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Canadian IT Job Market - November 2006

The following is the monthly look at the Canadian IT job market as written by Eagle's three Regional executives.

The Western Canadian I.T. labour market continues to be very active across a wide range of skill sets. The most notable skills in demand are typically the most difficult to find - senior ERP resources, experts in Business Intelligence, Project Managers and experienced Business Analysts. However, need is both broad and deep with many openings for people with skill sets that range from .NET to Developers (Java/Oracle/C#/PowerBuilder) to Testers to Document Management. The key component for most requirements is solid, referenceable experience for these technologies, but more and more, hiring managers are seeking people with leadership and excellent communication skills. This in itself has been a trend for several months, however it appears that the frenzy surrounding the acquisition of such subject matter experts is beginning to create its own labour challenges:

Contractors are being very selective about job opportunities. With multiple offers, they are choosing where they wish to work based on challenge, technology, company culture and team dynamics. Companies must sell themselves to candidates in ways that they have not had to before. Additionally, companies are being forced to make hiring decisions much more quickly as top talent is gobbled up at a breakneck pace and lucrative counter offers from existing employers are becoming more common. Permanent employees with experience and hard-to-find skills are contemplating the contracting lifestyle and, in an effort to keep their employees from becoming too marketable, some organizations are beginning to refuse them training and certification opportunities. This is leading to increased employee dissatisfaction and these companies are subsequently putting themselves in greater risk of alienating their employees.

Companies have been attempting to convince contractors to convert to permanent. They are finding it difficult, however, to convert a true contractor in an over-heated, highly-lucrative western labour market. In many cases it is a matter of lifestyle, technical challenges and the variety of work that keep contractors independent as much as anything and the risk of being out of work for extended periods is low. It will be interesting to see how the population of contractors that is nearing retirement might view the chance to take on permanent, more stable roles with the opportunity to provide guidance and mentorship to others.

This past month in the West there has been continued talk of off-shoring from many organizations throughout the industry. This may have an impact as we head into 2007, however for now it has been mostly talk and conjecture... a way to leverage the pricing discussion with business partners, contractors and suppliers. The net effect has been a small reduction of wholesale labour rates for those positions considered to be in broad supply or a commodity. Cross-border labour logistical/paperwork challenges, quality assurance concerns and contractual obligations will continue to be barriers to leveraging talent from afar - at least in any comprehensive manner.

With now over $35 Billion being pumped into the Information and Communications Technology (ITC) sector in Toronto each year, the business community is taking notice. Currently, the third-largest ITC sector in North America, Toronto has its eye on the global stage. Many initiatives have been introduced in the city over the past two year. Recently, the Toronto Board of Trade ( introduced the Technology Innovators Breakfast Series, a monthly event designed to showcase the ITC community and to create a networking opportunity to ensure the success of the overall project. All this activity is great news for existing companies and technology resources alike!

Hiring activity over the past month within the GTA has been busy with strong demand for both contract and full-time resources. In fact, there has been a significant increase in activity for contract resources as compared to the last few months and it is comparable to the extremely busy hiring activity from the spring. We, like most agencies, are seeing considerable interview activity on both the contract-side and for full-time resources. However, interviewing organizations in the GTA continue the slow-hiring trend, taking too long to make hiring decisions, despite the employment-rich market on the candidate side, which results in hiring managers being disappointed when their candidates are no longer available.

Candidates continue to have strong negotiating power, multiple interviews and are holding out for the perfect jobs. All of these factors have resulted in an increase in rates, as well as longer contract terms, typically 9 months with many 1 year contracts. Hot skills in the GTA on the contract side include: PMs, SAP, Testers, Ingenium Developers, PACBASE Developers and Tandem Consultants. In-demand skills on the full-time hiring side also include PMs, as well as, Java Developers and Ingenium Developers.

Eastern Canada is seeing continued, fairly brisk, activity as the fall progresses. Many companies have faced serious challenges in some projects with the pressure on rates, combined with a shrinking available candidate market. This has forced many IT executives to implement some creative sourcing strategies. The SAP market in Eastern Canada is one such market. Organizations are working very closely with staffing companies in ensuring they have market intelligence on both rates and skill-set availability as they are faced with the trifecta of challenges: the combination of a hotter market here, some SAP contractors moving into permanent positions, and finally even more migrating to an abundance of long-term and lucrative opportunities in Western Canada, Calgary in particular. Throw in some anticipated Federal Government demand in SAP and it's not hard to predict an even hotter and even more challenging marketplace for the foreseeable future. Clients are well advised to work ever more closely with their chosen agencies in advance of anticipated requirements as the proverbial pipeline narrows. Shortened hiring cycles and longer contract terms are just two of the more immediate solutions available and now in-play.

Interestingly, we are now observing a similar scarcity of available resources scenario in some of the less high profile and perhaps less "sexy"skill sets in Eastern Canada. Where Java/J2EE resources were once considered as relatively abundant and available, we are now experiencing and predicting a similar tightening up in that market.

The Federal Government in Ottawa continues to be a bit of a head-scratcher. Talk in the market continues about tremendous pent up demand, what with government's aging IT infrastructure and aging workforce in conjunction with some huge planned initiatives to take an enterprise-wide approach to IT services (that has been common to the private sector for some time). Observers continue to point to uncertainty in procurement as one barrier to that demand, however, it now seems after a long and protracted road to procurement reform marked by scandal and missteps, industry is reasonably confident the process will get under way in earnest in the new year and be fully in place by late spring or early summer of 2007. In the meanwhile, demand has remained relatively slow with a few smaller departmental Standing Offers and Supply Arrangements out or anticipated.

Hot Skills this month include: SAP resources particularly FI/CO, MM, SD and HR modules and particularly in Montreal. JAVA/J2EE resources with experience in Web Services and JSF, as well as Oracle DBAs and PMs with strong telco experience, VOIP backgrounds and solid experience with MS solutions.