The IT skillsets Canadian employers are looking for in 2011

Published: November 25th, 2010

A study into IT hiring trends for Canada in 2011 commissioned by Sapphire Canada and IBM Canada shows companies will be hiring more IT pros in 2011, and those with skills in collaboration, security and cloud computing will be the most in demand.

The study of business leaders in both the enterprise and SMB spaces across Canada shows IT pros can look forward to positive job prospects in the new year after a challenging period due to the recession. The survey showed that 95 per cent of respondents plan to maintain or increase current staffing levels in 2011. Half of the respondents are looking to hire permanent, full time staff over the next five quarters, and 45 per cent of them were looking to hire this quarter. Just seven per cent were looking to decrease staffing levels, improved from 15 per cent last year.

Sergio Mateus, president of Sapphire Canada, an IT staffing agency, said the study shows very strong indicators of confidence in the economic outlook from Canadian businesses.

Collaboration projects were the focus for 44 per cent of respondents, with security the focus for 25 per cent and cloud computing for 18 per cent.

One positive is the demand for more permanent employees, following an increase in contacting through the downturn. Of the respondents hiring, 43 expected to increase their permanent hires over the next year. Contracting remains popular, however, with 20 per cent planning to hire contract resources and 34 per cent opting for a mix of permanent and contract staff.

“During the recession we saw more contract hiring, but now the focus is more on full time positions,” said Mateus. “That’s indicative of confidence, and bodes well for the industry and the economy overall.”

Companies are also hiring people faster in order to get the best talent. The typical time to hire has dropped from four to six weeks to three to four weeks, said Mateus.

Respondents indicated the increased demand for IT professionals is being driven by a number of factors, including increased workload (34 per cent), instillation of new enterprise-wide applications (23 per cent), increased customer/end user support (15 per cent) and organizational growth (14 per cent).

Bob Wylie, vice-president of data centre and enterprise services at IBM Canada, said the study results are consistent with the day-to-day trends he’s been seeing around technology convergence and interdependence.

Technology refresh with strong cost-savings and return on investment is driving most projects, said Wylie, and companies are looking for IT professionals with a broad mix of key skills. Rather than going deep with just one vendor, companies will be looking for IT pros that can round-out that depth with multiple certifications in different technology areas. It’s a result of the changing nature of IT deployments, said Wylie, as server and networking and cabling specialities converge in the modern data centre.

“Companies need to have broader-skilled teams of architects and engineers that can look left and right across technologies, and design solutions and deploy them more broadly than in the past,” said Wylie. “It translates into a need for broader skills.”

There is also strong demand for management and business roles. Employers said they’re looking for technical project managers and security specialists. Business analysis skills were sought by 55 per cent of respondents and 38 per cent were looking for business intelligence skills.

Application development skills were sought by 66 per cent of respondents, with .Net in demand by 45 per cent and Java by 44 per cent. On the infrastructure and support side, 63 per cent were looking for infrastructure skills. Technical project managers were sought by 35 per cent, with 34 per cent looking for network architects & specialists and 34 per cent for server virtualization specialists.

Mateus said he believes the supply and availability of skilled IT professionals is there in the short-term to meet the coming demand, but he added demand may begin to outstrip supply in five to 10 years as not enough youth come into the workforce to replace the retirees leaving it.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.