the working world. It is also important for these programs to offer co-ops and internships in collaboration with businesses. Businesses can do their part by hiring students, Power said.

Businesses are looking for new hires to be knowledgeable in cloud computing, virtualization, service-oriented architecture and legacy applications. However, there are a lot of partially qualified people, so it is important for businesses to compromise on hiring someone who is not entirely qualified and helping them develop the needed skills for an ICT job, according to Power.

Since there are not enough qualified candidates in Canada, businesses are outsourcing to other countries. Outsourcing will grow about five per cent each year, O’Grady said. 

The problem with outsourcing, aside from taking the jobs away from Canadians, is that foreign workers do not have necessary French and English skills necessary for work in ICT at Canadian companies, according to Paul Swinwood, the president and chief information officer at ICTC.
Another problem within the ICT industry is the lack of women and diversity in businesses across the nation in these positions. Young women will be encouraged to go into ICT if they are able to see examples of successful women already working in these types of positions, according to Power.

In cities like Toronto, diversity is not much of an issue when it comes to hiring for ICT jobs. However, this is not the case everywhere or for every group of people. “From a first nation’s perspective, it’s still there,” Power said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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