Vast Skills, Labour Shortages Looming for Tech Sector

April 6, 2011 Updated: April 6, 2011

EDMONTON—Canada’s information, communications, and technology sector—the most rapidly expanding and changing sector of the economy—will face a major skills and labour shortage within the next five years, warns a new report.

Released by the Ottawa-based Information and Communication Technologies Council (ICTC) and the Information Technology Association of Canada (ICTA), the report highlights shortages and project shortfalls in areas that will be in high demand in the ICT sector in the years to come.

Systemic shortages are projected to be widespread and affect the entire country. In most regions and for most ICT occupations, demand will far exceed supply—particularly for information systems analysts and consultants, the largest ICT occupation in Canada, the report said.

Employers will encounter shortages when recruiting those with five or more years’ experience or those with leading edge skills in marketing, accounting and finance.

Due to the rapid changes in the industry, there is an urgent need for workers with systems analysis, HR management knowledge, and knowledge of more specialized database methods. The speed of the changes means that prospective employees often do not have the specific skill the industry is seeking, and are often frustrated when looking for jobs.

The report said that over the next five years, Canadian employers will need to hire an estimated 106,000 new workers.

“The potential skills and labour shortage crisis has been identified as one of the most defining issues facing the ICT sector in Canada today,” said ITAC president and CEO Bernard Courtois.

“ITAC and other stakeholders asked ICTC to help us understand the reasons for these trends and offer regional and occupational forecasts, and we are now armed with this fresh survey information and groundbreaking analysis by leading Canadian experts to assess current and forecasted trends, and to recommend and implement corrective actions.”

Since graduates with co-op or internships as part of their education will largely be able to obtain relevant employment, the report recommends the development of more co-op/internship programs related to tech work at the college and University levels. Other recommendations include training more women (men currently represent 75 percent of all ICT employees), and more effectively integrating foreign workers who have less knowledge of English or French.

Implementing programs that serve to update the skill sets of individuals already trained in ICT is also a priority.

“Moving forward, industry and government, education and associations most continue to move in a concentrated effort to respond to what is needed to address this looming skills and labour shortage,” said Paul Swinwood, president and CEO of ICTC.

The constant movement of tech sector jobs around the globe, technological change, demographics, declining enrolments, and shifting investment patterns are factors cited in the report that contribute to the shortfall of ICT workers.

ITAC represents companies that account for more than 70 percent of the 572,000 ICT jobs nationwide, contributing $140 billion annually to the Canadian economy.