Canadian firms hiring more IT staff, but career progression a challenge

Canadian organizations may be planning to hiring more IT professionals in 2012, but they’re worried about how to develop their role over the long term, based on the results of a survey released this week.

Recruiting firm Hays Canada released its fifth annual Hays Compensation, Benefits Recruitment and Retention Guide, which covers staffing requirements across a number of different industries but includes a substantial set of data on the IT industry. According to Hays, 43 per cent of Canadian firms plan to increase the headcount of their IT departments in 2012, with 80 per cent committed to hiring full-time positions. Fifty per cent said they would offer a salary increase of three per cent or more to technology staff.

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While more pay can be an attractive part of organizational retention strategies, Canadian companies seemed uncertain about what IT jobs will look like in the future, according to the Hays guide.

“When we asked them what’s going to be the biggest challenge in retaining key staff, 67 per cent said it was career progression,” said Andy Brack, IT specialist with Hays Canada, adding that in general technology jobs are among the healthiest in the country. “Out of all the different sectors, the increase in IT was the second highest after mining. That leads you to believe that the IT sector is in a stronger position.”

The Hays numbers are consistent with a similar study by another recruiting company, Randstad Technologies, and IBM Canada, which saw an even higher forecast for Canadian IT hires at 49 per cent, and another 41 maintaining current levels. That study saw .Net and Java as being the most in-demand application development skills, which Hays reported as well. Other important areas, according to the Hays report, are expertise in enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and SAP software.

Given that some roles in IT are perennially difficult to fill, the Hays guide indicated that 32 per cent would be looking at new Canadians to help close the talent gap.

“Over the last three years, we’ve been going through a recession, the volume of projects was much lower,” said Travis O’Rourke, division manager at Hays Canada. “We were able to make do with the talent that was local.” Not anymore, given that 74 per cent of those surveyed saw the economic climate either improving or staying the same.

Most Canadian IT staffing studies are examined next to those of the United States, but in Australia, which has a more comparable population size and economy, the outlook is decidedly less encouraging. According to the Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association, the Longhaus Australian Tech Index, which measures the health of the Australian ICT industry, decreased 2.9 per cent by 31 December 2011 — the most significant decline since the second quarter of 2009. This drop was put down to a less demanding labour market in the last three months.

–with files from Computerworld Australia

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