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A Look at the IT Job Market in May 2006

The following is a write-up from Eagle's three General Managers representing a look at the job market from coast to coast.

Western Canada has seen a lot of excitement in the last 3 to 4 weeks with the frenzy of NHL hockey play-offs creating a mix of significant buzz, agony and celebrations in both Calgary and Edmonton and those cities cheering them on. Most employers in both cities are welcoming and joining into the 'spirit' of the excitement by allowing employees and subcontractors to wear their supporting team jerseys and paraphernalia to the workplace - a very uplifting experience for those who have been a part of it all!
In parallel, the news has remained quite positive on the IT labour market side of things for all of the West, from Winnipeg to Victoria. There are two noticeable trends worth mentioning that have been making their way to the forefront. First of all, more and more IT subcontractors seem to be making the decision to take an extended period of time off over the summer - anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks on average, with a few individuals stating they will not work in any month without an "r" in it (ie. May, June, July and August). This is creating some interesting challenges for employers as they strive to lock down subcontractors for their projects and make decisions regarding their willingness to be flexible with such work arrangements. In most cases, project managers are finding that the very nature of using a contingent workforce (ie. subcontractors), provides them with a channel to solve such challenges by bringing in new IT subcontractors to hit-the-ground-running and to fill any skill gaps. On the subcontractor front, this intent to take extended time off over the summer is a solid reflection of the mid- to long-term confidence in the labour market.
The second 'noticeable' trend is that of the increased number of small and medium sized organizations that are now considering the possibility of having to leave some of the hot labour markets like Calgary because the actual cost of finding and keeping top quality labour (including junior resources and new grads) is skyrocketing; thereby, making it much more difficult (or even infeasible) to grow their organizations further. This is a very real and possible 'consequence' of extremely active labour markets, and it could mean that some cities may see some of their highly innovative start ups and small corporations relocate if conditions prevail.
That being said, the here and now reality is that the Western Canada marketplace continues to thrive - and clearly it's a good time to be in IT!

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) recruiting market continues to heat up with multiple opportunities for contractors. Contractors are expressing a preference for longer term opportunities in cutting edge projects to provide them with financial security and ongoing professional development.
April has been a busy month for many organizations, as they continue to prepare and initiate the tactical side of their new project plans. Many companies are entertaining proactive resume submissions to ensure their projects are fully staffed with the most experienced and most qualified contractors available. Organizations are also "locking in" their contractor base for longer periods of time, in many cases upwards from 6 to 12 months, to ensure continuity within their projects and to reduce the risk of their contractors "shopping" for new opportunities. Companies are also transitioning from the "month-to-month" contract extensions to mid-length term extensions ranging from 3 to 6 months, in order to mitigate the risk of turnover within their contractor population.
Full time opportunities continue to gain momentum as companies strive to retain the industry's top talent. These opportunities seem to be outpacing the contracting market. This poses an interesting question and we have to wonder where the balance lies ahead as companies secure IT professionals into long term, strategic positions within their organizations. By committing to full-time hiring practices, organizations have suggested the importance of a stable and consistent knowledge capital within their organizations. That, coupled with a strategic compliment of contractors for nonessential core roles, ensures that they are ideally positioned to respond to the changing needs of both their internal organization and their external customer base.
Hot skills in the Toronto market include: Project Managers, Business Analysts, Basel, QA Testers and Technical Support roles. As we approach the summer months, we anticipate continued competitiveness within the contractor population. Many project plans are in the final preparation stages and implementation of those projects will place further pressures on the demand for skilled and experienced IT professionals. Eagle's Recruiting Team is operating at full force and humming with activity as we prepare both our contractors and ourselves for what we anticipate to be a very busy summer!

In Eastern Canada, things have cooled somewhat since last month as many large organizations continue to grapple with a myriad of resourcing strategies that include everything from increasing permanent staff or using flexible, contingent staff right through to off-shoring projects and/or business units. Or in the case of the Federal Government, simply how to procure efficiently and effectively. Smaller sized companies have the same issues to deal with as the market gets more talent constrained. Things like time-to-market, the overall increased competitiveness in most industries and the inability to get access to skilled workers, can mean the difference to survival and success or lack thereof. It appears as though, at the moment, many companies are taking a deep breath and are resting on the sidelines for a bit. Perhaps a deserved break to assess go-forward plans or an intermission in the recent frantic activity. This remains to be seen in the months ahead.
The new Conservative government delivered a budget that was light on technology initiatives but with a bit of tax relief for everyone (GST for instance). Of particular interest was the tax relief for small businesses. The corporate tax rate dipped from 21% to 19%, with the small business tax rate reduced from 12% to 11%. The small business income threshold will be raised to $400,000. This is great news for the independent, incorporated technology contractor and may serve to attract more skilled workers to contracting as a viable and in fact financially advantageous career choice. A word of caution however, that the government seems to have taken a page from the oil companies. Most of the tax reductions will come into play in 2008 and 2009, similar to the way per barrel oil increases seem to find their way to the pumps and our pockets a whole lot quicker than decreases do! Look for continued pressure on the Feds to address the productivity gap by encouraging businesses to invest in areas like IT in future budgets.
Hot skills in the Eastern region this month include: Interwoven Architects, Remedy Developers, Oracle and Siebel resources and experienced Project Managers and Business Analysts.