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Regional Job Market Update for British Columbia (September 2021)

As I write this, Canadians are preparing to head to the polls for another Federal Election. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and Mustel Goup surveyed Vancouver-area people to determine what their top election issues were. The general population's key concerns were found to be: climate change and rising costs of living. This is contrasted to the top concerns of businesses which were economic recovery, regulation of business, climate change, fiscal responsibility (of Government), Government ethics and taxes. It is clear that many of these issues "pull in opposing directions" making policy-setting a real challenge for any new government.

Of particular interest (to Eagle and the staffing industry as a whole) is that "recruitment issues" were found to be particularly troublesome – both the finding/hiring of qualified workers as well as the retention of these. Over 72% of business support the notion of attracting more highly skilled immigrants to Canada (and to the BC-Region). These recruitment challenges are no different from what employers are facing across Canada. We (Canada) are quickly heading back to a severely supply-constrained labour market. This is even more impactful now that organizations, world-wide, have been forced to learn how to work remotely in teams. No longer are "local" businesses competing over "local" talent but, rather, with other companies across North America.

It is expected that companies will be forced to embrace remote work options, just to remain competitive... searching for IT workers by casting a much broader net over a larger geography to find the resources needed for their programs and projects. The genie is out of the bottle on this, and employers must come to terms with this new reality and embrace the hiring and management of remote teams. Gig workers, especially, relish the flexibility of working remotely and they are choosing their opportunities based on having this flexibility. Also factoring highly are such considerations as whether it is interesting work and will they be working with newer, leading-edge technologies. Rates/compensation is still important, but to a lesser extent. It is possible that compensation is less important in their job-selection-process because rates have been significantly moving higher across the board. "Going market rates" are now at levels that basic compensation needs are being met, and people are seeking out the opportunities that will either interest/engage them or those that will enable them to build their resumes (and relevance) helping them compete for future work. This is particularly troubling for BC employers as this region's IT worker compensation levels have been lagging that of other provinces/regions in Canada. Remote work opportunities increase the "virtual mobility of IT workers", and this has the effect of reducing the variability of rates/compensation across regions, meaning that BC employers will need to pay competitively to that of other jurisdictions across North America in order to acquire top talent.

These are the "headwinds" against which BC employers of IT resources are facing. To balance that is BC's growing high-tech industry. These organizations have projects with the "cool-factor" and "leading-technology" that IT workers are seeking. Some of the bigger employers in this sector have head offices south of the border where BC's compensation levels are still a bargain. This is good for them, but it also puts pressure on the start-ups and traditional businesses who must cope with the intensifying competition.

In my last Vancouver economic update published 9 months ago, I discussed the economic optimism that the BC region had as we prepared to "come out of COVID". Now, as we continue to work our way through the 4th wave, we are finding that the pandemic has longer legs than expected. Still, economic indicators still point toward the positive for Vancouver and the BC Region as a whole. It will be interesting to watch to see if labour supply constraints and rising rates/compensation act together to stifle some of this optimism.

On a micro-level, the following are some of the hiring trends that Eagle is witnessing in BC:

  • BC organizations are generally seeking IT workers with high levels of seniority and/or high levels of specialization. Although these can be difficult to find in the "local" market, companies can find bespoke skills by accessing remote workers.

  • Many BC companies are undergoing large legacy system reimplementation projects. This requires candidates to have a balance of "new" skills as well as familiarity with legacy technology.

  • Areas with high demand include: SaaS, Cloud, Data Analytics, Digital/Web, ServiceNow, Guidewire, and SalesForce

  • Many BC companies have delayed office re-entry until 2022 despite the vaccine passport being introduced

  • We are seeing a growing number of contractors taking on and attempting to balance multiple, concurrent projects. Depending on their approach, transparency, and their ability to scale and manage client expectations, some handle this well while others do not. This has the potential of becoming a troubling trend if not managed correctly. I wrote about this in an Eagle blog post that you can find here.

  • We are noticing and tracking a growing number of "candidate profiles" that are practically identical despite it being for different people. These "fake resumes" are being caught by Eagle's AI tools and through the hard work of our recruiting teams. This practice appears to be exploding, especially for SalesForce and QA areas. We encourage our clients to complete extra levels of due diligence (as we do ourselves) to separate the "real" candidates from the fraudsters. Again, I've written an Eagle blog post on this subject that you can find here.

Despite the headwinds mentioned above and the uncertainty that comes with any federal election, the next 12 months look to have strong growth indicators for the BC economy. How organizations rise to the challenges and embrace the changing market will determine their level of participation in this growth!