IT careers market still hot in Canada, despite cooling US economy

Individuals with Web development skills in Java, Oracle, SQL and .Net were in hot demand, as Canada’s IT job market posted record growth in 2007, says a technology staffing firm.

The local demand for IT professionals rose by at least 18 per cent in 2007 over the previous year, and the rise is showing no signs of abating, according to Sapphire Technologies Canada Ltd., a Toronto-based IT staffing company.

The demand was spread across contract and full-time positions, which were up 16 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

The firm received more requests to fill in IT roles last year than it has at any other time in its 26-year history, said Terry Power, president of Sapphire Technologies Canada.

The IT sector, he noted, plays a critical role in the Canadian economy. “So demand for IT professionals remains strong here despite what we are hearing about the market south of the border.”

“We expect this growth to continue in the foreseeable future,” he added.

In recent months, job creation in Canada has defied negative prognostics according to Statistics Canada which reported that the unemployment rate has remained at a 33-year-low of 5.8 per cent.

More than 43,300 new jobs were created last February, well above last year’s average of 31,000 jobs. This bumped the employment rate to a record high of 63.9 per cent.

Demand for enterprise resource planning (ERP) specialist, technicians and administrators spiked more than 400 per cent, but the most sought after role continued to be in Web development which accounted for 10 per cent of all job orders, according to Sapphire’s first quarter report.

Most requested technical skills are Java, Oracle, SQL and .Net.
For the answer on why ERP specialists are hard to find and for tips in acquiring today’s hot IT skills, click on this link.

“These results reflect the ongoing priority that companies have placed on Web-based requirements,” said Power.

He noted, however, that while Sapphire found many candidates with .Net skills there is a shortage of professionals with senior skills on the application.

The software is a key component of the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is used by most new Windows-based applications.

People with skills in Websphere, SAP, Tivoli and Citrix are also difficult to find, the report also said.

The dearth of .Net professionals with senior skills is understandable as the software, much like the concept of Web 2.0, is relatively new, according to David Lundquist, a Toronto-based Web applications engineer.

“Many firms want to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon and most of the talents available are young developers,” said the Lundquist who is also communications director at the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Information Processing Society.

“A lot of people in the field are learning the ropes and making the rules as they go along.”

Sapphire also found out that more companies are looking for IT professionals with project management, business analysis and communication skills.

Power said the demand for these skills underscores the changing roles of IT managers, who are increasingly required to work in concert with business executives and engage in client-facing activities.
A recent ITBusiness/Harris Decima survey indicated that organizations are clamouring for IT professionals who can communicate their value to business managers.

“Communication skills are at a premium,” Sapphire’s Power said. “For example, bilingualism which was not even in the top 10 most requested skills list in 2006 made it to top five last year.”

The Greater Toronto Area accounted for more than half of all requirements in the country in 2007, but the rest of the country also exhibited strong growth.

In Ottawa, the public sector largely focused on architectural roles which spiked 103 per cent, showing a heavy emphasis on strategic planning.

Other Ottawa-based demands were for network specialist, Web developers and ERP specialists.

In Halifax, the need for ERP specialists, administrators and security analysts were strong but none eclipsed the demand for technicians.
The trend indicated a strong focus on infrastructure upgrades and expansion of installed bases.

Despite Montreal’s slipping manufacturing sector, Quebec was buoyed by construction projects, infrastructure upgrades and activity in the commercial services sector.

Among the most requested professionals were IT architects, project managers and Web developers.

In Edmonton, demand for business analysts went up 43 per cent and Web developers rose by 23 per cent.

Permanent positions surged by as mush as 24 per cent in Winnipeg. The key roles were IT architects, Web developers, mainframe developers and quality assurance specialists.

In Vancouver, permanent jobs accounted for 40 per cent of the demand, up by more than two per cent from 2006.

The most sought after professionals were skills were Web developers, IT architects and network specialist.
Full time positions surged 19 per cent in Calgary with heavy emphasis on ERP specialists and network analysts and administrators.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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