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Canadian IT Job Market - October 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 IT market for Western Canada has come alive with summer now officially over; however, the amount of new activity has not met expectations. Two reasons are being given to this "cooler than expected" start to the fall season. The first is that the West has come off a very strong summer - in past years there has been a dip in demand over the summer months, but this year business remained steady throughout July and August, suggesting that there may be less pent up demand required to "catch-up" for the non-existent summer slow down. The second issue that is impacting the West (specifically Alberta) is the Alberta Government's oil and gas royalty review that has many of the O&G sector organizations becoming much more tentative with their spending. Several large companies have announced the potential for shelving multi-billion dollar projects pending a government ruling. Many new projects and IT spending in general are being put on hold for the time being.

Though activity is not as strong as expected, it is still high. Technology professionals with strong skills in SAP, Security, Change Management, Content Management and Business Analysts are in high demand. As people with these difficult-to-find skills become even more rare, market forces have affected rates. Increased activity in the rest of Canada has made it more difficult for the West to draw the resources that are required to keep pace with growth, and organizations are beginning to really struggle to add to or replace permanent resources.

Contractors recognize that demand is hot and have become more confident that they can keep their job jar filled, thereby making conversion to perm more and more rare. It has been noted that most of the demand from publicly traded enterprise companies are for short-term durations, more in line with their plans to complete projects by year end; whereas government contracts are closer to a year in length on average, reflecting their longer-term needs and budgeting/resourcing cycle.

Hot skills for the West include PMs, Java Developers and Peoplesoft experts for BC; SAP, Security, Change Management and .NET Developers for Alberta; and PMs, BAs and IT professionals with technical skill sets are highly desirable in Saskatchewan/Manitoba.

In the GTA, "Back to School" brought about the expected and anticipated rise in activity in the job market that normally coincides with the new school year. In particular, there was a sharp increase in open full-time positions in the month of September as the overall unemployment rate in Canada dipped to a 33-year low at 5.9%!

In September, the 10th Annual Showcase Ontario took place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Showcase is the largest public sector information technology education event in Canada. Eagle was an exhibitor at the event and it was a great success with the opportunity to connect with over 1000 new and familiar faces! The private and public sectors continue the recent trend of hiring full-time resources as opposed to using contractors. While the need for contract resources is still present, there is a push for contract resources to have more specialized skill sets in various areas such as information management, brokerage and mutual funds and mortgage applications. Private sector organizations continue to take measures towards implementing newer technologies to upgrade their systems. With these new projects ramping up, there has been an increase in demand for architects. The PeopleSoft market is also emerging again and companies are in the initial phase of planning upgrades to newer versions of various modules.

The public sector has had continual requirements for support and maintenance; however, it also appears that planning has picked up with a focus on the business-side of developing the architecture for projects in their initial phases.

Overall, there has been a noticeable demand for senior-level functional resources in all industry sectors including, the public and private sector for both contract and permanent resources. More specifically, there has been a strong and steady demand for Business Analysts, Project and Program Managers and Business Architects. These requirements indicate many new projects are in their initial phases and we can expect to see more activity in the months ahead as these projects ramp up. Additional skills in demand across the GTA include: Java/J2EE, .NET, SharePoint, Data Warehousing, Stellent, and SAP.

In Eastern Canada the early fall was a pleasant continuation of the summer with July-like temperatures holding back Mother Nature's march towards the inevitable, colder and shorter days that lie ahead. With many organizations now back in full swing from summer, it's clear there remain a number of gaps in their IT departments, with most now turning their attention to the full-time positions that remained open throughout the quiet summer months and are now at or near the critical vacancy stage. We continue to see a substantial number of companies converting contractor resources to permanent employees effectively locking-down resources often without defined roles and in some cases knowing the contractor's skill-set does not fully match the vacancy. However, many employers are now more than willing to make the investment in training to know they have filled a gap, at least in part, down the road. Similarly, we have seen contract requirements that specify the position can be contract or permanent, or flip to permanent down the road, as employers hope to widen the net in terms of attracting the contractor community to consider full-time positions. Ultimately there are a number of unfilled positions in both Ottawa and more so Montreal, a situation that has seen employers focus internally to ensure they are retaining their own people. On the contract side longer terms are now more common while in both contract and permanent placement we continue to see upward movement on rates and salaries. It remains an enigma how we have the continued strange combination of a hot market with a tepid response, as schools and universities report yet even lower enrollment in technology programs this year.

There were not a lot of significant developments of note in the early fall coming from the Federal Government, with several departments renewing contracts, as best they can, as suppliers await the awarding and implementation of TBIPS, the Feds newest government-wide procurement vehicle meant to streamline and expedite access to IT contract professionals. Many departments hope it arrives sooner rather than later.

Hot skills and roles in East include: Documentum Developers, SAP Analysts in HR and FI/CO as well as Tech Support for Montreal; and, PMs, .NET Developers, QA Testers and ETL and Data Warehouse resources in Ot tawa.