How Has the Tech Job Market in Canada Changed?

Take a regular look at hiring trends in Canada, how the tech labour market is evolving and ways to keep up.

Over the past few years, IT staffing has changed — a lot. Not even five years ago, there were rate sheets that were aligned with corporate budgets and expectations. Consultants almost always worked on-site. And everyone knew the process for securing and allocating resources.

Now, there are so many more variables. Social recruiting, Zoom interviews, remote work and virtual onboarding are the norm. We live in a changed business world that has established new conditions. It is one that requires us to stay sharp and consider new strategies to recruit in a tight labour market, and to identify retention strategies that serve the wants and needs of IT candidates. 

S.i. Systems’ team members live and breathe this new world, and have a few insights to share that will help you understand and embrace this new world of tech hiring:

  1. Three fundamental hiring changes
  2. Ongoing challenges here to stay
  3. Two hot (and hard-to-fill) specialties

Three fundamental changes in today's employment landscape

Ignore at your own peril! In a time when the demand for talent with key skills far outstrips supply, listening to what potential employees or contractors want from their work can make for a stronger pipeline.

1. Flexibility. 
We always take a more reserved approach to the latest trend, but this one looks here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Employers need to be flexible about remote work. 

We hear it loud and clear: candidates are looking for employers who offer flexibility as demonstrated by the opportunity to work remotely, or in a hybrid office/WFH model. 

2. Remote recruiting. 
Not too distant from the idea of remote work is broadening your postal code parameters. The trade off for an employer’s flexibility is the ability to draw on talent pools from different cities, provinces, time zones, even countries. Talent for one part of the country is being found in distant locations, sometimes across the country and sometimes across the world.

“Most clients in Calgary weren’t even considering candidates that weren’t local,” said Dana Stene, S.i.Systems Account Executive in Calgary. “That is no longer the case, especially for niche skill sets. For example, cloud developers are in big demand in Calgary and they are hard to find. We are encouraging and helping our clients locate skills such as these nationally, in markets like Toronto, where there are candidates available with that skill set.” 

Brian Brady, VP of Public Sector in Ottawa, is experiencing the same change with his clients. “IT staffing clients have come a long way in a few years. They used to insist contractors needed to be onsite in Ottawa. But now we are finding talent across the country to work in Ottawa.”

3. Shift in the worker/company relationship. 
There is an increase in use of contract workers to fill IT skills gaps left by both the tech talent shortage and lack of key skills. At least 79% of executives predict that contract and freelance workers will replace full-time employees in the future. 

Contractor staffing is embraced by the public and private sectors alike, reducing overhead such as benefits and automatic withholding for taxes and retirement. In turn, this new relationship puts a spotlight on corporate culture, replacing “ping pong table perks” with communication, engagement and brand transparency. 

Ongoing job market challenges that are here to stay

IT workers in Canada have grown accustomed to navigating new challenges over the past few years. The challenges below aren’t resolved — and we predict they’ll continue to test recruiters and employers until they are.

1. Battle for Tech Talent

Hiring talent for in-demand specialties, like cyber security, data analytics, software development and ERP, will continue to challenge employers. Demand is super high, supply just isn’t. Employers are competing hard to get the talent they need. The competition may seem to be other Canadian companies or government agencies, but it’s not just Canadian firms. Google, Meta (Facebook), Pinterest, Amazon and other tech behemoths are offering top pay and luring developers away, making the talent pool even more shallow — even globally.

2. Dual Fluency in English & French

The need for fluency in both French and English has been a challenge for decades. But add the constraints of a tight tech pool and it becomes even more critical. Ahna Goswami, from the Ottawa private sector team, says that “certain specializations have been more of a struggle, such as identifying software and mobile developers who are bilingual in French and English.” 

3. Money, Speed, and Opportunity

Supply and demand is pushing hiring managers to think differently, but like purchasing anything these days, we naturally fight the reality of having to pay more. There is an evident disconnect between balancing current market rates and what clients have paid historically. Not only are rates challenging, but speed of hiring is critical to getting the best value hire for your project. Dana Stene, in our Calgary office, put it this way: “It’s important not just to make the match quickly, but to ensure that the client is able to pay market rates with longer-term contracts. We provide market data on what is being paid, and remind our clients to stay open minded and be prepared to move quickly on a candidate. It’s a fast-paced market we’re in.”  

Two hot (and hard to fill) specialties

It’s not news to you, but the entire tech industry is on fire. While many skill sets are always in demand, there are two that can't be extinguished — Cyber Security and Data & Analytics.

Cyber Security

Cyber security roles are broad, from hiring IT architects to project and program managers right through to analysts, engineers, and administrators. If you’re finding these roles hard to fill, you’re not alone. ZDNet reported that a lack of investment, combined with the challenge of additional workloads, is resulting in a skills shortage that's leading to unfilled jobs and high burnout among information security staff. In fact, 57% say a shortage of cybersecurity skills has impacted the organisation they work for.

Our cyber security practice has continued to grow year-over-year. So has demand for cyber security talent.

Even with the supply/demand imbalance, S.i. Systems has secured a significant number of talented professionals in this specialty area. We have learned much throughout this process, and shared it in our Guide to Staffing your Cyber Security Practice. Download it at your convenience - there are many helpful resources within it.

Data & Analytics

Data science and analytics are another area where we see great demand. The supply of data scientists is low, and it's because even now the field of data science is still relatively new.  According to Towards Data Science, these jobs rank in the top three most sought after positions. They stay open, on average, five days longer than other similar jobs. 

For data science it is important to note that those who get into the field usually transition from other fields such as business, psychology, and life sciences. Given that, S.i. Systems works closely with our clients to advise them on how to look at resumes differently so they don’t miss out on someone who may be the next data science leader. Learn more about this when you download our latest eBook, Data Analytics: Steaming Hot and Getting Hotter.

Essentially, both of these categories demand a fresh look at how one determines if a candidate is right for the job. Quite often we suggest that a strong fit might actually require upskilling into the role. Indeed, our clients who are successful in hiring for cyber security and data science roles are planning ahead, anticipating their needs, and taking advantage of incubators and educational programs building a tech talent pipeline. We often counsel candidates that they, too, continue to expand their expertise, experience, and skills in these high-demand jobs.

Job Market Trends: New playbook. New possibilities.

These challenges may seem daunting, but Canada has bright opportunities ahead because of what we learned during the pandemic. We learned to recruit differently, work differently, and prioritize talent needs, all while balancing high demand for technologists in every sector. 

“The past few years have driven tremendous change that will have long-reaching benefits,” said Brian Brady. “It’s when the impossible became possible. We learned that:

  • It is possible to work offsite in almost all roles - and it’s possible to lose out on the best candidate if you refuse WFH options.
  • It is possible to have people working from other cities on your projects
  • It is possible to create a positive onboarding experience for someone working remotely.
  • It is possible to rely on electronic signatures.
  • It is possible to manage your team’s output and productivity instead of the hours in the office.

…. And the list goes on and on.”

We’ve been doing this for a long time at S.i. Systems. We’ve seen the peaks and valleys and we can’t emphasize strongly enough that we’re excited for this new world of staffing. It’s a change whose time has come and whose impact will be good for the industry.  We are finding fresh talent solutions for organizations who are embracing their brands, engaging with team members, and finding the right new approach for hiring and retention.

Let’s talk about how our expertise can support your hiring needs in this new world of staffing. 

2023 Canadian IT Hiring Trends & Salary Guide

In a candidate-driven market, offering competitive rates is critical to getting your foot in the door with top talent. Our 2023 Canadian IT Hiring Trends & Salary Guide gives you not only the rate data but the expert insights and market trends you need to successfully staff your IT teams.

Unlock the Salary guide