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Canadian IT Job Market - August 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!

Dog days of summer? Depends where you look! The typical summer vacation slow down has hit parts of the West including British Columbia and Manitoba, which have seen some significant summer slow down. Quite contrary to Calgary where the pace picked up over the course of July; and Edmonton, where July turned out to be one of its busiest months of the year! Common themes that we continue to see in Alberta include an ever-tightening labour supply, increased rates and contractors being very selective in the roles that they are taking given the choice that exists. Also, there have been many reports of intermediate and senior, long term employees moving to different companies... not specifically as consultants, but to other organizations that are in desperate need for permanent staff, are willing to pay for experience and offer interesting roles. Companies are coping as best as they can - the number of extensions being offered to good contract resources is up, as many better-organized companies are shifting contractors from assignment to assignment so that they will not have to deal with the challenges of a hot labour market. Additionally, organizations are prioritizing and then focusing their IT efforts on a smaller subset of their initial plans. Companies' wish-lists for prospective contractors/employees are getting longer and expectations are being set higher as rates climb and organizations seek value for their dollar.

In Vancouver and Victoria the contract labour market has seen a dip due to key IT managers taking their summer vacations. That said, by the end of July activity began to pick up again with a number of infrastructure and application enhancement projects starting. In Victoria specifically, there has been a strong demand for full time resources with a strong foundation in ITIL/RUP methodologies. The interest has been to attract IT professionals from "off-island" who have had exposure to different industries and large-scale enterprise environments. Even with the dip in activity in July, we are still observing multiple offers and increased rates. Speculation is that this will continue especially in light of Microsoft's announcement to invest in Vancouver as well as the anticipation of infrastructure work required to support the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Manitoba has felt the biggest impact from the summer doldrums with many contractors finding things slow in both June and July. Contractors appear to have many "irons in the fire" but they do not have multiple offers to consider. IT Analysts are having a particularly tough time right now with an average time between contracts that can be measured in weeks if not over a month. Local contractors that have been off-assignment for a while are prepared to lower their rates in order to get themselves busy again until the market picks up. Although contract spending has dropped for the summer, IT budgets are still there and it is expected that things will return to normal when people begin returning from their vacations. Looking forward, it is believed that with a number of SAP projects announced there will be a shortage of these resources available with many (if not most) of them having to come in from another province.

Hot Skills for the West include Java, UNIX and BAs for Vancouver and area; BAs, .NET Developers, PMs and Oracle resources for Edmonton; PMs, BAs and SAP for Calgary; and Developers, SAP (coming) and contractors with strong technical skill sets for Winnipeg.

As Canada reaches record high rates of employment throughout the country, the GTA can feel the effect of a strong economy particularly in the IT sector. Not only was the weather hot in the Toronto area, so was the job market. Toronto has seen a demand boom for IT professionals of over fifty percent in the last little while and it is expected that this growth will remain strong.

Despite the summer vacation slowdown, activity remained strong in a number of sectors including telecommunications and the financial sector, and though government activity was slower than it has been over the last few months, there continues to be a strong demand for IT professionals with health care experience. Government work is expected to increase over the next while as vacations wrap up. There has also been a strong trend in increased spending on IT contracts which should also result in more government activity.

The IT Industry is clearly thriving in the GTA and this momentum is anticipated to continue right into the fall get those holidays in while you still can!

The hot skills this month in the GTA include: PMs, BAs, Architects and Developers - Java/J2EE, .NET, and Oracle.

With vacation season in full swing, Eastern Canada saw an impact on both new requirements, interviews and hiring in July. It has become apparent over the past few years that the assumption that contractors do not necessarily vacation or, more specifically, they take vacation shorter than permanent full time employees because of the transitory nature of contract work, is no longer the case. With the hot market of the last 24 months or so, it's apparent attitudes have shifted in the contracting community, contractors are confident in the market, opportunities are plentiful, demand is strong and average length of contracts are longer, all factors when, combined, allow the IT professional ease of mind in planning and taking a break. Workforce attitudes have evolved as a result and hiring professionals are ever mindful of changing trends and demographics. Clients have factored in holiday time in both their projects and their resourcing plans knowing full well that in an as near a full employment environment as we have had in over 30 years, overworking or maxing out team members will only serve as a detriment in the long run. In the full time marketplace many organizations have begun to be more generous in vacation as both an attraction and retention strategy in a tight labour market as well as an alternative option in remaining competitive with increased pressure on wages. In addition to contractors, many hiring managers and project managers were well in holiday mode putting a definite slowdown in the pace of hiring in July. Nevertheless others still took advantage and scooped up IT professionals unwilling to sit on the sidelines during the respite. As a result it's anticipated that as we approach the fall, many organizations will be scrambling to fill open positions with supply expected to tighten up even more. The Federal Government, like the private sector, also experienced a vacation or "catch your breath", in July as few RFPs hit the street.

Montreal with its abundance of summer distractions, including some of Canada's most renowned festivals, was also relatively quiet to start the summer, but the Quebec market is expected to experience an active fall, particularly on the infrastructure and network side, as vacation season winds down.

We are expecting a significant and extremely interesting and exciting opportunity for IT Professionals in Ottawa in the fall and throughout 2008 in a sector not often associated with Ottawa, the financial services industry. For those interested in adding to their breadth of experience in a booming sector, we expect a need for a number of Quality Assurance consultants, Testers, Data Warehousing/ETL Analysts, .NET developers with C#, as well as Data Analysts. This is a very unique project to Ottawa and those with financial services experience will be welcome, as well as those looking to add it to their experience and marketability.

Other hot skills in the region include: Java developers, Interwoven consultants, Bilingual BAs and PMs.