Ontario high-tech firms to ex-pats: We want you back

A group of Waterloo, Ont., technology companies are aiming to fill more than 800 job openings in the area with a campaign that includes an employment portal and support from local universities.

Led by Communitech: The Waterloo Region Technology

Association, the group has launched www.waterlootechjobs.com, a site with job listings and information to entice workers to the Waterloo area. About 50 companies in the region, along with the City of Waterloo and neighbouring municipalities Kitchener and Cambridge, contributed $70,000 to help develop the portal.

The area needs skilled workers with five to 10 years of experience, said Iain Klugman, president and CEO of Communitech. Some of those workers may have graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University or the University of Waterloo — both of which are renowned for its math and computer science programs — and left Canada to work for American companies. Klugman said that now’s the time they should think about returning.

“A lot of students went through the system here and were recruited by a lot of the top tech organizations in North America,” he said. “We’re working back through the alumni network and saying to people, ‘It is time to come back to Canada, because there is tremendous opportunity right now.’”

Communitech has the support of some of the best-known companies in the Waterloo area, including Research in Motion and Open Text. Those companies are starting to see a rebound after the tech slump, said Klugman. Also, startups in the area are entering their next phase of development and new entrants are coming into the market. They all need experienced employees, he said.

“Normally the community can sustain itself because there’s always entrances and exits in the technology sector. The tech sector is cyclical. But it’s when you see everyone going through a growth phase that there’s a need to actually make the pie bigger.”

Communitech is also targeting ex-pats directly. The association is one of the sponsors of a picnic to be held June 26 for Canadians living and working in California’s Silicon Valley. One of Communitech’s messages will be that a technology salary will buy a lot more in Waterloo than San Francisco.

“This is the kind of community that really represents a career opportunity for many people,” said John Tennant, CEO, Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc., based in Waterloo. “There are several quite significant technology companies beyond RIM, like Dalsa, Open Text, Com Dev, etc., so that people coming to this community really can see it as a place where they can chart a future.”

The technology landscape in Waterloo is diverse enough that a range of technology jobs are available, said Klugman: hardware, software, wireless, digital imaging and various development positions.

Herbert Hess, a technology recruiter based in Toronto, said that he has seen a change over the last year that would give job seekers a reason to be optimistic about their prospects, but “it’s nothing that what you’d call spectacular. If you’re looking for spectacular, it hasn’t happened.”

However, he said, technology positions requiring five to 10 years experience may be the most abundant right now.

Klugman said Communitech will attempt to track the number of job filled in the region as a result of the Web site’s outreach program.

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