A lot has happened in Edmonton since the last regional job market update in February. The city, and the entire country for that matter, saw demand for IT workers skyrocket as organizations continued their COVID-related digital transformation accelerations and reinitiated pre-pandemic projects, all while building out new solutions to stay competitive in their respective industries.
The IT unemployment rate in Canada remains incredibly low, and despite having access to 100% remote workers from across the country, many clients in the public and private sector continue to struggle finding the right talent to fit specific needs.
What’s Driving this IT Skill scarcity?
The battle between return to office and remote work. Nearly all clients now have a firm policy regarding work location and vaccination requirements, the most common being a proof-of-vaccination or a willingness to undergo regular testing at the contractor’s expense. Since IT contractors have become comfortable working in their home office and bidding on exciting projects in different geographies, fewer of them want to commit to an on-site gig where COVID uncertainties exist, and a commute is essential. Some of the best, local talent can – and will – gravitate towards contracts where they have the certainty of working from home. A requirement for on-site work has proven to be a tough sell for the most in-demand skillsets. The good news is that if you're one who's been itching to get back to an office with other humans, the Edmonton job market has a growing number of on-site opportunities becoming available.
Everyone is doing the same type of project! Does it seem like the same roles are constantly being advertised on job boards? It’s not your imagination – that’s exactly what’s happening. The majority of our mid and large sized clients are embarking on the same projects, often at the same time, and asking for the same skilled IT resources. As an example, in the past month we had over 40 Data-related openings in Alberta alone. Concentrated demand like that quickly overwhelms the local candidate pool, and it puts a strain on the number of qualified resources available at a national level to fill these openings.
What IT Skills are in Demand for the Edmonton market?
Focusing in on job roles, Eagle is seeing some obvious trends of in-demand IT professionals in Edmonton, and perhaps the hottest ask is anything ETL, Big Data and DevOps related. Cloud specialists (AWS and Azure), as well as full-stack developers are also popular roles. There is a slightly less-than-usual demand for Project Managers, a sign that fewer organizations are at the beginning stage of their projects. The Year-End IT spend has been focused on hiring do-ers and hands-on individuals (Support/Developers/Business Analysts) to push ongoing projects ahead, or to cover off vacation time come December. Demand for infrastructure roles like server analysts has also decreased -- another result of a push to Cloud-based infrastructure hosting with less on-prem/site work.
Another interesting trend we're seeing in Edmonton has to do with how companies are building teams and hiring talent. More IT departments are choosing to work with systems integrators for their projects, rather than build a team of independent contractors. This doesn't change the demand for skilled IT professionals, and integrators continue to rely on staffing agencies to build their teams, but it's worth being aware of because it can affect your job application process and contracting experience. In addition, an IT contractor looking to move their career back to full-time employment can benefit from this trend as the systems integrators often want to build a reliable bench of employees. In fact, we've already seen a more balanced market in this respect, with the number of permanent and contract job opportunities coming closer to being equal.
There is Skill Scarcity – What about Rates?
The Edmonton job market remains strong, with rates holding steady or increasing slightly for the in-demand skillsets listed above. What keeps rates in ‘check’ against rising demand is the fact that remote hiring means clients have a larger pool of competitive talent. Contractors are competing against more applicants, which is keeping rates steady. Unless you fall into one of those high-demand roles listed above (Data and Development) or have a niche skill (ex. ServiceNow), and you're willing to work on-site, we recommend proceeding cautiously when negotiating a pay raise.
If you specialize in an industry with fixed rate cards (ex. public sector), then your negotiation power might also be limited, not because of lack of demand but because the clients are stuck with pre-pandemic rate cards that no longer fit current market conditions.
With all of this in mind, how can an IT contractor remain competitive and get a leg-up in Edmonton today? Our top recommendation is to keep up with technology. Everything is moving quickly and it's important not to fall behind. Cloud, Azure, AWS, Agile, DevOps are all popular in job descriptions and that's only going to grow over the coming months and years, so make sure you're prepared. We also strongly encourage you to take advantage of the remote work opportunities and search for something that works for you outside of your home region. At the same time, determine your comfort level in an office and don't discount the opportunities that are here right at home. Finally, with the IT contracting space looking significantly different today than it did two years ago, we unfortunately find ourselves reminding contractors more and more about business ethics and the importance of integrity. It's easier today to double-dip on contracts, request higher rates mid-project or leave for something more exciting, but remember that the IT industry is close-knit. An unethical action today will impact your career tomorrow.