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Regional Job Market Update for Toronto (August 2021)

As we approach the end of Summer, the Toronto job market is bustling, with enough activity to keep any job seeker, hiring manager or recruiter on their toes. Here's a high-level look at what Eagle's team is seeing in the Great Toronto Area (GTA) job market, with an emphasis on what IT contractors can do to progress their business.

Job Search and Hiring Trends

For the past year-and-a-half, IT professionals have been working hard to help clients put together remote work infrastructures, as well as adapt their services to deliver top-notch, COVID-friendly experiences to customers. Typically projects this urgent would reflect job security, but the unique economic situation kept job seekers cautious that they could be out of work at a moment's notice. As a result, some contractors accepted positions they weren't keen on, while many burned the candles at both ends to build up savings in case the contract ended abruptly. This appears to be catching up as we're seeing contractor behaviour shift. Many are choosing not to extend contracts and take a mental health break or travel to see family who they've missed for the past 18 months. Others are looking to get out of the contracting game completely and switch back to full-time work (which works well since client demand for full-time employees is also increasing).

All that to say, there are some incredible opportunities out there for IT contractors who want to work, but there remains strong competition to get the right gig. Remote work means that many clients are still looking at a larger pool of candidates, sometimes Canada-wide.

Clients are adapting their recruiting strategies to fit with the remote world, so job seekers need to do the same in order to separate themselves from other candidates. The digital interview process has led to an increase in "fake candidates" where somebody submits a made-up resume, one person attends the video interview, and then a complete other person shows up to do the work! This means companies are doing more due diligence, asking more questions and checking more references. It's crucial that you always have current, reliable and credible references available at any given time.

Remote environments also increase the need for strong communication during the interview process and throughout the contract. IT professionals can separate themselves by explaining in-depth what they have done and their accomplishments specifically. Hiring managers want to know about you, not the broad project and the team's accomplishments. It will also serve you well to practice communicating your expectations professionally. We're seeing more contractors who know what they want (ex. maximum hours per day, rate, etc.) and their confidence is great, but the delivery of the message comes off too demanding and off-putting to clients. Finally, communication while working remotely is perhaps the most important differentiator for contractors, and unfortunately the lack of it has been the downfall for many while working from home. Be sure to check in, answer calls, and document everything, even if it seems to be overkill.

Although it does appear to be a candidate market where clients need to hire quickly, rates have not necessarily skyrocketed. The large candidate pool referenced earlier means people from across the country are submitting applications with rate expectations that meet their market. In addition, many clients' pre-COVID rates factored in commute expenses for contractors, but when working remotely, those clients aren't willing to eat that cost.

More Specifically

While some priorities may have shifted, the telecommunications sector in the GTA did not slow down throughout the pandemic. With a focus on streamlining customer experience and connecting all of their services into a single online touchpoint, there has been no shortage of web projects in that industry, with a large focus on front-end and UI development.

The financial sector has also remained busy and demanding full stack developers for both permanent and contract roles to work on web and mobile projects. Contractors who have regulatory, risk and compliance experience under their belts are always hot in this sector, especially as clients prepare for FRTB regulatory changes that are on the horizon.

The public sector -- which for Eagle includes many provincial government ministries, agencies and municipalities -- is also busy hiring and looking at candidates from all corners of the GTA. Due to the nature of the government's hiring process, candidates need to be more detailed in their applications and clearly demonstrate their experience. Certifications are also being required more frequently and a solid way to differentiate yourself. The education sector is working in full gear with some high priority projects, but budgets remain tight which is creating challenge in finding the right talent. Health departments had a high demand for Service Desk Analysts for the past few months as they ran vaccine sites across the region; however, that demand is dying down now that clinics are starting to wrap-up. Finally, an interdepartmental project is raising demand for contractors with radio networking experience.

Based on the above, it should be no surprise that Full Stack Developers are in high demand throughout Toronto, specifically those with experience in AngularJS, React, Java 12 and Scala. In the mobile world, clients are looking for people with architecture design experience for native applications, as well as with experience on the Android platform and knowledge of Kotlin, Java, RxJava, Dagger and Android Studio.

Every client needs solid Project Managers to keep their projects moving. While the provincial ministries prefer traditional Waterfall PMs, the majority of others are in Agile environments. There are some clients where departments want Agile-focused Project Managers who have a full understanding of traditional project management.

In addition to PMs and Developers, there remains hot demand for Security and Cloud professionals while companies continue to move their services and work environments to be accessible from anywhere. Data Specialists, Business Intelligence Experts, Architects (infrastructure and cloud), Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches are also recurring roles we're seeing from organizations who are continuing to build out their services in competitive, technology-driven landscapes.