Skills, labour shortage looming for tech sector: Study

Foreign workers, more practical education needed

Canada's information and communications technology (ICT) sector is facing skills and labour shortages in the next five years, according to a recent study.

For most regions in Canada and most ICT occupations, demand will far exceed supply, according to Outlook for Human Resources in the ICT Labour Market, 2011-2016 by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).  

Employers will encounter systemic shortages when recruiting for ICT jobs that require five or more years' experience. The severity of these shortages will increase when employers are seeking to recruit ICT people with leading edge skills such as marketing, accounting and finance competencies, found the study.

"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 Bernard Courtois, president and CEO of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC). “Global job mobility, technological change, demographics, declining enrolments and shifting investment patterns have combined to create a pending shortfall among skilled ICT workers.”

The results also show a new job market for ICT, one that has radically changed. Industry now needs workers with leading edge skills, such as systems analysis and design combined with marketing, operations management and HR management, or people with particular combinations of domain experience (such as e-health, e-finance and digital media) together with ICT expertise.

Over the next five years, Canadian employers will need to hire an estimated 106,000 ICT workers.

Five levers for change:

ICTC has identified five levers for change and accompanying recommendations to address the issues identified in the labour market study:

•To meet Canada's need for highly qualified ICT talent, the country has to maintain and, ideally, grow enrolment in ICT-related post-secondary programs beyond current levels.

•The integration of internationally educated professionals (IEPs) is a critical action that must continue to ensure that industry can access this already available labour pool.

•Post-secondary education must shift to integrated, cross-discipline programs with practicum components and professional development opportunities to ensure graduates are equipped with the mix of skills employers are looking for.

•Employers need to invest in "nearly qualified" candidates and make professional development accessible, flexible and focused on providing employees with the skills required to meet their rapidly changing needs.

•Improved diversity and inclusion of under-represented groups in the ICT industry will provide critical productivity gains and competitive advantages for Canadian business in a global marketplace.

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