Industry groups join forces to fight IT labour shortage

The Information and Communications Technology Council has teamed up with the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) to develop strategies that the two organizations say will improve the quality and quantity of ICT workers in Canada.

Formerly known as the Software Human Resource Council, The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and CIPS said they hope to address an anticipated labour shortage of 89,000 workers by 2011.

“We’re not just talking about not enough bodies but also the retooling of ICT skills,” said John Boufford, president of CIPS.

CIPS already has a representative on the ICTC’s board of directors and has participated on projects such as the development of the occupational skills profile model. “But we felt it was time to take the relationship to a new level and participate in the delivery of some of their projects,” he said, “which we haven’t defined as yet.”

What the partnership will do is bring the two organizations closer together to work on program delivery. CIPS, for example, is interested in helping the ICTC roll out a competency framework, but this is still at the proposal stage. “The ICTC has done a fair bit of work on competency recognition and we have a skill set within our organization that would allow us to help them deliver on that piece,” said Boufford.

CIPS is also trying to promote careers in the ICT sector, specifically through its Women in IT program, where it uses female role models within the profession to encourage young women (in grades 9 and 10) to consider careers in IT.

While CIPS may not necessarily reach a larger audience through its partnership with the ICTC, it may be more effective at reaching its existing one. The ICTC program in high schools, for example, might look different than the role model approach that CIPS has taken. “If we approach the same person with the same message packaged in different ways, we might be more successful in raising their awareness and enthusiasm for ICT career opportunities,” said Boufford.

Its Women in IT program has been around for about seven years and the number of females enrolling in computer science really hasn’t changed – it’s still stuck at about 25 per cent. “But with enrolment falling in general, there’s a case to be made that we really need to be getting these messages out to all students,” said Boufford.

The associations are coming together to represent a common interest and that’s absolutely necessary going forward, said Keith Carter, vice-president of business development with Professional Computer Consultants Group Ltd. (Procom), who is a board member of both the ICTC and the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA).

Carter said he agreed with Boufford that the greatest challenge in ICT right now is the labour shortage, and industry associations need to work together to address that. The ICTC, for its part, has tried to quantify the labour shortage and communicate that information to government, so it can work toward addressing that shortage. Industry associations also need to dispel myths about careers in information technology, particularly negative images that followed the dot-com bust.

“One of the downsides to the tech downturn is this belief that there’s no future in technology in Canada, which is absolutely false,” said Carter. CIPS, CATA, ITAC and the ICTC have all tried to reach students with a message that there is a future in technology.

“This year was the very first year since the downturn that we’ve seen an increase in attendance in technology programs,” he said. “So jointly if we all continue to represent this effort, maybe we’ll be able to address the problem.”

The ICTC was unavailable for comment at press time.


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