Canadian tech talent still in demand, despite layoffs and recession forecasts

Thousands of tech workers have started looking for new jobs as layoffs ripple through the industry in recent weeks, but many say those workers won’t stay in the market for long.

A wave of companies from the tech sector and beyond are lining up to lure in some of the highly skilled workers that startups and tech giants have let go as investor exuberance around the industry has waned. faded in recent months.

“Vouchers are collected within an hour and otherwise within a day or two,” said Abdullah Snobar, executive director of tech hub DMZ in Toronto.

Many people on a circulating list of Wealthsimple employees laid off on June 16 were quickly taken, he added., an aggregator that tracks global labor trends, found that 140,388 workers have lost tech jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including 34,627 who were laid off in the second quarter of 2022.

Workers at companies with big names like Twitter, Netflix, and Substack have been affected, along with those at startups like Ritual, Clutch, and Goodfood Market Corp. Many work in fields like software development and engineering that are coveted by employers.

Sumeru Chatterjee, who was content and community manager for Vancouver-based educational technology company Thinkific, was laid off in April along with around 100 others. He is now setting up his own business.

He estimates that 10-15% of his laid-off Thinkific colleagues have taken a break to assess what they want to do next because they « have not looked up from their desks in the past five to seven years. »

Two-thirds of the group immediately embarked on a job search and found similar positions, but asked their new employers tougher questions about topics such as company stability during this setback.

« These are questions I’ve never asked my previous employers or received as an employer and they’re usually questions about cash flow, track and profitability, » he said. he declares.

« You know, asking employers if they’ve made layoffs in the past and why and how, asking employers do you have difficult conversations internally? And if so, what do they look like?

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Chatterjee’s colleagues were recruited in part because tech talent has long been in short supply as companies discover a need for workers who specialize in digital operations, e-commerce and software or hardware development.

A 2019 report by the Information and Communications Technology Council, a non-profit organization providing labor policy advice, predicted that demand for skilled digital talent in Canada would reach 193,000 by 2022 and over 305,000 by 2023.

A 2020 addendum taking into account COVID-19 predicted that demand would be reduced by almost 24% and indicated that under new reference scenarios, the digital economy should see a demand of 147,000 workers by 2022, with total employment reaching nearly two million.

The 2019 government-funded report lists software developers, data scientists and analysts, cybersecurity workers and IT support specialists among the most in-demand positions.

It also included the results of an online survey of 289 employers, 54% of whom said mid-level employees with three to six years of experience were very hard to find.

« We’re having as much trouble finding someone who can be … a program lead as we’re trying to find a developer, » Snobar said. « Talent, in general at the moment, has been hard to come by. »

To hire staff, some companies have to pay more. Snobar heard of a startup that was struggling to replace a staff member with only four years of experience, but was snapped up by a San Francisco brand willing to pay $300,000.

« It’s just crazy for me, » Snobar said. « These guys get poached and poached by the big players…so for startups, you need to find people who are not only driven by money, but also by dreams. »

To compete for tech talent with Silicon Valley companies and hot startups, companies in other industries have tried to mirror some of their perks and policies, including splashy desks with foosball tables and Friday socials, and even unlimited holidays.

A slowdown could give them an advantage, said Leah Nord, senior director of workforce strategies for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

« It’s their opportunity to open up people’s perspective and say ‘maybe you haven’t thought about this (work), but you can do interesting and engaging work with a bank, with a insurance company, » she said.

This strategy is taking place at Thomson Reuters Corp., where recruitment is underway for 120 technology jobs, including engineers, data analysts and product managers.

“Finding great tech talent is never easy, but more talent available in the market is definitely helping with that,” said Shawn Malhotra, global head of engineering at the media conglomerate.

The Royal Bank of Canada is also in hiring mode. The financial institution added about 2,000 tech workers last year and is on track to add the same number this year.

While Emily Mercier points out that there isn’t just one thing that attracts a tech worker, she said RBC’s history of surviving headwinds is a selling point, especially that some are predicting a recession.

“Security and stability, regardless of the market environment, will always be attractive to individuals and I don’t think technologists are excluded,” said RBC’s chief operating officer for technology and operations. .

Accounting software company Intuit Canada is also emphasizing stability and the ability to work on cutting-edge technology as it hires 250 people in the next fiscal year.

« Some (workers) are looking for more meaningful roles or you’re in small startups that… don’t have the stability and you’re hitting an economic bump like the one we’re going through right now, so suddenly their jobs are redundant, » said David Marquis. , the national director of the company.

« It’s really a great place because we’re stable enough not to make layoffs and we have a huge avenue in terms of growth. »


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