The war for IT talent is fiercely fought on a global scale, ignoring geographical boundaries. Many tech specialists find themselves writing their own employment ticket, withcompeting offers from potential employers ensuring competitive salaries, perks and work visas to remove any barriers to successful employment. Meanwhile, Canadian organizations of all sizes and across all industries are adopting cloud computing and mobile technology. By 2018, IDC Canada predicts the Canadian Internet of Things (aka tech built into everyday things) will be worth more than $6.5 billion alone.
canada is increasingly seen as a tech utopia
In light of instability in other areas of the world, Canada finds itself in a unique position. With the current uncertain political climate and immigration ban upheaval in the US, Canada shines as a beacon of political, economic and social stability. This is the fertile ground in which entrepreneurship, business development and progress take root and grow, and societies thrive. Where international IT professionals would not have considered Canada as an option before, they’re now seeing the country and its opportunities in a new light. In the same way, international tech companies and investors now consider Canada as the best environment in which to do business, expand or relocate. And the numbers support this. Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal regularly make best-of lists naming the top cities for tech innovation and finding talent.
what does this mean for canada’s tech industry?
Well, for one thing, the expectation that by 2020 Canada would face a shortage of 200,000 programmers and other IT professionals may no longer be so dramatic. Instead of following the brain drain to the south, Canadian IT professionals are staying put and happy to do so, while their colleagues from the US and abroad are now choosing Waterloo and Toronto over Silicon Valley. The federal government is making it easier for Canadian and multinational tech firms to bring in skilled foreign workers by shortening approval visas and making work permits more readily available. Canada’s tech sector was identified as one of the largest of Canada’s economic sectors and it continues to grow. Governments and business professionals realize that attracting the best talent from around the world makes Canada more competitive. That’s especially true in the IT sector.
government support for tech in canada
Canada’s 2017 Budget included a comprehensive Innovation and Skills Plan in an effort to make Canada a place where world-class innovation happens and technology is leveraged to create and provide for a skilled, educated workforce. In July 2017, the government launched a new $1.26 billion Strategic Innovation Fund available to all sectors designed to encourage growth, development and commercialization of products and services, which, by nature, includes accompanying and developing technologies. The Plan anticipates that, with its support, the number of high-growth companies in Canada, particularly in the digital, clean technology and health technology sectors will double by 2025.
Part of the Plan’s mandate is to encourage business to invest in innovative technology industries. This is proving successful across the country and particularly in British Columbia, a province whose $26 billion a year in generated revenue makes it the fastest growing technology sector in the country. BC’s tech workforce is proving the fastest growing in Canada as well, with 150,000 people employed in technology. Further, the province is attracting international companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Cisco and Disney. With Amazon looking for retail space in Toronto, the country – like BC - is transforming into an “innovation nation, building an AI-driven economy.”
preparing canadians for careers in tech
Across the country, technology is changing traditional industries, and how business is done and the type of work performed. Virtual technologies dictate how natural resources are sourced, recovered and processed. Transportation and how goods and people are moved are already significantly impacted by technology-driven smart infrastructure, data collection platforms and visualization technologies that are, in turn, impacting city planning, emergency response and critical infrastructure.
Along with innovation, the 2017 Budget focused on helping fund Canadians to prepare for the new work order by promoting skills in science, technology, engineering and math, and increase digital literacy, particularly for women and underrepresented groups. Having a workforce trained and equipped to deal with disruptive technologies is essential to ensure the technology sector continues to drive the country’s economy and maintain its competitiveness on the world stage. As new start-ups increasingly pop up on the landscape supported by unprecedented venture capital funding, the potential for significant revenue growth appears unfettered.
Canadians are unique in the world; we take things like cultural diversity for granted. We find the thought of barring immigrants because of their nationality abhorrent. These are qualities that make us attractive to international IT professionals and global investors. At the same time as our tech industry and workforce are expanding, our ability to market our goods, services and raw materials internationally benefits as well.
Canada’s brand is welcoming and internationally recognized; our exchange rate is attractive; and our government, economic and political climates are stable. How quickly Canada capitalizes on its strengths and how it responds to uncertainty in the US will determine just how fast and how far our tech industry will go.