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Canadian IT Job Market - May 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!

They say April showers bring May flowers... this axiom is certainly true for IT in the West! Requirements for BAs and Architects in April (and previous months this year) are translating into the need for technical resources to bring their vision to fruition. The contracting business continues to be brisk with higher pressure on rates - from the contractors "up" and the clients "down". Overall, rates are holding relatively steady, although there is a lot of tension surrounding these.

Vancouver has witnessed increased activity in the gaming and alternative fuel industries and over the past month there has been substantially more supply-side challenges for IT resources of all levels. Demand from Alberta is clearly being felt. BC companies are being forced to be less selective when choosing their contractors - picking people who are 7's and 8's where they had been holding out for 10's. Any delays in the hiring process, results in missed opportunities as contractors often have multiple opportunities and offers.

The Edmonton IT job market remains strong and with many local contractors working, supply of readily available resources is low. Contractors wishing to relocate to Edmonton (even temporarily) are finding that rising housing and rent costs are making it much more difficult. The dearth of available, high-quality contractors is having much the same effect as in Vancouver where organizations are being far less selective and are accommodating contractors looking to work remotely or part-time hours.

In Calgary, large oil and gas clients are demanding and, so far, are willing to pay for IT professionals with specific industry experience. Contractors without the oil and gas experience show a lot of interest in becoming involved in this industry and are seeing more success in the smaller companies. It is suspected that as budgets begin to be threatened, large oil and gas companies will begin to consider IT professionals from other industries, as these contractors have been apt to reduce their rates for the chance to enter the industry.

Winnipeg organizations, who historically have been very cost conscious, are really feeling the labour shortage as over the past months many mobile contractors have looked further West for bigger, better, more lucrative opportunities. Local IT talent is almost fully employed making it challenging to fill open requirements. Rates are up and available, high-quality IT resources have multiple offers to consider. Companies uncomfortable with the rising cost of contracting are looking to hire more full-time staff and we are seeing an increase in full-time placement activity. Businesses are interested in converting contractors to permanent employees but are mindful of transition costs.

Hot skills in demand across the West include: Vancouver - .NET, PMs, BAs, QA, Java Developers and 1st-Level IT Support (a first for our hot skills list!), Edmonton - BAs, SAs, PMs, Oracle DBAs, Architects and .NET experienced Programmer/Analysts, Calgary - SAP, .NET, BAs, PMs, Java, "Upstream" anything, Java Developers and Agile, Infrastructure and ERP Consultants, Winnipeg - PMs, .NET and Java Developers, Crystal Reports and SAP.

The month of April in the GTA was one that saw a marked improvement in both public and private sector contracting activity. With their new fiscal year in full swing, the public sector has started to pick up across Ontario. Candidates with health care experience will have many choices, as it tops the "in-demand" skill sets. The financial industry showed particular overall growth, with a demand for contractors that ranged from developers and testers, to more functional business analysts and project managers. Contractors with brokerage experience were in particular demand this past month, as well as those with insurance (Ingenium) experience.

A study released on April 18, 2007 by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) (a "Current Snapshot of the Canadian ICT Labour") reiterated what everyone in the industry knows as a universal truth - it is hard to obtain and retain ICT talent in the GTA and across Canada. In addition to the usual key statistics on labour supply and demand, they dispel some of the current "myths" about the marketplace held by candidates and employers alike. This is reflected in the rise in April of full-time staffing placements.

The hot skills this month in the GTA include: SAP (all modules), .NET, SharePoint, SQL, Oracle, and Tandem. In the full-time market the top in demand technical skills include: Java, SQL, J2EE, Oracle, ASP, .NET, VB, and C#.

In Eastern Canada demand continued to be strong through the early spring, particularly for full-time roles with many companies investing in their IT and business systems. Many organizations, the Federal Government included, are in very active hiring mode and most are planning for further requirements and hiring to continue through the second half of the year. Organizations are clearly struggling with resourcing challenges. In fact it's a double whammy in that several not only are struggling in finding new hires on their own to facilitate growth and expansion but also in retaining their own key resources as more and more competition heats up for qualified, experienced people. There are some who suggest we are at full employment levels in IT with National IT employment at 600,000 - a level not seen since the pre 2000 dot com bust. Salaries and working conditions, primarily hours, have and will continue to be adjusted favourably towards candidates to offset what is clearly one of the biggest challenges facing most organizations. It remains a conundrum that most university and college technology and computer science programs continue to struggle to attract high school graduates in to their programs as the hangover effects of the aforementioned bubble burst of 2000 continues to have legs when it comes to students and career choices.

Federal government departments are talking more and more these days about transformation and change as departments streamline and look to focus on being more service and client oriented, web enabled and accessible to all Canadians easily and readily. There are also a couple of common themes heard in government of late as it pertains to the use of contractors. First the use of contractors to enhance internal IT organizations, more specifically as a means of knowledge transfer to government full time employees, is becoming a highly visible and strategic benefit that many departments have not utilized well and look to realize more as they face their own internal demographic challenges. Also, many departments are taking a strategic look at their use of contractors overall to get better value. There has been a tendency in the past in government to use contractors beyond the skill gap solution they were originally required for, for instance moving a contractor from a development environment into maintenance mode and thereby negating the skill gap solution they were brought in for originally which often sees them evolve into a more employee-like role. Both ideas are very valid and will bear watching in the months and years to come.

Hot skills in the region this month include: Biztalk, Quality Assurance Specialists, Architects, Oracle DBAs and Change Management Consultants.