Post-secondary accreditation: A key differentiator when hiring new grads

According to a recent Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) report, “…by 2016 approximately 106,000 jobs will need to be filled in Canada with demand for critical jobs far exceeding supply.”

Compounding this challenge is an ICT sector unemployment rate of three per cent versus the national average of 7.5 per cent for all other sector,s and the continued emergence of ICT sectors in segments such as the mobile arena, cloud computing and creative online content.

It is in this skills shortage environment that Canadian businesses must compete for critical talent. They are not just competing with others in this country. According to ICTC, Canada is also competing in an increasingly tight labour market, with emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

One way to gain an advantage in this battle is to learn from sports teams and develop local young talent within Canada, recruiting the best IT graduates this country can provide. Hiring these new graduates versus experienced workers will require some investment to make them productive within the company, but the raw talent and current knowledge they bring, coupled with enthusiasm and energy, can quickly change their value from cost to profit.

Canada has an excellent post-secondary system covering the full gamut of training and education from one-year certificates to full doctoral and post-doctoral studies. Many of these institutions are noted for the quality of their IT and Computer Science (CS) graduates.

Given the size of this post-secondary system, how best can a company looking to hire a graduate make the best choice? One way to differentiate among programs is to look for industry recognized accreditation. This value differentiation is very well described by Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) fellow and past national president Marilyn Harris.

According to Marilyn, who was and remains deeply involved in maintaining CIPS strong accreditation process, “Standards are a cornerstone of every industry in Canada.  IT has been a bit late to the game; demand for staff often pushed the need for established guidelines to the back of the line. But if you’re an employer seeking to attract the ‘best and the brightest’ of graduates entering our industry today, CIPS’ accreditation of post-secondary IT programs is your best friend. Standards are about excellence: in curriculum design, in faculty qualifications, in facilities and equipment, in student entrance requirements.

“When you’re interviewing new grads,” Marilyn says, “you have limited criteria on which to judge the skills of your applicants: their grades, summer jobs, perhaps previous, but often unrelated employment, maybe some reference letters. What can make the most difference to you is a simple question: did you graduate from an accredited IT program?  If the answer is yes, tick off ‘all of the above’ re excellence.

“Your company’s long-term financial investment in your new grad hires is enormous. When they bring a quality educational foundation with them, you have the baseline building block you need for a successful return on that investment. There is no substitute for excellence. Make sure it’s part of your hiring program.”

The ICTC provides some of the most current and reliable labour market information available. In doing this, it also places a significant focus on Canada’s Digital Economic Strategy, a key federal strategy to grow and diversify our national economy.

Talent is the fuel that drives this sector. If Canada is to gain and maintain a leading position our companies will have to win that talent competition. In the area of hiring and developing recent graduates and creating your own star player, selecting grads from an accredited program provides you with a third party validation of the quality of that learning environment and increases your probability of hiring the best.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Dave O'Leary
Dave O'Leary
Dave is a founding managing partner of REDDS Venture Investment Partners ( His career in post-secondary education included roles as CIO, Vice-President and acting President. Dave is a member of the Practitioner Board of the Association for Computing Machinery. He chairs the ACM Practitioner Board Marketing Committee and is also a second term member of the Board's Professional Development Committee. (ACM - Association for Computing Machinery--official IFIP international member representative, largest and most respected international computing science, research, education, innovation professional association well known for their AM Turing Award (Nobel of computing) with 1 million USD prize, 1.5 millions user digital library, 2 million reach, learning center, Applicative conference, Queue magazine, 200 conferences/events, 78 publications/news, 37 Special Interest Groups). He is a board director of the Global Industry Council and the immediate Past President of the Canadian Information Processing Society of British Columbia. Dave is co-founder and director of an ISV computer technology business and is currently leading and advising start ups in the USA, China, Europe, and Canada. He serves as a task force member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is the past chair of the Canadian National Council of Deans of Information and Communications Technology. He served two terms as a director of the Canadian National Information and Communications Technology Sector Council advising on National technology and economic strategy. Dave has appeared as a panel member in a number of Microsoft webcasts and has presented globally on the business and technical impacts of technology in training. He is the recipient (2002) of the highest national award for leadership in post-secondary education.

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