The steps Canada needs to take to close its IT talent skills gap

A CompTIA researcher talks about the methods to attract high-tech talent, what IT pros really want and ’employer branding’

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Canada’s IT industry is currently facing a skills gap, and as Canadian executives look to increase their IT staff, acquiring talent is only going to get more competitive.

According to a recent study by CompTIA, an American non-profit information technology industry association, 35 per cent of Canadian executives are looking to increase their IT staff size, while 90 per cent indicate at least some degree of IT skills gap at their business.

The IT Skills Gap in Canada 

According to Tim Herbert, the senior VP of research and market intelligence at CompTIA, markets around the world are suffering from IT skills shortages as technology is used more pervasively across a wider variety of industries.

“One of the ramifications of this is it has spurred increased demand for a range of IT skills,” he said, adding that the shortage extends to both core IT functions as well as knowledge workers that employ technology outside of traditional IT departments. “Core IT workers, that segment of the workforce grew 4.2 per cent in 2014, so in the Canadian market you added roughly 52,000 additional core IT workers.”

How to Find IT Talent in Canada 

As hiring for core IT skills gets more competitive, employers need to look beyond traditional recruitment methods in order to attract the next generation of employees.

“We continue to see companies utilize a wide range of methods to identify perspective employees,” said Herbert. “Many now are using social media, using LinkedIn, they’re really trying to reach out and identify candidates and not just passively post a job posting, but proactively looking at what individuals have done.”

Herbert adds that we live in an age where much of a potential candidates’ work experience and samples of their work can be readily found on the internet, and it is therefore up to employers to seek out and explore potential new hires.

How to Appeal to the Next Generation of IT Employees 

It’s no secret that millennial employees are attracted to different aspects of a career than previous generations, and such distinctions extend to IT recruiting as well.

“Certainly there will be greater demand among the next generation of workers for flexibility, less of a rigid work environment than what the previous generations had experienced,” said Herbert. “They’re seeking meaningful work, they want to feel valued, everyone is seeking some degree of financial security, so in some cases we will expect employers to emphasize those aspects of employment.”

The Relative Importance of Employer Brands in IT Recruiting 

As IT recruitment gets more competitive, some brands will have an advantage simply because of how they are perceived in the outside world.

“My sense is that to a degree, yes, if you can land a job with one of the most notable or recognizable brands in technology, it’s probably good for your career,” said Herbert, adding that organizations without a strong employer brand are nonetheless able to compete for the same talent, they just need to emphasize different aspects of career opportunities. “Because there’s a limited number of well known technology brands, most companies hiring tech talent, they can compete with that by emphasizing the opportunity to work on different types of projects, the opportunity to be able to learn new programming languages, the opportunity to apply their talents to problems that may have some kind of social responsibility aspect to it.”

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