The Impact of Canada’s IT Shortage

by Jordan Richardson on December 7, 2012

According to a report released Wednesday by IBM Corp., Canada’s information technology sector will be more than 100,000 workers short by the time 2016 rolls around. This is part of an ongoing shortage of skilled workers that is expected to impact at least 60 percent of industries in the Great White North.

The Fast Track to the Future: the IBM 2012 Technology Trends Report is available as a PDF and features some interesting findings about the future of the technology industry as well as its present. The shortages could very well haunt us in the near future, especially when you consider that “only one in 10 organizations surveyed reported having all of the information technology (IT) skills needed in four key emerging technology areas: cloud computing, business analytics, mobile computing and social business (emphasis added).”

This is especially problematic when one considers how much areas like cloud computing are expected to expand in the coming years. Forrester Research tells us that the global market for cloud computing will grow from the current $40.7 billion level to $241 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of growth. In Canada alone, cloud computing will be a $1.39 billion industry by 2016. It’s currently raking in about $482 million.

“A skilled workforce is essential to unlocking the value of advanced technologies,” said Jim Corgel, general manager of IBM Software. “Without the right skills, the ability to innovate, meet client demand and encourage business growth will suffer.”

Canada’s shortcomings are largely in areas of technological growth, while the surplus of workers in IT lie in areas that are more “traditional.” This could lead to the conclusion that the nation’s workers aren’t having their skills updated enough, thus rendering them nearly obsolete as technology inevitably marches on. The building of new skills should be a critical part of expanding the workforce and Canada really can build from within, but without training and investment in the sector it’s hard to imagine any significant improvement.

“Skills are key for the jobs of the future in Canada, and around the globe,” said Les Rechan, IBM’s general manager of business analytics. “We’ve got a business critical problem. There are jobs out there, and we want to help fill those jobs with skilled professionals and accelerate the building of those skills.”

It is clear that the skills shortage will hurt Canada’s future going forward, especially with the rapid expansion of areas like cloud computing. In order to compete on a global level, more investment in technology and telecommunications is absolutely essential. The federal government has unveiled plans to draw in new skilled workers from foreign countries, but training from within is the better option in terms of ensuring that there’s a long-term workforce.

To that end, IBM announced that it would be making resources and tools available to further the cause of education. The education initiative should be taking shape over the next while, although the company didn’t say how much it was spending on it.

“The time to act on this is now, both on the university side and the business side,” said Rechan. “This is a partnering initiative to really feed the supply chain with talent. We’ve got an opportunity to increase competitive advantages for companies. The time to act is right now.”

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