Canada has an ICT skills shortage problem, and more women joining the industry is the answer, according to a report released today by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC).

The organization reports that Canada will need 182,000 ICT workers by 2019, and an additional 36,000 on top of that by 2020. While Canada isn’t alone in feeling this skills shortage, the government has to take the steps necessary to push Canada forward as a leader in the global digital economy, ITAC said.

Robert Watson
ITAC president and CEO Robert Watson hopes that his organization’s recommendations will be considered by the federal government as it pursues its innovation agenda.

“Canada has the potential to be a leader in the global digital economy but we need to address the skills gap that will hamper growth,” ITAC president and CEO Robert Watson said in a statement to ITBusiness.ca.

ITAC’s report, “ITAC on Talent,” is the fourth and final in a series outlining how the Canadian government can best pursue the six-pillar “innovation agenda” that Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains revealed earlier this year.

Investing in women

On the Canadian front, ITAC recommends that the ICT sector shine its spotlight on two underlit demographics in particular: women and youth.

ITAC reports that women continue to be severely underrepresented within Canada’s ICT sector, with the level of engagement of women in ICT hovering around 25 per cent for the last 10 years, despite research showing that gender equality has only ever been good for business. Diversity in leadership roles has led to an increase of organizational effectiveness, for instance, the report’s authors noted.

However, ITAC acknowledged that the government is attempting to rectify this problem in the industry, as its Department of Status of Women, led by Minister Patricia Hajdu, was instrumental in the mid-2016 launch of the organization’s Women on Boards program, which helps women become ‘board-ready’ before storing their resumes in a searchable database.

Additionally, part of Bill C-25 aims to amend certain business laws by “requiring certain corporations to place before the shareholders, at every annual meeting, information respecting diversity among directors and the members of senior management,” the report’s authors wrote.

But these steps are just the beginning, ITAC suggests: moving forward, the government should “strongly encourage more women to enter ICT by providing and supporting targeted programs and scholarships geared toward this group,” the report says.

Investing in education and youth

Another important step in solving Canada’s increasing skills gap is investing in Canadian youth, especially as the gap continues to widen between what the industry requires and what colleges and universities are able to provide.

ITAC has put two programs in place that it believes will help organizations and the government with this problem: ITAC’s Business Technology Management, which provides post-secondary students with technology and business skills; and CareerMash, a program that aims to inspire high school students to pursue post-secondary schooling in ICT by connecting ICT with such subjects as the arts.

Bringing in global talent

Last week, Minister Bains and Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship John McCallum announced the Liberal government’s new Global Skills Strategy, which will make it easier for companies to import highly-skilled talent to Canada from across the world.

A recent Global Talent Flows report by the World Bank revealed Canada to be one of the top four destination countries for highly-skilled migrant workers; with the Global Skills Strategy, it will be easier for Canadian organizations to bring in those workers.

ITAC’s fourth innovation paper emphasizes the importance of making it easier for companies to bring in temporary foreign workers (TFWs), noting that they often help scale Canadian businesses while providing experiences and knowledge that younger workers don’t necessarily have. Ultimately, more TFWs will drive the ICT industry forward in Canada, ITAC says.

Most importantly, it says, boosting Canada’s ICT sector carries considerable benefits for Canada as a whole.

“Stats clearly show the shortage of skilled ICT talent in the technology sector is an issue not only in Canada but in countries around the world.” Watson says. “Without the support of government, Canadian companies will not be in a position to innovate, scale or compete in the global market.”

With the right moves, it will.

The full report can be read on ITAC’s website.

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  • Alex – good article on the issues associated with IT Talent in Canada. As a senior IT professional who has had a wide variety of IT roles ranging from hands-on installation through to now owning and managing multiple technology companies as an entrepreneur, I have generally been the only female in my type of role, and would therefore say that would be significantly less percentage that stated in the ITAC report.

    I have found that the education system and the industry generally does not leverage or capitalize on the unique viewpoints and ways that we females learn and work in hard core engineering technology areas. It has been up to us as individual females to figure out to learn science, math and technology as it has always been traditionally taught, and then leverage our female strengths and characteristics that have enable us to grow and succeed.

    Those of us that have figured this out have generally exceeded any and all expectations and performance measures of our male peers within the organizations we have worked in and grown to lead as senior leaders.

    Perhaps ITAC, CATA and other tech industry organizations can help develop and provide detailed input into education and industry hiring programs and practices to enable Canada to capitalize on growing the female tech sector population.

    Last idea, albeit a out of the box creative one…why doesn’t the Canadian government create a business-oriented task force and contract some of us senior IT role models to help develop specific programs to monitor and fund female participation in education and industry with specific incentives based on growth of female population representation? (tax, investment or other incentive programs).

    Roberta Fox, Chairman & Chief Innovation Leader, FOX GROUP Technology
    911TechAdvisors – Chief Technology and Regulatory Advisor
    FOXePRO – Chief Procurement Advisor

    • jbwilson24

      “why doesn’t the Canadian government create a business-oriented task force”

      Because it would be a waste of money.

      Women are a minority in some fields, and a massive majority in others. Elementary school teaching, nursing, health administration, speech/language pathology (etc) are all 90+% female.

      Why then should we care if IT is 30% female? Hard labour, sanitation engineering and other careers are probably 90% male. Why not target those fields with your ire?

      At present women are a clear majority in biology programs, law schools, medical programs, etc etc. They are > 55% of students in US universities.

      I will care about women in computing when women care about men in elementary school education. That is FAR more critical to society than IT.

  • jbwilson24

    More bloviating about a non-existent skills shortage. This is the same puffery that came out during the dot com bubble. Back then, serious economists who analyzed the issue concluded there was not a shred of evidence for a shortage. Instead, there was a demand for lower wages by employers. Even the US NSF was pushing the skills shortage line while internally talking about how it was about reducing wage rates.

    ITAC is an industry association that represents the interests of employers, not workers.

    Canada’s terrible IT industry even pressured governments to double enrollment in computer science and engineering programs under the ‘double the opportunity’ initiative. Of course the market crashed and those grads couldn’t find work. Compsci enrollment was dead for many years after that. (Which was a good thing, as it weeded out the weak students who were only in those programs for jobs).