Is Canada heading toward a devastating labour shortage in the tech space?

by Knowlton Thomas

A new study suggests that Canada may be facing a "systemic" technology labour shortage. Companies will be trying to fill more than 100,000 new positions in the info and communications technology sector but there is expected to be a severe lack of qualified candidates, according to the Information and Communications Technology Council. 

Demand for ICT professionals is growing but annual enrollment rates for Canadian software and computer engineering programs has flattened. Shortages will be most severe for positions needing several years worth of experience.

Quoth the Financial Post:

“We are quite comfortable in saying ‘ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem’,” said Paul Swinwood, chief executive of the ICTC. “The people with 5 to 7 years experience just don’t exist anymore because we didn’t hire them 5 years ago,” said Mr. Swinwood. “The jobs have changed and the people that we need for them have changed.”

“But the skills in anticipation of what will be required going forward is certainly going to be different than it was 10 years ago,” said Evelyn Ledsham, global talent management leader at Open Text Corp. With about 1,200 Canada-based employees, Waterloo, Ontario-based Open Text is the country’s largest software company. “In the past, people might have only looked for what I would call very silent functional skills, but in today’s marketplace that is just not going to be enough anymore and so many of us have to have the ability to adapt and be flexible,” Ms. Ledsham said.

Females, Aboriginal, and First Nations people are all severely underrepresented in the sector, which reflects poorly on Canada and also compounds its skills shortage problem.

The study in essence highlights some basic math, and the tried, tested, and true economic principles of supply and demand. Companies need more people than are graduating and enrolling. Trends indiciate demand will rise while supply remains stagnant. And this sort of problem isn't just about a lagging sector; it could signal damage to our entire country's productivity and innovation.

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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