Jobs: ICTC Gets the Wheels Rolling in the IT Sector

by Alessandra Cayley

Mauricio Pereira de Oliveira is from Brazil. Daniel Sun is from China. They may have nothing in common when it comes to culture, but when the subject is jobs within Canada their similarities start to grow.

The two immigrated to Canada in the midst of the latest recession. Both are IT (Information and Technology) professionals and have families to support. It was no surprise that both needed a job as quickly as possible.

Employment agencies helped to translate their résumés - descriptions of over ten years of experience each – into Canadian standards. But after months of searching, they still had difficulties finding jobs that matched their level of expertise.

Blame it on the recession? Not in this case. Projections show that Canada’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector will need between 126,400 to 178,800 workers over the period of 2008-2015, an average of 15,795 to 22,345 new jobs annually.

Consisting of approximately 31,500 companies across the country (82 percent being small businesses with less than 10 employees), the sector was considered a “key driver of national growth” for the Canadian government in 2008, when it contributed to an increase of 2.7 percent in GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

What happened with Mauricio and Daniel is the well-known problem of lack of “cultural intelligence” or Canadian workplace experience, a factor that delays newcomers’ integration into the labour market, and causes a ripple effect in some areas of the economy, like the ICT segment.

The sector is already facing two distinctive shortages: a labour shortage and a skill shortage (lack of workers with the right “package” of skills, which can vary from company to company and region to region, such as: core technical skills, experience with specific applications or business processes, and even communications skills).

People from the non-profit Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) know that and have been working to elevate the quality of ICT’s industry and workforce.

“Our mission is to ensure that Canada has the talents and the skills to compete in a global environment. Canada has been a leader in the IT field… and we want to keep being a leader and innovator. In order to do that, it needs the people to develop the programs, the products and the services.” says Norman McDevitt, ICT C Vice President.

Created by the industry and professional associations, and funded by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program (SCP), the Council acts as a “catalyst for change”.

“Over a number of the years, ICTC has developed strategies about looking at the labour market and understanding what is in need,” says Norman McDevitt, ICTC Vice President.

ICTC studies concluded that a combination of declining enrollments and graduations for ICT courses, fewer internationally educated professionals (IEPs) coming to Canada, and the growing difficulty of employing workers with no post-secondary qualifications are key culprits for the shortages. For the council “a strategic shift in human resource planning is needed to ensure a sufficient supply of ICT workers with the skills required by employers”.

The organization is investing in tools to help all levels of ICT professionals in achieving the skills demanded by the ever-changing industry. Through partnerships with the industry, educational institutions and the government, ICTC develops training, workshops, and a range of instructive material that can be accessed online at www.ictc-ctic.ca.

An example is the free Self-Assessment Tool that enables IT professionals to evaluate their knowledge and skills, and compare the results with the industry’s requirements.

But how about people like Mauricio and Daniel? ICTC understands that IEPs are an essential workforce source for Canada’s ICT industry, representing 14 percent of its workers in the country. In Ontario, a province that provides 47 percent of all ICT jobs, they are 19 percent. By 2015, it’s estimated that IEPs will account for 30 percent or more of the annual supply of ICT professionals.

ICTC has created a pool of programs, resources and tools, called Immigration Initiatives, aiming to decrease the existing gap between highly specialized immigrant workers and the industry, like the recently launched Canada Readiness Tool, a bilingual online competency based self-assessment tool designed specifically for IT international workers to better understand and prepare for work opportunities in the Canadian labour market.

The Integrated Work Experience Strategy (IWES) is another initiative. Funded, by the Government of Canada’s Foreign Credential Recognition Program and in partnership with British Columbia agency S.U.C.C.E.S.S, the IWES is based on “training and experience in workplace cultural intelligence, workplace communication, business network and community connections”.

Outlined by industry members, the bridge-to-work program was piloted in Vancouver, from March to December last year, in two intakes. The 29 selected candidates participated in six weeks of intensive classroom training, workshops and a minimum three-month practicum period.

Mauricio and Daniel were among the selected group and now, after having completed the course, both share the satisfaction of holding positions appropriate to their competence. Mauricio got a practicum at Atimi Software, which turned into a contract job for the Project Support Office.

“Mauricio is already running his own small project, which is not something that someone this new to the company would normally do,” explains Scott Michaels, Vice President, Client Services of Atimi Software and member of IWES Advisory Committee.

Daniel’s practicum was at Aquatic Informatics. He was contracted as a Software Researcher Engineer at the end of his training period.

“The organizers had in mind that the only way to be successful is, at the end of the program, everybody would find a job,” says Boudewijn Neijens, Vice President, Marketing and International Business Development, Aquatic Informatics and member of IWES Committee Advisory.

From the 29 participants, 26 found jobs, a whopping 90 percent success rate.

If only all sectors had one ICTC around to help…

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