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

“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 [email protected].”

“…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:


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



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.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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