Ontario faces return of skills shortage

TORONTO–Ontario had a surplus of more than 24,000 IT works in 2001 but will face a deficit by year’s end, according to a survey released Monday.

The Human Resources Development Canada-funded study predicts 38,000 jobs will be added this year, creating a potential gap of close to 10,000 workers.

The survey was prepared for the Information Technology Association of Canada by IDC Canada and Aon Consulting.

Denis Vance, group vice-president, consulting for IDC Canada, said general industry will continue to employ the majority (56 per cent) of IT workers and will search for employees with different skills than those prized by IT companies. These firms, he says, will look for those with Microsoft programming experience, SQL Server/SQL Windows, Windows NT Server and Exchange, security skills and WAN training. On the IT provider side, SQL Server and Exchange skills will be hot, as will be XML, Oracle database and Java Server pages.

Vance said he expects non-IT companies to lead the way over tech companies in terms of hiring increase percentage (14.2 to 11) in 2002 and 2003 (11.3 to 8.8). Almost 450 Ontario companies (401 general industry, 45 IT related) were polled between January and mid-March.

With a deficit being predicted to happen in less than eight months, IDC’s Julie Kaufman says companies need to get their acts together lest history repeat itself.

“”We need to start making investments from a number of different angles to make sure this isn’t such a big issue like it was back in 1998. Things like doing better exit interviews,”” said the training analyst.

Kaufman said 38 per cent of companies had no idea why an employee chose to jump ship. “”If you don’t know where the problem is, how are you supposed to go back and fix it?”” she asked.

It also isn’t too late, she said, to focus on an employee’s career path. While companies see training and education as their responsibility, Kaufman said that according to recent graduates, the duty should be split 50/50.

“”Working more closely with their techies to make sure that they are providing more and they’re not going to turn around the minute a few more dollars are thrown at them,”” Kaufman said.

IDC isn’t the only company predicting better days ahead. A study by Toronto-based management recruiter Barrett Rose & Lee Inc. said as of April 2 there were 172 technical jobs available at a cross-section of 60 small, medium and large software companies.

The news on the other side of the border is equally bright. The Information Technology Association of America Monday announced hiring managers would try to fill 1.1 million IT positions over the next 12 months.

This could be a bad omen for Canadian employers. Vance said 59.8 per cent of Ontario enterprises reported a measurable loss (project delays, customer dissatisfaction, lost sales opportunities, etc.) because of skills shoratges.

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