Candidates + Consultants

The IT Talent Shortage and Skills Gap, Through the Eyes of Real IT Consultants

IT consultants share their perspectives on how to stay marketable in the tech industry

Countless economists and labour experts have weighed in on the challenging IT hiring climate right now in Canada. Most, however, have taken a bird’s-eye approach to their analysis, making sweeping generalizations that fail to provide clarity on the best hiring path forward.

Is the talent shortage getting better or worse? On what level does the skills gap exist, and is there any way to close it? What’s the shelf life of today’s in-demand tech skills?

We tapped into our network of IT consultants to share a new perspective on these burning questions: theirs.

Read on to learn what our talented consultants had to say about the IT labour market in Canada.

Is there a tech talent shortage?

A labour shortage can often be mistaken for a skills shortage, when, in fact, these are two interconnected yet distinct challenges that plague businesses. Let’s look at the numbers.

Of the 16 million Canadians at work, 1.2 million of them are IT professionals. Now, is 1.2 million enough tech workers to go around? Not exactly. The enormous pressure to digitally transform means that businesses across all industries need tech talent. 

Just one example of this is the seemingly permanent move to hybrid and remote work. For many companies, it has required a retooling of processes and workflows and the creation of an IT infrastructure that can safely support it. 

One of our consultants suggested that the talent shortage is localized to a particular category: full-time employees. 

“Lots of candidates seem to be with large consulting firms. There is a shortage of in-house independent talent.” - Sheldon, QA Lead

What about the recent headlines surrounding the right-sizing of resources within the IT industry, resulting in thousands of layoffs? Harvard Business Review shared how businesses can take advantage of this tech talent flooding the market

One of our consultants shared his take on the layoffs and where that talent might ultimately land.

“With larger tech companies laying people off, there should be a previously inaccessible talent pool up for grabs. But what I’ve seen lately is that true tech talent, the die-hard developers, are generally not attracted to larger organizations. They are enticed by more exciting projects with newer technologies. That leaves a large number of B-players to be picked up by bigger companies with more dated technology.” - Justin, Solution Architect

How severe is the IT skills gap?

To get a sense of the severity–and potential longevity–of the skills gap, It’s important to examine it through a variety of lenses. 

Is it isolated to certain IT specialties like data analytics and software development? Is it more prevalent in specific industries? Yes, and yes.

“There is a lack of subject matter expertise in a number of different domains of IT right now, like big data, and there is also a shortage of IT resources with experience in some niche industries like, for example, rail transportation.” - Samir, Sr. Program Manager

“I am a Process Consultant, and it is very rare to meet other individuals with a similar skill set. At some clients I am the only person who can build best-in-class business process models, maps, and documentation to improve processes.” - Aasim, Sr. Business Analyst

Is there an end in sight for the IT skills gap as we know it?

“There is always going to be a shortage due to ever evolving technologies.” - Adnan, Server Analyst

“Since it takes time to develop new skills on fast emerging technologies like AI, DevOps, Network Architecture, Data Science, etc., a shortage of skills like we have today is inevitable.” - Chris, Sr. Technical Writer

When we think of the IT skills gap, we think of tech skills and expertise like data analysis or certain programming languages. We also need to consider the role soft skills play in an IT professional’s success. 

“IT consultants need to have the ability to both communicate and perform their function. All projects – whether they are waterfall or agile – require collaboration, and collaboration is driven by communication. The most skilled developers, architects, business analysts, and project managers will not succeed without the right soft skills.” - Eugene, Software Development Consultant

As an IT professional, how has the skills gap or tech shortage affected the team(s) or projects you’ve worked on?

Next, we explored the impact these overarching labor challenges have on our consultants’ day-to-day jobs–and what they’re able to accomplish (or, as you’ll see, not accomplish) because of them.

Unsurprisingly, the resounding response was that the skills gap creates project delays. 

“Due to the skills gap, there is improper resource planning, which can result in project deadlines not being met. This affects the overall plan for the team and the client.” - Adnan, Server Analyst

“The main way we see shortages affecting us is sometimes we cannot meet project deadlines or have to push them out until we find the right resource. This can take several months or even longer if it is more of a niche project.” - Al, Senior Agile Coach 

“In general, tech skill gaps impede the team from delivering, especially if the tasks are on the critical path.” - Deepak, Sr. Project Manager

Another result of the skills gap is added pressure on the existing team. This can lead to engagement and retention issues if companies are without the right talent for an extended period of time.

“When we can’t find the right resources to augment dev teams – then we are working longer/harder/more to deliver the projects we are committed to.” - Justin, Solution Architect

What pressure do you feel to evolve and build your own tech skills to remain current and marketable?

Given the breakneck pace of technology innovation, the IT profession requires significant investment in ongoing education and skills training. The consultants we spoke with are definitely feeling the pressure to stay at the top of their game.

“There’s a lot of pressure. Automation technology is rapidly evolving, and it’s important I keep pace with new developments in this space.” - Sheldon, QA Lead

“I feel pressure in that I need to make sure that while I’m paid to deliver solutions built on more dated tech, I need to learn about new tech trends on my own. But every good developer should do that.” - Justin, Solution Architect

“I feel the need to upgrade and polish my skills, as well as stay relevant by learning emerging technologies, by self-study, research, and taking professional education courses.” - Chris, Sr. Technical Writer

IT talent shortage? Yes. Skills gap? Again, yes. But, as you can see, both of these challenges will remain a moving target. As tech innovation accelerates and the IT market shifts, the talent needed to drive and execute these initiatives at the business level are continuously evolving and growing as well.

To stay ahead of these challenges, IT leaders need to proactively bring on in-demand IT labor as full-time employees and temporary consultants, even during economic uncertainty. It’s just as important to regularly check in your team to minimize the side effects of being under-resourced or without specific expertise.

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.