Ensuring a strong ICT workforce requires activism
For some, these shortages can affect the quality of sleep. Many leaders of businesses in the ITAC community have decided to take action contributing corporate resources and executive brainpower to reversing the troubling demographic trends we face. Bell Canada and Sapphire Technologies’ approaches to the problem are profiled in the stories that follow.
Talent is a major preoccupation of ITAC as well. The ITAC Talent Committee of the Board (chaired by Terry Power) monitors the health of our labour market and issues pertaining to a national strategy for our industry, and keeps these issues regularly before our board and our community. It also works closely with organizations such as our national sectoral council, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), and the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills (CCICT). And ITAC’s HR Forum, co-chaired by Nadia Cerisano of Xerox and Sheryl Helsdon-Baker of Oracle, ensures a strong network for the exchange of intelligence and best practice in the management of ICT workforces.
It’s a problem most industries will never face: too many jobs, not enough people to fill them. But it’s a reality in the Canadian ICT industry, and the consequences of not finding the talent to staff our growing ICT firms poses a grave threat to the Canadian economy.
Some industry leaders are doing what they can do solve the problem, like President of Sapphire Technologies, Sergio Mateus. He chairs the ICTC FIT (Information and Communications Technology Council, Focus on Information Techn0logy) Partnership Network – a network of private sector ICT companies and high schools, brought together by the ICTC, to address the shortage of Canadian students interested in technology (ICTC FIT).
“We recognized a number of years ago that there was a specific and serious issue in the industry,” Sergio said. “We have demand for IT professionals going up; over the next five to 15 years or so, we have a great number of people exiting the industry (baby-boomers specifically); and while this is going on, we have a decline in enrolments in ICT-related post-secondary education.”
That’s when Sergio decided to get involved in the FIT program.
“We decided that rather than just talking about it, we should do something about it and contribute to a solution. We became aware of the FIT program, and over the last three years or so, we developed this partnership network. We have put forward a number of corporate partners and we work with folks from ICTC. Perhaps most importantly, we brought educators to the table – principals, teachers, department heads from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). And we developed a number of activities we provide to the schools and students, guidance counselors and teachers, where the primary purpose is to excite more high school students to investigate IT as a post-secondary option and eventually as a career.”
There are essentially three key initiatives in which Sergio is involved through the FIT program – each of them designed specifically to increase student awareness of, and interest in, technology.
“Perhaps the most notable are the annual presentations we do for high school students. The first year, we went into the four participating high schools at that time and we presented IT as a career – what is it, what are the merits, what are the opportunities, etc. The presentations are pretty exciting, they pump the students up and get them excited, and we really share a lot of info about the industry and careers within it.”
Over the past three years, Sergio and his team have presented to approximately 4,000 students. And they’re in the midst of starting again this year – they’ve already given three presentations to Grade 9 students.
“The next thing we do happens in mid-to-late spring: we take groups of teachers, department heads, guidance counselors and principals to our partners’ workplaces. Usually it’s a full day, with the morning in one site and the afternoon in another. We introduce them to managers, CIOs, developers, etc. to do presentations to these folks, and to educate them on what it is they do, how they do it, how they got to where they are, and what the merits are of a career in ICT,” Sergio said. “The educators find this useful because once you’re in a school, you’re fairly insulated. You don’t have a lot of opportunities to go out into the field and see the workplaces and environments these children will eventually go into. So they come back quite excited, with a lot of information, and we hope they in turn communicate this back to the students. This way, we’re communicating directly with the students, as well as indirectly through the educators as they propagate the message of pursuing ICT-related post-secondary education.”
“The third thing we have been involved in is the provision of equipment from our corporate partners to the school labs. Each of these schools has a refurbishment lab, where you take the equipment apart and put it back together. This gives students hands-on practice, which is very much lacking in schools. But now they’re tapping into a stream of equipment that is coming in from a variety of leading private organizations.”
Sergio said the last the three years has given the ICTC FIT Partnership Network the ideal amount of time and practice to mature and perfect the program’s model – now, the program is ready to grow. The program has already expanded outside the TDSB to other provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick. But Sergio said FIT is completely scalable and that it could easily go global. To do this, though, would require the support of many more corporate partners.
“While we have lots of schools ready to participate, we are lacking in corporate partnerships,” Sergio said.
He said the ideal corporate partner is a company that is large enough to devote resources to the program, and which also has senior IT or HR professionals within it who are passionate about the cause.
“It’s all about messaging, and being passionate about the message,” Sergio said. “With the dot-com bust, our industry got a bit of a PR black eye. The notion was that there are no opportunities in technology, that technology is not a good place to develop a career. It’s very cyclical, there are booms and busts. And we know this is certainly not the truth. There is so much opportunity in technology, and it is long-lasting. Technology is absolutely everywhere. And no matter what interests you might have as a student and an individual, technology plays some role within that field or area of interest. Therefore, if you have any aptitude or interest in technology, you can couple that with any interest or any field and turn that into a beautiful career.”
As a leader in the ICT staffing industry, Sergio feels it is incumbent upon him and Sapphire Technologies to contribute to altering the image of ICT in young people’s minds and encouraging them to try a career in technology. After all, if Canadian companies can’t find the workers to do the work they generate, surely companies from other countries will.Tell us your thoughts on this story
Board Member Profile: meet François Morin
As Senior Director of Business Communications for one of the largest employers in the Canadian economy, a healthy ICT talent pool for Canadian companies to select from is extremely important to François Morin. Bell Canada employs over 50,000 people, and the company devotes plenty of time resources to developing the talent it needs to keep itself, and its industry, operating on a globally competitive scale.
But this task is not to be understated, as François explains:
“About four years ago, we started to realize that we were having an increasingly difficult time recruiting ICT skills and resources. We found that the pool of skilled resources was shrinking, and that we were fighting for talent with our competitor companies. Salaries were increasing, and the same skills and resources were simply moving from one company to another,” François said.
“So we dove into the problem and found out, through various sources of information, that at university levels computer science registration was dropping. There was an obvious problem of supply and demand. Companies needed more talent to be productive and perform in growing global markets, and the pipeline coming out of universities was shrinking. So that got us at Bell very nervous.”
François and his team at Bell took this realization and sprang into action. Working with other associations and industry groups, including ITAC, they created the Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills (CCICT - http://ccict.ca/).
“When we created CCICT, there were a few different objectives we wanted to attain. The first was to make sure we created awareness around the situation. The second was to start looking around and benchmarking Canada against other countries in the world. That’s when we found out countries like Germany, Australia, India and Brazil were actually facing the same issue. Youth were moving away from ICT around the world. The third was to pay for some groundbreaking research. For instance, we hired the Conference Board of Canada to figure out what the economic impact of this talent shortage, and we came up with a figure that was in the billions of dollars, in terms of the decrease to our national gross domestic product. That’s a loss of billions of dollars for the government, representing a loss of about 100,000 jobs. Finally, we wanted to create a program targeted toward youth that would change their perception of ICT. So we created the National ICT Week, and have worked with five provincial governments as well as the federal government to make this happen.”
Developing new talent isn’t the only solution to the shortage, François said. Thus, he and the CCITC have done extensive work on immigration policies to make it easier for Canadian companies to attract immigrant workers.
“As we examined the gap, we saw immigration as another possible solution. But as we looked around for immigrants with the right competencies and skill-sets, we saw there was a war for talent – everyone was reaching out for the same things we were. Then we realized that everyone who came to Canada to get a degree had to go back to their native country to apply for Canadian citizenship. So at the time we lobbied to Minister Finley, who was Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada at the time, and we actually had the law changed. Now graduates don’t need to go back home to apply for citizenship – they can get all that done while they’re completing their degree.”
Over the past four years, Bell has invested nearly $1 million in the CCICT. And while the coalition has made some impressive strides, François said there remains lots of work to do.
“At the university level, it has to be more attractive for kids to go into computer science or other ICT-related programs. We need to adapt our programs to make them more appealing to kids. We’ve figured out that if you bring management into the equation, like we have done at Ryerson for instance, IT management is much more appealing. And same goes with health and a variety of other sub-sectors. Young people want jobs where they can see the impact of what they’re doing on their immediate environment, and combining these programs achieves that,” François said.
“The other thing we need at the business level is to change the perception that IT departments are hidden somewhere in the basement, and you only see them if there is a problem. We need to be sure we build IT roles more clearly within companies – complete with a clearly identified role and career path.”
François said it all comes down to the question of supply and demand. If we can’t fill the demand Canadian companies have for ICT workers, our nation as a whole will suffer.
“ICT is key to Canada’s prosperity. It is vitally important to make sure we have the right talent, the right skill-sets, to answer the needs of tomorrow’s companies, so that Canadian companies prosper.”
Otherwise we’re working with a broken equation, François said. And anyone in ICT will tell you that does not compute.Tell us your thoughts on this story
February 15, 2011
For a full event listing, and to register for ITAC events, go to: itac.ca/event_cal
ITAC and Ontario government hold "Open for Business" Business Sector Strategy Roundtable for Ontario ICT Sector
After several months of consultation with the Ontario provincial government, on January 24, 2011, ITAC took part in the final of a series of roundtables hosted by the province of Ontario's Ministry of Economic Development and Trade (MEDT). The Honourable Minister Sandra Pupatello and a cohort of DMs, ADMs and policy experts from MEDT, Service Ontario and the Ministry of Government Services lead the roundtable through the five key "Open for Business" priorities:
- Bringing Leading Technology and Innovations into our Health Care System
- Doing Business with Ontario
- Using Ontario's Programs and Services
- Energy and the Environment
ITAC will continue to collaborate with the Ontario government over the coming months, as these departments finalize aspects of the "Open for Business Program." For more information contact Linda Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access government information, online forms and services quickly and securely – in one easy step – plus, save the information you need in a customized Briefcase through the government's ONe Source portal: www.appmybizaccount.gov.on.ca/wps/portal/mba_pub
Also, The Ontario Business Program Guide is your resource to government-funded programs and services for Ontario businesses: www.ontario.ca/en/business_program/index.htm
Tremblant Venture Summit 2011 – May 4-5, 2011 (Cocktail May 3)
Eastern Canada's premier company financing event, the Tremblant Venture Summit (formerly Tremblant Venture Forum), is fast approaching. With less than 4 months to go, the ITAC team and the TVS organizing committee has stepped up the pace to bring together:
40 world class investors from Quebec, Ontario, Maritimes and eastern USA;
25 to 30 of the most promising Canadian early-stage and growth-stage companies to present their innovative projects to leading investors;
200 prominent investment professionals, CEOs and entrepreneurs.
Mark your calendar for this 3rd edition! The Summit will be held May 4-May 5, 2011 with a cocktail the evening of May 3, 2011. The event will take place at the Hotel Fairmont Tremblant in the Laurentians, only one hour from Montréal, Québec.
Online registration will start in February.
Prime Minister announces Red Tape Reduction Commission - SMEs to benefit from reduced administrative burden
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accompanied by Rob Moore, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism), today announced the creation of the Red Tape Reduction Commission, which will work to reduce the burden of federal regulatory requirements on Canadian enterprises, especially small- and medium-sized businesses.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are a critical driver of the Canadian economy,” said the Prime Minister. “This initiative will help ensure that they can grow, prosper and create jobs without being impeded by unnecessary government regulations.”
The Red Tape Reduction Commission, chaired by Minister of State Moore, will help find effective and lasting solutions to support Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses. It will consult with Canadians and Canadian businesses to identify irritants that have a clear detrimental effect on growth, competitiveness and innovation. The Commission will also look at the cost associated with federal regulatory requirements that businesses face, and provide advice on permanent solutions for reducing the overall compliance burden.
“Canadian businesses spend billions of dollars each year adhering to regulations,” added Prime Minister Harper. “We need to look at where and how we can reduce these costs and this red-tape burden, especially on small businesses.”
The Commission will hold consultations with Canadians and Canadian businesses during a series of round tables later this month. An online consultation process will also take place (www.reduceredtape.gc.ca) before the Commission issues its recommendations to the Government in the fall of 2011.
Past-ITAC Chair, Robert Courteau, named President of SAP North America
SAP announced on January 17, 2011, the appointment of Robert Courteau as president of its North America region. Courteau will report to Robert Enslin, who has been named to an expanded leadership role as president of Global Sales for SAP. The moves come with the restructuring of the company's Global Field Organization (GFO).
"Appointing a president of Bob Courteau's customer knowledge and broad global experience underscores our commitment to our customers in the region," said Enslin. "We look forward to continuing our strong momentum in North America, a key market for SAP and cornerstone of our ongoing global growth."
Other News and Events
Prime Minister Harper declares 2011 the Year of the Entrepreneur
Prime Minister Stephen Harper on January 25, 2011, issued the following statement declaring 2011 the Year of the Entrepreneur:
“Canada’s entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and driving economic growth in communities large and small across our country. They invest themselves completely in their businesses working countless hours on every aspect of their enterprise – from research and development to manufacturing, marketing and delivery.
“I am therefore pleased to declare 2011 as the Year of the Entrepreneur as part of our Government’s efforts to raise public awareness of the importance of entrepreneurs to Canada’s economy and pay tribute to their drive and dedication.
“Our Government has listened carefully in the last five years to what entrepreneurs told us they need to succeed. We have listened and have taken decisive action to address their needs and concerns, including reducing taxes and red tape, improving access to business financing, making substantial investments in training, research, and development and opening up new markets.
“I encourage Canadians to participate in activities taking place this year to support local entrepreneurs and to thank them for contributing to the quality of life we all enjoy.”
Social Media for Government Conference – Toronto – January 31, 2011 to February 3, 2011
Social Media for Government Training:
“How To Engage Your Employees And Citizens By Using The Latest Web 2.0 Technologies To Drive Communication Results”
Access the conference agenda here: http://www.aliconferences.com/conf/social_media_govt_canada0211/index.htm
Mention “ITAC” to receive a special $200 discount!
Backbone Magazine Turning 10 Years Old
Backbone Magazine, a publication which ITAC has collaborated with extensively, is nearly 10 years old. This March, Backbone will release a 10th Anniversary issue, set to be their biggest issue ever. It will focus on “Cloud Computing”, “Tech Predictions for 2011” and many enhanced offerings for advertisers. Distribution continues to be through The Globe and Mail: total 100,000, plus corporate alliances, Air Canada Lounges and many industry trade shows.
Backbone examines how technology is used to accelerate Canadian business. Its readers are early adopters, influential, affluent business decision makers who strive to keep up to date with important technology trends for both business and personal use. A lot has happened over the past 10 years, and a lot more will happen over the next 10! More info on this special issue of Backbone can be found here: http://www.backbonemag.com/files/PDF/Backbone-10-year-anniversary-issue.pdf
Canadian ICT Partnering Mission to Hong Kong – April 12-17, 2011
The Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong, in partnership with The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) in Canada, invites Canadian companies to participate in the International ICT Expo scheduled for April 13-16, 2011, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in one of a variety of capacities:
As a panel exhibitor sharing the space and facilities with other exhibitors of the Canadian Pavilion at the International ICT Expo; or
As an individual exhibitor renting an individual booth; or
As a trade visitor.
All of the Canadian delegates will also be invited to join a business program specially designed to increase their access to partnership and business opportunities in Hong Kong, Mainland China and the region.
Click here for more information: http://ictexpo.com
2011 Canadian Telecom Summit – May 31 to June 2
The Canadian Telecom Summit is the largest and most prestigious gathering of stakeholders interested in the Canadian communications and IT industries, attracting more than 500 top level delegates and more than 70 of the senior-most executives as speakers. Since 2002, The Canadian Telecom Summit has developed a reputation of presenting an unequalled program that over the past several years has featured the absolute cream of the crop of Canadian and international communications executives and personalities.
For three full days (May 31 - June 2), The 2011 Canadian Telecom Summit will again deliver thought-provoking insights from the prime movers of the industry. The Canadian Telecom Summit gives you the chance to hear from and talk with them in both a structured atmosphere of frank discussion and high-octane idea exchange and schmooze in a more relaxed social setting of genial conversation over espresso or cocktails.
The Canadian Telecom Summit reviews where we have been as an industry, provides an understanding of the dynamics that propel it and forecasts future trends & expected developments.