The results of a survey released late last week indicate a dramatic turnaround in the Saskatchewan IT job market.

According to the survey, conducted by the Canadian Information Processing Society and the Information Technology Sector Partnership, IT jobs are expected to increase 13 per cent

over the next two years. The previous survey, conducted in 2001, predicted a decline of 11 per cent.

“”We’re quite excited about the results,”” said CIPS Saskatchewan director Donna Lindskog. “”They’re quite different from the 2001 study.””

ITSP and CIPS spoke to 154 companies in the province, which is actually 40 fewer than the 2001 study. Lindskog attributed the difference to consolidation in the IT sector. An increase of 13 per cent would translate into 309 new positions in Saskatchewan’s IT job market.

Lindskog indicated that improvements in the province’s overall IT infrastructure have aided company growth. Of particular relevance is the availability of high-speed Internet access. Sixty-two per cent of the companies surveyed employ fewer than six people. Access to broadband, especially for small companies in rural areas, is a boon to their business development, she said.

IT students entering the job market also have better access to training. Lindskog couldn’t provide numbers on the enrollment of IT students in Saskatchewan, but said there’s a better matching of education to necessary job skills.

“”I think (educators) have to look at surveys like this and watch that, because that’ll be a challenge with growth coming up,”” she said.

“”Mostly (employers) are happy with the training and what the developers know as they’re coming out of school,”” she said, but indicated that there is still a need for more open source-based skills.

Respondents said there was less difficulty providing ongoing training for employees — an improvement of 23 per cent over 2001. Three years ago, employers said it was difficult to find the necessary resources to supply training, whereas now the obstacles most often cited are lack of time and high cost.

The IT sector is outpacing other industries in Saskatchewan in terms of growth, according to Rick Pawliw, executive director of Saskatchewan Learning, the provincial government department that funded the survey. The province anticipates an overall job growth rate of six per cent for 2002-2007.

In 2001, one of the biggest challenges facing IT companies was employee retention. Lindskog said she witnessed such problems at Sasktel, the province’s largest telecommunications provider where she’s a business consulting manager for the IT department.

“”We’re getting communication better in our department (and) listening more to what employees are saying — empowering them,”” said Lindskog. There is now more autonomy for junior staff, she said. “”They like to be able to make the decisions and do their projects without a lot of interference. It seems to be working.””

Survey respondents said that good company incentives and the availability of challenging and fulfilling work were the main reasons why employee retention has improved over the last three years. It’s a noticeable difference, said Lindskog. In 2001, IT workers were looking to move out of province to reap those benefits.

An area that the province needs to work on is better representation of minorities in the IT workforce, said Pawliw. He said the survey was commissioned partly as a resource for IT companies, but also highlights weaker points in the province’s IT economy. Less than one per cent of the IT labour force were identified as Aboriginal and 4.2 per cent were visible minorities.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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