There is a massive supply and demand imbalance in Canada’s tech ecosystem. It can be attributed to mismatched skills and an aging workforce that has created an urgent need for information communication and technology (ICT) talent. In fact, Canada will need to fill approximately 190,000 positions by 2019.
The in-demand jobs range from software engineers to network operators to consultants and everything in between. According to the last count a couple of years ago, Canada has a little over 800,000 ICT professionals. But as the nation’s robust tech industry continues to grow, they are going to need a lot more experienced professionals to fill the skills gap.
So what’s the solution? More computer science graduates? Foreign workers? Let’s take a closer look.
Can Homegrown Graduates Fill the Skills Gap?
There has been an effort to increase interest in computer science in the education sector. These efforts have even started at the kindergarten level to get kids hooked on technology from the moment they set foot in a classroom.
But encouraging Canadian youth hasn’t been easy as even the promise of a high-paying career hasn’t got Canadians interested in pursuing technology-related education. According to research, out of 2.1 million Canadians enrolled in post-secondary institutions across Canada, only 6% (126,000) were enrolled in technology-related fields.
While this number sounds a little encouraging, we must also note that only 12,800 students graduated with ICT-related degrees in 2015. At the same time, while there may be some recent graduates that can be hired, not all companies are interested.
Many firms don’t want to invest time and resources to train a new hire because it might take two to three years before they become a valuable member of the organization. There is also similar apprehension when it comes to hiring professionals from overseas as the company might not be familiar with the projects that the candidates were previously involved in.
The Growth of Short-Term Assignments
To minimize the risk, companies have been hiring talent from overseas on short-term assignments or as consultants. It has grown to become a popular option as it helps companies save money by not paying for any benefits. Further, they can also quickly replace the worker whenever they like at a minimum cost.
While the lack of updated skills is similar across various industries, IT, in particular, faces the biggest hurdles where the skills shortage has negatively impacted business growth by as much as 33%.
But the Canadian tech ecosystem keeps moving forward even though homegrown talent won’t be sufficient to meet the demands of the industry. As the tech industry is primarily driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, social, apps, analytics, and cloud computing, it will be interesting to see how hiring managers tackle this problem.
In the long run, the lack of individuals with the right blend of business and technical skills can also have a negative impact on the nation’s prosperity. The occupations with the highest demand for professionals are as follows:
- Computer and network operators and web technicians
- Computer programmers and interactive media developers
- Computer and information systems managers
- Database analysts and data administrators
- Graphic designers and illustrators
- Information systems analysts and consultants
- Software engineers and mobile developers
Medium demand jobs include the following:
- Broadcast technicians
- Computer engineers
- Electrical and electronics engineers
- Electrical and electronics engineering technologists and technicians
- Web designers and developers
- Systems testing technicians
- User support technicians
While the industry is yet to find a solid solution to this problem, we can expect a lot of companies to continue to outsource non-critical functions overseas to get the job done cost-effectively. Furthermore, they may also be forced to change their perception of foreign professionals to take advantage of relaxed immigration policies that have been specially designed to attract IT talent.