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Canada Reports Looming ICT Labor Shortage

Canada's ICT sector, representing the country's information, communications and technology employment base, is facing alarming skills and labor shortages in the next five years, according to a new report by the Information and Communications Technology Council and Information Technology Association of Canada.

The report underscores that in most regions in Canada and for most ICT occupations, demand will far exceed supply. Employers will encounter systemic shortages when recruiting for ICT jobs that require five or more years' experience. The severity of these shortages will increase when employers are seeking to recruit ICT people with leading-edge skills such as marketing, accounting and finance competencies.

The results also show a new job market for ICT, one that has radically changed. Industry now needs workers with the leading-edge package of skills, for example systems analysis and design combined with marketing, operations management, and HR management, or people with particular combinations of domain experience (such as e-health, e-finance, and digital media) together with ICT expertise.

Over the next five years, Canadian employers will need to hire an estimated 106,000 ICT workers. Other highlights include:

* There is a pervasive mismatch between the industry skill requirements and the available skill supply in the labor market. This mismatch affects all regions of the country;
* Information Systems Analysts and Consultants, the largest ICT occupation in Canada, will continue to drive the shortages with demand for this complex mix of skills being much greater than the available supply;
* Recent graduates with co-op or internships as part of their education will, for the most part, be able to obtain relevant employment. Those graduates without co-op or internships will experience prolonged frustration in finding a relevant job;
* The gender imbalance for ICT occupations (males make up approximately 75% of all ICT employees) limits the qualified pool of employees for industry recruitment. This compounds the skills shortage in Canada.
* Recently arrived internationally educated professionals (IEPs), who have no Canadian experience, will have considerable difficulty in securing an ICT job that is commensurate with their qualifications, unless their English or French language skills are strong.

"The potential skills and labor shortage crisis has been identified as one of the most defining issues facing the ICT sector in Canada today, said Bernard Courtois, president and CEO of ITAC.

Global job mobility, technological change, demographics, declining enrolments, and shifting investment patterns have combined to create a pending shortfall among skilled ICT workers.

The study reinforces the emerging trends that ICTC, ITAC and other national associations, the government of Canada and the post-secondary education community have been noting. ICTC's 2008 labor market outlook report released consistent findings, and the sector has been working since then to curb the severity of the skills and labor shortfall. More than 100 of these organizations, including ICTC and ITAC, have provided leadership and consultations to the government of Canada's Digital Economy Strategy, set to roll out in the coming months.

Furthermore, ICTC has focused on the integration of Internationally Educated Professionals into Canadian industry, educating and creating awareness of the opportunities that ICT jobs provide through its Focus on Information Technology (FIT) high school program, and ensuring that ICTC is capturing the complexity and changes in the ICT labor market by including eHealth and Digital Media into labor market information that is researched by the organization. In addition, ICTC is developing a comprehensive program that recognizes the professionalism of Canada`s ICT workforce based on ICTC`s national competency profiles.

But more work at a greater intensity is now required. "Moving forward, industry, government, education and associations must continue to mobilize in a concentrated effort to respond to what is needed to address this looming skills and labour shortages," said Paul Swinwood, president and CEO of ICTC. "These partnerships will form the necessary collaborations to develop and implement the integrated strategies and programs to address the challenges and issues we face today and over the next five years."

ICTC has identified five levers for change and accompanying recommendations to address the issues identified in the labor market study:

*The country has to maintain and, ideally, grow enrolment in ICT-related post-secondary programs beyond current levels
* Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs) must be integrated;
* Post-secondary education must shift to integrated, cross-discipline programs with practicum components and professional development opportunities to ensure graduates are equipped with the mix of skills employers are looking for.
* Employers need to invest in "nearly qualified" candidates and make professional development accessible, flexible and focused on providing employees with the skills required to meet their rapidly changing needs.
* Improved diversity and inclusion of under-represented groups in the ICT industry will provide critical productivity gains and competitive advantages for Canadian business in a global marketplace.

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