Join the Canadian military’s geek squad and see the world

Got computer skills? Want to travel? Looking for adventure and free education too?

Your best bet could be the Canadian armed forces.

Just as the private sector is clamouring for IT talent, the Canadian military is in search of a few good geeks as well.


The forces need to fill 400 to 500 IT-related positions between now and 2009. And while the Department of National Defense (DND) won’t say it’s experiencing any talent shortage, its HR department says the want ads for civilian IT workers are likely to grow longer in the future as well.

“We’re looking for people at various levels of competency to work in our computer systems group,” said Joseph Silva, senior manager of the HR planning services at the DND. The DND, which has 25,000 employee, is looking to looking to fill civilian IT positions.

Level or CS1 workers are tasked to do mainly hands-on duties such ad monitoring or fixing equipment. Programmers are likely to be in CS2, supervisors and technicians will make up CS3 while managers and senior managers will be at CS4 and CS5 levels.

Some of the skills and experience sought by the military are in areas such as: database administration, security management, network administration, architectural analysis, and business analysis.

Many of these positions will involve working with equipment similar to those used in the private sector. However some personnel will also be required to handle technology and hardware that are “military-specific” said Silva in an interview.

The military has stepped up its recruitment campaign with a refreshed Web-presence to attract a much younger audience. The Canadian Forces site not only includes basic information of the forces but features action-packed videos and games.

Those interested in exploring IT possibilities in the Canadian Forces can visit the military’s recruitment site or even chat with an online recruiter.

IT professionals interested in civilian IT jobs can visit or

Outgoing Canadian Forces chief Gen. Rick Hillier had earlier reported that the military is competing with businesses to attract “select young people” between the ages of 18 and 29.

“We are meeting our objectives, but this is one in which we can’t let up because we need to grow the Canadian Forces,” Hillier said in an address before the Nova Scotia legislature last month.

He pointed to the difficulties in securing competent recruits for advanced technical positions in the navy and air force. For example, only 20 suitable candidates were found to fill 40 vacancies last year, Hillier said.

Of the three branches, the Army has the highest attrition rate – 13 percent – nearly double that of the Air Force and Navy.

The military and the DND are victims of the same demographic shift that is eroding the ranks of IT workers in the private sector, Silva indicated.

“The average age of our personnel is 45. These people will be retiring in five to 10 years. We need to be prepared for that.”

In the private sector, company recruiters are already battling for top IT talent, according to the head of the popular online Canadian job search firm

“Company officials are constantly telling us they need to be swift in making the right offer to a candidate or they lose that person quickly to another employer,” said Patrick Sullivan, CEO of

An estimated 89,000 new IT jobs are expected to surface over the next three years. However, Canadian universities and tech schools are unable to feed this demand. Enrolment in technology-related courses has dropped since the tech bust of 2000.

By 2016, there will be a three-million person workforce shortage in North America, predicts consultancy firm IDC of Framingham, Mass.

Currently, Web-based skills in .Net Framework, Java, Oracle and SQL are in demand in the private sector.

There might not be the same emphasis on Web applications in the military, but at least one recruitment officer believes IT professionals will not find the transition into the military environment very difficult.

“Much of our equipment and technologies are produced by third party companies that also provide products for the civilian sector,” said Sgt. Jason Braida, a recruiter and career counseling officer, based in Barrie, Ont.

Braida said basic eligibility requirements for tech-related positions include: a Grade 12 diploma; strong math, physics, an engineering or electronics background; curiosity and knack for fixing things; and the ability to work in a team.

Candidates 17 to 24 years of age and fall within the magic group the military is shooting for, but the Canadian forces also welcome candidates in their 30s, or even individuals in their 50s at the time of recruitment.

Basic pay starts at around $2,500 per month for the rank of private. Recruits pay a subsidized fee for rations and quarters.

Recruits are in for a three to five years contract in the military for non-commissioned personnel while officers stay for nine years or more.

There are ample opportunities for free education during the stint.

There are also plenty of traveling opportunities, but it’s possible personnel may be stationed in war zones, said Braida.

Former military personnel emerge from the service with skills and attitudes that are highly sought after in any civilian organization, he said.

Top executives who have served in the military do a better job and stay longer in their position than those who have no military experience, according to a 2006 study by recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International in Los Angeles.

Fifty nine companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 that were led by individuals who have served in the military outperformed the index average by three to 20 per cent over one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods, according to the survey.

CEO’s with military backgrounds also served an average of 7.2 years at their firms as opposed to 4.5 years for all S&P chief executives, the survey found.

Perhaps it was these sorts of numbers that the Nortel Networks board had in mind when they chose William Owens to replace Frank Dunn as the Canadian telecom manufacturer’s chief executive.

Owens is a retired U.S. Navy admiral.

He also sat on the board of Nortel and DaimlerChrysler and was also part of a management team that tried to salvage Teledesic, a satellite telecommunications company that fell on hard times during the early 2000s.

Prospects for former military personnel depend largely on their own capabilities and efforts but there are certain positive qualities that employers equate with ex-soldiers, Braida said.

“Many people come out of the service with enhanced leadership skills, the ability to function under intense pressure, excellent time management skills and a strong sense of team work.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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