Canada’s ICT sector is a diverse, growing segment of the economy, contributing approximately $73.9 billion to Canadian GDP. As the digital economy continues to grow at lightning speed, the challenges of securing skilled talent to meet businesses insatiable demand has reached a boiling point. Various analyses indicate that the demand for ICT labour cannot be met through domestic Canadian growth alone due to an aging population, low fertility rates, and an influx of retiring ‘baby boomer’ employees. Even today, almost 90,900 ICT workers are nearing retirement and this number will continue to grow over the next several years. With 182,000 ICT positions that will need to be filled in Canada by 2019, the importance of securing highly skilled talent through immigration has never been more critical.
Currently, immigrants make up just over one-third of all ICT workers in Canada. The top 2 most popular occupations for immigrants—information systems analysts and computer and network operators—are also the most in demand ICT occupations in Canada. Technical skills are the easiest to transfer across geography/borders. As a result, jobs that have very strong focus on technical skills—such as software programming or web development—are easier to secure for IEPs. However, there are still recruitment challenges as well as skills mismatches, especially with respect to interpersonal and business skills, creating barriers to effectively utilize this vital talent pool. Below are four strategies, from pre-to post-arrival, that address these barriers and bridge the skills gap, allowing IEPs to be more effectively and efficiently integrated into the Canadian ICT workforce and labour market.
Pre-arrival information sharing and training: The goal of pre-arrival information sharing and training is to equip IEPs with essential knowledge about working in Canada and skills that will make them more attractive to prospective employers. Providing resources such as language self-assessments and e-learning courses help IEPs improve their understanding of the Canadian ICT workplace culture, including communication and competencies. In addition, making labour market information and analysis available to IEPs allows them to have a clear understanding of the Canadian ICT landscape. Overall, this strategy increases the likelihood of IEPs securing employment, commensurate with their experience, faster once in Canada and reduces orientation and ramp-up time once hired.
Pre-arrival matching: Pre-arrival matching programs bring together Canadian employers with IEPs who are within months of arriving in Canada. For employers hiring ICT and non-ICT talent, these programs provide direct access to qualified candidates, allowing them to support current recruitment needs and source talent for future needs. In conjunction with immigration programs, such as an express entry system, these strategies provide employers a unique edge in tapping into the IEP talent pool early in the migration process.
Express entry immigration systems: Express entry programs directly connect qualified IEP talent to employers and expedite the immigration process so that IEPs can enter the labour market quickly. These programs help directly address employers’ and overall labour market needs. In January this year, Canada introduced an express entry program designed to connect Canadian employers with a comprehensive pool of qualified IEPs, if they can’t find Canadian citizens or permanent residents suitable for the role. It is predicted that this program will process qualified IEPs applications in as little as 6 months. Other countries competing for skilled IEP talent, like Australia and New Zealand, have adopted similar express entry programs with resounding success.
Post-arrival bridging programs: Bridging programs address employment barriers for highly skilled ICT IEPs, helping them create a pathway to meaningful employment in the Canadian job market. Through professional development opportunities, mentorship, and work experience components, these programs help IEPs better integrate socially, economically, and culturally into the workforce and Canadian society.
As the digital economy and the demand for skilled talent continues to grow at a rapid pace, the importance of hiring and effectively leveraging IEPs will be paramount. We must continue to develop innovative solutions that meet Canadian businesses growth needs and allow Canada to stay ahead of the curve in the battle for international skilled talent.
For over 20 years ICTC has been monitoring the digital economy labour force and is a leader in developing innovative talent strategies that support both employers and job seekers. ICTC has created a suite of resources, e-learning, and tools which equip IEPs, and other job seekers, with information about the Canadian digital economy landscape and the skills and competencies required to succeed in ICT. ICTC also has a pre-arrival matching program that connects employers with IEPs who are within months of arriving in Canada. In conjunction with various partners, we also offer post-arrival training and bridging programs to help more effectively integrate IEPs into Canadian workplaces and society. For employers and policy-makers, ICTC’s labour supply-demand forecasting reports and quarterly updates keep your finger on the pulse of the digital economy and help inform your recruitment and immigration strategy.
Stay tuned for forthcoming forecasting publications, webinars, and other updates on our talent solutions.