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Canadian IT Job Market - March 2007

Each month Eagle's Regional Vice Presidents put together this cross Canada look at the IT job market ... here it is hot off the press!

The hottest IT markets in Western Canada continue to be the two Alberta cities. Driven by the strength of the Oil & Gas industry, we have witnessed many consecutive months of strong activity. Keeping supply from significantly lagging demand, labour has been mobile - coming from the surrounding provinces and, in many instances, relocating from Central and Eastern Canada. The media has helped by playing-up the opportunity in the West, meaning that many IT professionals from across Canada have caught the "buzz" and are open to the opportunity to make a move. We are noticing, however, that the supply of IT resources in provinces such as Manitoba and British Columbia are showing signs of tightening. Challenges that have plagued Alberta for some time such as dealing with multiple offers; difficulty in convincing contract resources to extend; and organizations losing top candidates because they were not able to "close" quickly enough are being reported right across the West. These symptoms of a short labour supply may suggest that the truly "mobile" portion of the IT workforce is beginning to run low.

With all of this in mind, many companies in Edmonton and Calgary have spent a lot of time in January and February completing their IT planning for the year. There has been strong demand for Architects, BAs and other skill sets that coincide with the planning process. The market has been busy and it is about to get much busier as this planning is put into action. With increasing demand and indicators suggesting that the supply of mobile IT professionals are dwindling, it is likely that there will be increased pressure on hourly rates. Companies are beginning to brace for this as many are implementing cost management solutions and strategies. Many are holding firm to their rate tables as even moderate upward rate pressures may put their projects at risk. The most successful companies will be the ones who complete their resource planning early and proactively manage their requirements. This will allow them to move quickly and decisively through the contract or full-time hiring process.

Hot skills across the West are as follows: Winnipeg - functional IT Professionals have been in high demand such as PMs and BAs; Edmonton - a wide range of requirements... PMs, BAs, SAP, Oracle, C#, BI, Cognos, J2EE; Calgary - SAP, Microsoft (Application and Infrastructure), Livelink, SharePoint, BI, PMs, BAs, Document Management, "upstream" everything; Vancouver - BAs, .NET Developers (newer requirement for Vancouver), Powerbuilder, SAP, Java; Permanent Placement - Java, SAP, PMs and Project Leads.

Though economic indicators continue to show lower than average growth compared to the rest of the country, it was a very busy month in the GTA on the contract-side, in fact February proved to be the busiest month we've seen for contract resources in 6 months. Hopefully a preview to what is waiting for contractors into the Spring and Summer! There was, on the other hand, a slight hiring slowdown for full time positions; however, there are already very strong indicators that March will prove to be a much better month.

Many industries saw a renewal of activity over the month of February. A number of organizations within the financial sector have started new development projects and are looking for resources to fill these positions. RFP activity remains strong though overall government activity has been slow, largely due to the upcoming fiscal year end. There is, however, an anticipated demand for technology professionals with a background in Healthcare into April and the new government fiscal year.

There has been a noticeable decrease in available candidates with longer term contracts and higher dollar per diems attracting contractors and keeping them out of the marketplace.

Hot skills in demand in the GTA on the contract side continue to include: SAP (all modules), as well as Java Developers. In-demand skills on the full-time hiring side continue to include Quality Assurance resources, as well as, Java/J2EE skills, Security Consultants, and technology professionals who have an actuarial background.

In Eastern Canada, as winter was getting what we hope are its parting shots in for the '07 season, the phrase "out like a lion" was muttered often in both Ottawa and Montréal as residents recalled the "balmy" days of December and January. The IT labour market continues, however, to defy observers with none of the common clichés able to easily describe the current dynamics, weather related or not. While Eastern Canada is not feeling the acute pinch and pain Western Canada is enduring in terms of the labour pool and skill shortage, the media visibility of the issue continues to increase. The talent crunch is now a full blown and heavily analyzed story in the main stream media and yet many employers continue to have the same lengthy and largely reactive hiring processes that see them lose out on many long open, key positions. The Federal government is working harder now to streamline their hiring process through a revised procurement process and savvy private industry employers have recognized the need for more efficient hiring but there are still many others who remain mired in a type of status quo with key positions unfilled.

The expected March Madness as the federal government year end nears was not as active as in years past, likely due to increased awareness around proper procurement and the changes coming, all-in-all a good thing for vendors, the Feds and the taxpayer. Speaking of the taxpayer, over the past month Revenue Canada experienced a "glitch" that saw its 75+ databases essentially unable to transfer information to each other and therefore shut down temporarily one of the earliest and most heavily adopted government -on-line initiatives, that is the ability for citizens to e-file their tax returns as millions do every year. The good news is that Revenue Canada has confirmed it was not a hacker or virus and that highly sensitive data was not compromised. This occurred while there has been a very significant increase in demand for Security and Threat and Risk Assessment resources right across the Federal Government. We have also seen a notable increase in anticipated demand in Eastern Canada for Project Managers in both the Federal Government and private industry, most notably at the senior level. Organizations are truly challenged with the imminent loss of the knowledge capital that these resources hold, a s they leave and retire in greater numbers.

Other hot skills in the region include SQL Developers, SAP Security and Portal Specialists, as well as, JAVA/J2EE Programmers and Tech Support.