Outsourcing firm Keane, Inc., this week announced a recruitment drive to fill 175 information technology jobs over three years at its Halifax Advanced Development Center. Keane will get up to $1.5 million in payroll rebates from the Nova

Scotia government, provided it creates and maintains the 175 jobs.

The announcement is the latest example of near-shore outsourcing, in which U.S. companies shift IT work to Canada because of lower salary and infrastructure costs here.

Boston-based Keane needs about 50 people in Halifax immediately, said Alaisdar Graham, managing director of the Nova Scotia facility. The rest will probably be hired early next year. Graham said the Halifax operation, which currently employs just over 300 people, has seen 30 per cent annual growth recently and “”there’s no sign of it slacking off.””

Skills Keane needs include Java, Perl and COBOL programming and expertise with Unix, Sybase and WebSphere, Graham said. The company hopes to fill many jobs locally, but will also recruit from other provinces.

The jobs will be of “”huge”” importance to the province, said Joe Gillis, a spokesman for Nova Scotia Business Inc., the provincial government agency that authorized the $1.5 million in rebates to Keane. Keane’s presence in Halifax is valuable not only for the jobs it creates but for lending credibility to the province in attracting other IT-related businesses, Gillis said.

Nova Scotia’s Economic Development Office recently gave Keane $2.5 million in funding to help it attain Capability Maturity Model Level 5 assessment from the Software Engineering Institute. Graham said his operation is the first Canadian near-shore outsourcing facility to obtain this designation for continuous process optimization, which he considers directly responsible for its growth.

Graham said Keane originally located in Halifax because of Nova Scotia’s low cost of living and proximity to New England, where many of Keane’s clients are. The company also received grants from the Nova Scotia and federal governments when it established the operation.

Near-shore outsourcing has become a bright spot for the Canadian IT industry, with companies such as Montreal-based CGI Group Inc., RIS Resource Information Systems Inc. of Toronto and others providing software development and services to U.S. clients. Earlier this month EDS Canada, a unit of Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Tex., announced plans for a Global Centre of Excellence based on Microsoft Corp.’s .Net technology in Victoria. EDS said the centre would create 100 jobs.

Dan McLean, director of enterprise network services at IDC Canada Ltd., said that while the Toronto research firm has not estimated the size of the near-shore outsourcing market in Canada, it is significant. In a recent survey IDC found that U.S. companies see Canada’s proximity to the U.S., similar culture and quality of service as reasons to send work here rather than overseas. “”There was a pretty strong and favourable perception,”” McLean said.

However Paul Swinwood, president of the Software Human Resource Council in Ottawa, noted that while near-shore outsourcing brings some midrange IT jobs from the U.S. to Canada, entry-level work from both countries continues going overseas. This could make it difficult for new entrants to the IT job market to find jobs here, he warned.

Comment: info@itbusinss.ca

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