Why Canada has an 182,000 IT talent shortage while lots of tech professionals are out of work

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job hunter woman IT professional shutterstock

“LoL this is a good one…I have been searching for work in ICT since I graduated late in 2013…and I have not seen an iota of shortage!…182,000? Maybe they meant 182!”

“I also have not seen good propositions yet! All offers are with small wages. I’m Java developer (Play framework or J@EE and frontend Angular JS or JQuery), 4 years of exp., intermediate French and English. If it’s true, please send me more information privettoli@gmail.com.”

“…I have a friend with over 25yrs experience working for small and big companies like Nortel, BlackBerry, he has been looking for over 1.5yrs he has not been able to locate a suitable job.”

These are some of the comments we got when we posted an article based on a report by the Information Communications Technology Council (ICTC) which states that Canada will have to fill 182,000 positions for information systems analysts and consultants, computer and network operators, Web technicians, software engineers and others by 2019.

ICTC, which is a government-funded labour market intelligence and industry skills standard body, also projected that “homegrown ICT talent will not be sufficient” to meet these upcoming hiring requirements.

Naturally, the feedback we go was: Where are all these jobs?

ICTC’s report identifies skills mismatch, demand and supply imbalances and aging workforce as some of the reasons behind the talent gap.

We asked Rowan O’Grady, president of professional recruitment firm Hays Canada, to shed a little more.

The fact is, he said, the existence of a skills shortage in a certain industry does not mean everyone looking for a job in that field will find a job or that every single one of those positions will get filled if there is a surplus of job seekers.

“Some employers will always have difficulty finding a candidate with the skill sets, experience, outlook or whatever requirement they are looking for,” said O’Grady.

There will also be instances where certain locations will have a shortage of skills where another has more than its share.

He identified three main categories of IT professionals that have a difficult time landing job:

Junior level employees – Those who are just out of college or university who have not yet chalked up enough years of “related” work experience

Newly arrived immigrants – People new to the country but may have some or a substantial amount of experience in their field

Seasoned professionals – Who have accumulated substantial skills and experience but may be nearing retirement or may specialize in technology or programming languages that have fallen out of favour

With regards to IT skills shortage related to the first two categories, the onus can be placed on many employers.

“There’s some pressure on hiring managers to find applicants that already hold a certain number of required years of experience and skill sets,” he said. “Many companies are focusing on the short-term gain.”

For instance, in the case of fresh grads, many firms don’t like to invest time and resources  in training a new hire for a stretch that may take two to three years until that person becomes a valuable member of the organization.

“In the case of professionals coming from a foreign country, some companies might say they are hesitant to hire a candidate because they are not familiar with the projects that person was involved in,” O’Grady said.

Many firms instead are hiring foreign trained professionals for short-term assignments or as consultants. It’s a situation where they don’t have to pay for benefits and can quickly replace the worker at minimum cost when it suits them.

Then, there are professionals who trained and excel in languages such as COBOL or technologies like Flash and PBX that are no longer as popular as they were before.

“Even PC repair…with the cost to replace hardware now being so low, coupled with improvements in design and manufacturing, this job is one the way out,” he said.

In this situation, O’Grady said, IT professionals share the responsibility to keep up to date with technology and seek to upgrade their skills.

Skills shortage rates are pretty similar across various industries, but these are bigger differences in how it has affected business activities.

For example, figures obtained by Hays Canada indicate that skills shortage has impacted the IT revenue and innovations than other industries, in general:

IT

Productivity 38.1 per cent
Revenue/Profit 22.6 per cent
Innovation 20.8 per cent
Business Development 15.9 per cent
Other 2.7 per cent

 

Overall

Productivity 45.1 per cent
Revenue/Profit 16.0 per cent
Innovation 16.3 per cent
Business Development 18.1 per cent
Other 4.5 per cent

 

The different industries in Canada also appear to be experiencing nearly the same level of difficulty in hiring:

Moderate to extreme hiring difficulties:

Construction:    83 per cent

Engineering       82 per cent

Property           85 per cent

AF                    76 per cent

HR                    85 per cent

IT                      80 per cent

 

Moderate to extreme skill shortage in industry:

Construction     80 per cent

Engineering       71 per cent

Property           85 per cent

AF                    56 per cent

HR                    76 per cent

IT                      60 per cent

 

The skills shortage has negatively impacted business activity:

Construction     41 per cent

Engineering       43 per cent

Property           42 per cent

AF                    28 per cent

HR                    29 per cent

IT                      34 per cent

 

The skills shortage has negatively impacted business growth:

Construction     37 per cent

Engineering       44 per cent

Property           28 per cent

AF                    25 per cent

HR                    24 per cent

IT                      33 per cent

O’Grady said government agencies and IT associations should increase their efforts in encouraging more women to take science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses at an early stage and to make its attractive for them to join the IT industry.

“Companies need to look at the long-term and invest more time and resources in developing talent,” he said.

33 COMMENTS

  1. I have to admit to not fully understanding all the numbers you are quoting. Perhaps your introduction of the Hays numbers could be expanded a bit, or could you provide a reference to the source(s)?
    As one of those “seasoned professionals” I do agree that it has, since the 2008/9 recession, become more difficult to land appropriate jobs or contracts. This is perhaps more because the hiring managers are requesting more and more specialties when the seasoned professional has a broader and broader range of experiences but less in-depth hands-on experience. Not all seasoned professionals are not keeping up to date at the strategic/planning and management levels!
    That being said, your article does not really answer the question – where in fact are the jobs? It also does not speak to the role of recruiting agencies such as Hays in finding the matches, especially in the public sector.

      • There was a terrible crash in 2000-2002, the after-effects of which were felt for several years. There was another crash in 2008-2009 that, while less severe, made it almost impossible to find any kind of work for the duration: I was out of work for over a year, and at one point I was retraining for a different field.

        The U.S. ICT industry had a vee-shaped recovery, but the downturn was much more pronounced and prolonged in Canada. To its credit, the Harper government finally ended the long-running Liberal-introduced program that waived labor market opinions for seven ICT-related fields. (Ostensibly there were critical shortages, but salaries of 45K were not indicative of such.)

        • There never really was much of any recovery out of the 2000-2002 mess for Canadian IT talent. I know plenty of people who graduated 2000-2003-ish who still can’t find jobs even to this day.

          • If they have been out of work and out of school for more than a year, they can write off being considered.

            I went three and a half years without an income, but I returned to school for two and a half of those. Just as my unpaid internship was finishing, the market showed signs of life and my career was salvaged.

          • Hence not only is there not a shortage, but there is a dramatic glut. Lots of very sad situations and lots of great talent sidelined because of this nonsense.

            The US “recovery” was almost entirely staffed with foreign nationals. With the applications of US citizens mostly thrown straight into the garbage or the electronic equivalent.

  2. “For instance, in the case of fresh grads, many firms don’t like to invest time and resources in training a new hire for a stretch that may take two to three years until that person becomes a valuable member …”

    In short: Firms don’t want to invest in, or nurture, their employees. They want some other company to have done it for them. The problem is that no firm wants to be the “other company”.

  3. “For instance, in the case of fresh grads, many firms don’t like to invest time and resources in training a new hire for a stretch that may take two to three years until that person becomes a valuable member …”

    In short: Firms don’t want to invest in, or nurture, their employees. They want some other company to have done it for them. The problem is that no firm wants to be the “other company”.

    • Its pretty much the epitome of arrogance to suggest that it takes a new hire two or three years before they become ‘valuable’. It speaks to employers who are more interested in devaluing the skills and abilities of the young, rather than building them up. Fresh grads bring a lot of skills from school which can contribute to business from day one.

      • Unfortunately, the HR culture in Canada is not humane. For some reason the hiring people are not interested to see what exactly the individual knows in some particular field nor they have a clue about the profession itself. I had been a witness to several interviews without the interviewer realizing that somebody else is listening the conversation. It is disgusting how they present the same standard questions to different interviewee. I believe that the person for the position is selected up front and the interviews are just there to keep the ‘face’. There are two types of interviews. One when they want to hire someone, who is somebody for somebody. The second option is when they hire somebody to do the actual job. I can tell you several examples when the people hired for the job not only have any kind of education, or education that has nothing to do with the job – such as for example somebody works as a team leader for an IT department with History Degree. Yeah! History Degree would help a lot! The companies on the other hand totally forgot what does it mean to be decent! They what your knowledge for free. Where all the decency left? When was it last time that they paid decent money for a decent job? The only thing is left greedy indifference for their human fellowman. If they are at all human! And those who will come after me with their standard bullshit rhetoric don’t’ bother!

  4. Many jobs have a list of insane requirements, it is just a fact that companies don’t want to do any training. They want the prospective employee to be able to work immediately and then when the work is done, they are expendable.

    • Not only that, but firms rarely reply to unsuccessful applicants before re-posting a position if they can’t find what they’re looking for. I’ve applied for plenty of jobs where I met 90% of the stated requirements, but am met with silence. Is the 10% that I’m missing a big deal? Why the silence? Employers need to engage with not only their current workforce, but also their future workforce.

  5. Many jobs have a list of insane requirements, it is just a fact that companies don’t want to do any training. They want the prospective employee to be able to work immediately and then when the work is done, they are expendable.

  6. Fresh Graduated/Entry Level… Its true, like me no one would like to hire me as Information Technology because i don’t have experience… sad to say in my part…wish to learn my profession too but when?…

      • Stay well away. There’s still grads from over a decade ago who can’t find jobs and can’t even get interviews. Not for lack of quality, but for the simple fact of a glut.

  7. I wonder if the employers don’t like to hire professionals came from foreign countries, why the government used to publish a list of demanding professions to attract people to come to Canada as a skilled worker in those fields ?!!

    • Its been my experience that the employers prefer new immigrants over established Canadians because they “work cheap”.

  8. Organizations like ICTC are simply shills for universities and colleges trying to push programs to the public. These numbers are click bait for a young technically savy gernation that may be goaded into moving into a IT Program at an accredited university. Folks take no stock in it. I have been out of work for one year now. I have more certifications than I can count, 10 years of experience and I cannot find work because there are no real opportunities.

    Truth is every opportunity for IT is being outsourced into the cloud or still being off shored. Opportunities for an internal positions in the corporate world are being out right cut or filled by TFW’s until they outsource or offshore (That’s where those 187,000 positions are going)

    If you are still in school or soon to graduate, change your major to something outside of tech now. If you don’t you’ll just be fighting for a low paid job against 50,000 TFW’s or take a job with Hays that pays nothing and offers no benefits or IT training.

    Technology like banking has become mcdonaldsafied (low paying, temporary, easily replaceable with the next applicant) Don’t let anyone tell you experience matters! it doesn’t in the slightest if anything they assume you’re starting wage will simply be too high. Can’t get an interview after applying? neither can the experienced professionals. As for companies saying they cannot find qualified candidates, how is that possible when they all freely admit they get 150 applications for each position they post and they constantly post the same position over and over and over again never actually hiring anyone? It can’t be that there’s a shortage of qualified workers and an oversupply of overqualified workers can it? This article proves it once again companies and universities are outright lying to us a professionals and workers so they have an excuse to give the government to bring in cheap labour. Thanks for bringing it up Nestorm, great article.

    • Very true. I know quite a few people who graduated from CS programs, EE programs, and various IT programs in the early 2000s who never were able to gain any traction in the sector. Their resumes thrown on the pile with the thousands of others on account of the glut. How about the employers engaging some of these people before using the TFW’s? What used to be a good high paying profession, has basically been ruined by lies such as this article, the temporary foreign workers, and in the United States, the H-1B’s.

    • I know I am replying after 10 months. But as a senior IT professional in one of the largest Canadian companies, who is not happy with these canadian policies I can tell you for fact they just want to outsource most IT jobs to India..without wanting to understand, that canada is not the USA. What works there will cause death of innovation here. For pure profit for the high executives. Motive is not to create value..just fast money. Way to prevent it : Stop aping US policies. Stop being controlled by US businesses. It’s not good for us. Plan new IT hubs in low priced real estate towns. I too would like to move out of highly expensive city..May be will even accept lower wages..but pls don’t keep reposting ADS when your intention is not to really recruit in Canada.

    • “Organizations like ICTC are simply shills for universities and colleges trying to push programs to the public.”

      Very true. If there were genuine skills shortages, wages would be rising, and they are not.

    • According to the latest “companies are desperate for these IT skills” story I read, they should be falling over themselves to offer me top wages, a corner office, and a company car. I have every “in demand” skill they say they want. And yet I’ve been looking for work for a year. Well over a hundred resumes sent out and not a single phone call in return. No Skype interviews. Nothing.

      This talk of a skills shortage is a load of crap.

  9. There IS NO shortage. Only a shortage of companies willing to pay respectable, living wages. Like every other industry out there, they just want cheap labour. Trust me – there are thousands of IT workers out there that can’t find work because companies refuse to pay them what they’re worth.

    • There’s a huge number of IT workers out there who can’t even get interviews. Can’t even get employers to tell them where they come up short skills or aptitude wise. Without feedback, how are people supposed to aim their training budgets or develop personal skills and aptitude to meet the employers’ needs?

  10. Employers who claim ‘shortages’ need to step up to the plate and start hiring. There’s lots of people who can do the jobs, but their resumes are simply ignored. I spoke to an organization who was looking for an IT manager and advertised it on a regional job website. They received over 50 applications. Even professionals with multiple degrees and good experience didn’t even receive the basic “courtesy of a response”.

  11. I remember being able to find a job in the Seattle area in two weeks, while a Vancouver search shortly afterwards netted nothing in five months.

    There is no IT labor shortage in Canada; otherwise, wages would be soaring and they have been flat for many years.

  12. I’ve sent out just over 100 resume’s since January and not had so much as a phone call in return. And yet I keep seeing thousands of job postings and hearing about how there’s a shortage of skilled IT workers. And now the gov’t wants to bring in thousands more skilled “economic migrants”.

    This is about keeping wages low. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no shortage of talent, just a shortage of talent that will work for minimum wage, no benefits, and no vacation. Immigrants take this kind of work gladly. Why wouldn’t companies want them? Short term and precarious work is all that’s out there. The rising tide might lift all the boats, but that doesn’t help the millions of people that got tossed over the side in 2008.

  13. There IS NO shortage. Our taxation and labor laws put too much burden on the employer that they would rather hire employees outside of North America than have to pay the fees and wages expected in Canada. The laws need to be changed so that employers can more easily afford to hire professionals across all of these groups mentioned.

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