Jobs and cash woo IT workers to Saskatchewan

While workers are laid off across most of Canada, Saskatchewan is one province actively recruiting job seekers, including IT professionals.

During a recent trip to Toronto, Saskatchewan politicians boasted of short commutes, affordable living, and CFL football in a bid to woo investors and job seekers to their province. Saskatchewan companies also claimed much of the floor space at a major job fair.

The province is projected to need 80,000 people over the next five years to fill all of its jobs, says Rob Norris, Saskatchewan’s minister of advanced education, employment and labour. So they’re pulling out all the stops to woo new graduates and skilled workers.

“We are no longer the quiet cousin of confederation,” he says. “We’re expected to ride out the current economic storm better than any other province.”

The Bank of Montreal projects that Saskatchewan will be the only province to come out of 2009 with both positive economic growth as well as new job creation. In most areas of Canada, unemployment levels are rising sharply.

The province’s budget is also in good shape – a balanced budget this year, and projected to be the same for next year too. That looks pretty good compared to the billions of dollars worth of deficit that Ontario expects over the next several years.

IT professionals are invited out to the prairies too, Norris says. “There are jobs in the IT industry available.”

Regina-based ISM Canada is proof of that claim. The IBM-owned IT services company had eight open jobs they were recruiting for at the Toronto job fair, and a very large stack of résumés collected from interested applicants.

“We’re lucky enough in Saskatchewan that our business is still growing and it has never been healthier,” says Craig Fiske, business development executive with ISM Canada. “Most of our consultants, if not all of them, are sold out and helping clients.”

So the number of jobs available could quickly grow as new business gets picked up, he adds. The company is looking for a wide range of IT skills to help out.

Henry Belakon is a Java developer currently seeking a job. He dropped off a resume at the ISM booth and hopes to hear back soon. It’s not that he’s looking for a job in Saskatchewan, it’s just that anywhere will do.

“My job was terminated in November and now I’m looking for a new position in Toronto or any other area,” he says. “Saskatchewan will do, B.C. will do, anywhere will do.”

 

Saskatchewan politicians addressing attendees at a business luncheon listed some attractive benefits of a lifestyle on the plains. Regina is an affordable place to live and offers short commutes to work, and a 45 minute trip to cottage country in any direction, says mayor Pat Fiacco.

“The global economic downturn has definitely hit Ontario very hard,” he says. “We want to give those people who’ve been affected another opportunity.”

New graduates who settle in Saskatchewan will get more than opportunity. They’ll get cash in the form of a tax rebate that will be worth as much as $20,000 over seven years.

The program is an extension of a Saskatchewan effort to keep its own graduates in the province. But now it will award any graduate worldwide with the same benefits, Norris says.

For each of the first four years living in the province, graduates are given 10 per cent of the $20,000 tax break, and then are given 20 per cent per year for another three years.

“The goal here is to ensure there is a tuition rebate,” he explains. “This will pay back most people’s tuition.”

The best way to find jobs in Saskatchewan is at the Saskjobs.ca Web site, Norris says. It currently has more than 6,200 jobs available.

Users can browse postings by category, location, or search for key words.

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