By Karna Gupta, President and CEO, ITAC
The recent article in the Globe and Mail, which largely uses the report by TD Bank on Canada’s employment outlook—Jobs in Canada: Where, What and For Whom?—does not reflect what ITAC hears from its members every single day. What is more, it could have potentially negative consequences if it influenced policy so far as employment in the ICT sector is concerned.
While TD’s call-to-action is a useful contribution to the national skills discussion, it simply does not ring true in our world. The skills shortage in the ICT sector is a reality, and ongoing access to a rich supply of skilled people is required to continue to fuel our economy, increase Canada’s competitiveness, and fuel prosperity for Canadians.
The ICT’s industry’s unemployment rate is less than 3 percent—statistically viewed as full employment. According to research by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), more than 100,000 critical ICT jobs will need to be filled by 2016. Added to that, ICTC’s research shows that the “emerging” ICT economies (cloud, mobile computing, and applications) will create another 78,000 jobs over next five years. Other emerging sectors will add to that need. In data analytics, for example, 4,000 new positions are being created annually.
It is critical that Canadians, and Canadian policy-makers in particular, have a well-researched view of the emerging skill requirements for Canadian enterprises.
ITAC’s stakeholders—employers in Canada, both large and small—would not agree that the ICT sector is characterized by low vacancy rates for technical positions. They are now struggling to fill skilled positions. Large multinationals have begun to engage students as early as junior high school to keep up. Pay rates for ICT professionals have been climbing relative to other workers and are currently 52 percent higher than the average.
It would have significant consequences for the Canadian economy, based on a macro-economic study, if this country reversed course on initiatives and efforts to ensure a sufficient supply of workers with the skills to work in the ICT sector.
We need a comprehensive plan to address the skills gap now. This includes strategies that promote ICT as a career path for youth and under-represented groups, build bridges between academia and industry toward better foundational training, and continued efforts to address digital literacy across the whole of Canadian society.
The TD report is a positive contribution to the discussion about how to move forward, but the general thesis does not hold up to scrutiny when applied to the ICT sector. Our industry’s skills gap is real, and addressing it is critical to Canada’s economy.
ITAC and ICTC have issued a joint statement in response to the TD report.