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All posts by David O'Brien

Regional Job Market Update for Ottawa, Ontario (August 2019)

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Ottawa Job MarketWhile the Canadian economy shed over 24,000 jobs in July and the national unemployment rate edged up to 5.7% from 5.5%, the disappointment was not reflected in the Ottawa market (and let’s be sure to add context — these are still historically low rates of unemployment.)

The employment story in Ottawa for the same month was one of continued robustness, with the region adding 12,300 jobs in July, dropping the unemployment rate sharply from 5.6% in July to 4.8%. The local tech market along with the Federal Government continue to drive the market as both seek to fill positions in what is rapidly becoming one of the tightest technology talent markets in Canada. In fact, Shopify recently introduced an innovative program to attract “lapsed” developers, former developers who have taken more than two years off and are out of the market. The program will train them back up on the job — surely a sign of the times in an effort to attract talent.

With a pending Fall election, there is no doubt an expected slowdown in hiring, specifically net new IT projects with the Feds. That said, however, this summer has been one of the busiest experienced with numerous large RFP’s on the street and the Feds still forecasting to create 10,000 new jobs over the next 5 years.

TD Bank recently released a study that looks at the evolving inequality in the labour market as it relates specifically to technology and cities in Canada. We have asserted for some time that while the national unemployment rate is a healthy 5.2% to 5.9 % range, the “technology” unemployment rate is likely less than half that national rate at around 2.0% to 2.5%. The reality on the ground, however, is in major cities it is in fact closer to 0 per cent! The study shows that the 5 major centres in Canada of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa make up over 70% of the entire digital services employment in Canada, backing up the near 0% technology unemployment rate. With these kind of market forces in play, in cities like Ottawa, we can verify undoubtedly the scarcity of resources. It’s no surprise that Canada experienced the fastest clip in wage growth in a decade of 4.5%, up sharply again from 3.8% in June.

Recent global economic indicators have brought talk of a possible recession in the months and years ahead, as the long recovery cycle comes to an inevitable cooling off; however, it’s tough to fathom given the local technology market we see in Ottawa today.

In demand roles around the Ottawa tech job market this summer include Architects, IT Business Analysts, System Analysts, Programmers and Project Managers.

Job Searching Does Not Take a Summer Break

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Job Searching Does Not Take a Summer BreakAs we approach the Canada Day Long Weekend — the unofficial but nonetheless highly anticipated and (for most of us) deserved kick-off to a Canadian Summer — many have vacations pending with beaches, camping, travelling and just relaxing our minds. But what of those who are looking for their next assignment, contract or permanent? How do we navigate vacation season for clients and colleagues alike while searching for our next assignment?

Summer can be a tough time to job hunt. Here are some observations to consider that hopefully help achieve both!

  • Clients still need to move projects forward and, in fact, contractors may align perfectly in helping augment down time for FTE’s
  • If you are looking for perm, yes it’s true many contacts and clients in HR will be away, but what better time to differentiate yourself? In being available to interview, your “competition” for roles may also be on vacation and unavailable, to your advantage.
  • If clients are away, use this downtime to network and actively expand your network. Having “coffees” and meeting people on a soft visit can be easier in the summer months. Prepare your elevator speech/pitch so that you are ready for anyone you meet in the summer. You never know who that right connection may be at a BBQ, golf course or party.
  • Update your resume to be “ready to go”. It’s also a good opportunity to update your skills with online or other available course and options, if you anticipate a break.
  • If you are going away, be sure you are accessible. Going totally off the grid can lead to missed opportunity allowing clients to move to the next candidate as hiring cycles are quicker.
  • Be upfront and communicative to your recruiters and prospect pipeline if you are going to be away (especially if you are in the interview process) and follow up as soon as you can on return. Hiring Managers tend to act fast in the summer to ensure they get approvals and can close open positions before they and their colleagues go on vacation.

The perception that organizations don’t hire in the summer months is a myth. Hiring today is critical and a 12-month-of-the-year activity, with very little down time built in. Don’t miss out!

Regional Job Market Update for Montreal, Quebec

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

After some sluggish months for the Canadian economy, April saw record numbers of jobs created not seen since 1976 with 106,000 new jobs, far exceeding economists’ expectations. Canada added over 426,000 jobs in the last 12 months and though many had forecast an imminent recession, it now appears that may not be in the cards. Perhaps more indicative of a better economy is a stronger wage growth component of 2.5% increase. Perhaps salaries are finally catching up with the increase in jobs and we’re seeing the effects of an overall tightening labour market.

Panoramic Photo Montreal city fron Mount RoyalAs we look at the Quebec Employment numbers, we confirm what we have seen both operationally and practically in the market. Quebec continues its run of strong labour numbers with the second lowest unemployment rate in the country (second only to BC provincially) and, at 4.9%, it’s over a full point lower than neighboring Ontario. Montreal continues to have a lower rate of unemployment than Toronto. Drilling down further, we know that the National rate of unemployment for technology hovers at less than half the broader rate, at slightly above 2%. However, in Technology Urban Centres like Montreal with a burgeoning Video game sector, AI sector and Financial sector it is likely very close to 0% which is what we at Eagle are currently seeing play out in the marketplace.

Canada has bet big on AI with centres in Toronto and Edmonton but Montreal also has a thriving and burgeoning AI ecosystem. In addition to the Federal funding in AI investment, the city benefits from a huge Province of Quebec investment, similar to what the Province  invested in attracting big video gaming players to Montreal. Swedish giant Ericsson, French Tech Consultancy Axionable and Samsung are just some the global giants to have recently opened AI accelerator/Labs in the city of Montreal. In addition to Montreal already being a North American gaming hub, clearly it is becoming an AI hub as well. Over the past couple of years, global behemoths Google, Facebook and Microsoft have set up shop in Montreal in the hopes of taking advantage of the much sought after talent developed as a result of these new thriving hubs and tech ecosysytems.

Traditional sectors such as Telecom, Financial Services and Aerospace who are already fighting to attract the talent they need now have to out-hustle these “sexy ” giants of tech industry. Talent in Montreal have multiple options and clients now need to be certain they are quick to hire, have compelling stories to sell, competitive salaries and are working hand-in-hand with their talent partners in what is now a very heated market.

Hot roles in Montreal include Mobile Developers, DevOps/Middleware, BI Specialists, Security Specialists and all things Java.

Regional Job Market Update for Ottawa, Ontario

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

As 2018 came to a close, the Ottawa Job Market in December saw the unemployment rate tick up to 4.9% after a fairly robust job gains in October and November. Technology did continue to be a bright spot, with more job gains in December, however, not enough to offset losses in other areas of our local economy.

Shopify LogoHarley Finkelstein, Co-Founder of the near $16B (with a B!) Ottawa-based Shopify, recently tweeted (@harleyf) about the outlook for Ottawa. The advent of new LRT, a booming startup ecosystem with lots of new angel investors, and the nearby natural beauty Ottawans have easy access to all seemingly underscore the steady but sure sense that the Ottawa Technology economy, while not the boom of the early 2000’s, has reason to be very excited about where things are going. We’re seeing a number of newly funded and burgeoning startups traverse across technologies, including AI, Blockchain, IoT, autonomous vehicles plus traditional software-based companies. While not the halcyon days of the Nortels/Corels of the very early 2000’s, there is certainly plenty for Ottawans to be optimistic about.

Ottawa Job MarketThe other big player in the local market is of course the Federal Government who have been on a steady hiring pace for quite a while. Large players like Shared Services Canada are hiring many IT contractors on a permanent basis to help them deliver technology services across Federal Government Departments. The past Quarter, and in fact year, has been a very busy one for IT Staffing agencies providing the government with the critical IT resources the Feds need to reach their Digital Government goals. The Federal Government is focused on moving more and more to cloud-based services and will need a lot of help from private sector to do so from Data Architects through Data Residency and Security. With the burgeoning Start-Up scene growing together with the many more mature technology sectors I have referenced, it is hoped the Feds will look to review and revise their contingent hiring practices to be quicker, cleaner and more efficient to continue to compete in the months and years ahead in Ottawa.

As the calendar turns over to 2019 and we look ahead, history will tell us that Election years tend to somewhat freeze hiring as ruling governments look to hold steady any technology project announcements. Visions of Phoenix Pay stories and in the headlines keep politicians up at night with fear, we will see if that is the case in the coming months.

Roles in demand in Ottawa currently include Front End Developers, PMs (including a need for Agile PMs for the Federal Government), Data Architects, Cyber Security, and Testers.

Changes are Coming to How the Federal Government Hires IT Contractors

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Changes are Coming to How the Federal Government Hires IT ContractorsThe Federal government last reformed procurement around IT Professional Services over 10 years ago, introducing the supply methods Task-Based Informatics Professional Services (TBIPS) in December 2007 and Solutions-Based Informatics Professional Services (SBIPS) the following July ’08. TBIPS has by far been the most-used vehicle across the Federal Government to acquire IT contractors, with the last known spend figures being over $1 billion in 2016-17 and it’s expected to have topped $1.5 billion the following fiscal year.

Although the spend is significant, there has been a long-building uniform dissatisfaction with the evolution of TBIPS among ALL stakeholders — industry/suppliers, client departments and IT contractors. I currently sit as the President of the National Association of Canadian Consulting Businesses (NACCB). Over the last several years, the organization has been very active in working with the Feds in advocating real changes to the way the Government acquires IT contractors.  The overall objective is to create a process that is simpler, quicker, focuses on quality over price and most importantly, results in a better procurement outcome for Canadian taxpayers.

The Federal government has been receptive and have begun in earnest a full TBIPS Review Process, engaging all stakeholders and have assured us they are willing to put “everything on the table” in order to modernize what has become a very cumbersome and often dysfunctional procurement process.

It is our hope the new process focuses on the quality of IT professionals and away from the over-reliance on lowest price as the primary awarding criteria. After all, contractor quality is a function of both supply and cost. The current way in which TBIPS solicitations are conducted tends to have a negative impact on both supply and cost. At a very high level of generalization, when evaluations are based on lowest price or artificial median bid rates, it guarantees a low price. That in turn all but guarantees two things — a low quality resource and frequent consultant turnover.

When someone is looking to have their roof re-shingled, usually the lowest bid is also of the lowest quality, and so the same concepts hold true for professional services. You get what you pay for, and if the goal is to get someone at -20% of the median, which itself is an artificially downward-skewed measurement of “market rate”, then the result is predictable.

As to supply, the evaluation of solicitations typically takes so long that even if candidates that are bid were legitimately available at the time of submission, by the time the solicitation is awarded there is little chance that they are still available. The current process has created an environment, unfortunately, where unethical vendors are fully aware of the long evaluation process and can bid candidates solely to maximize score (they typically do not consider legitimate availability). When the solicitations are awarded, the candidates are not available and a backfill process must be initiated.

There a number of changes the NACCB strongly recommended that will serve to make for a far better procurement. For example, some of the significant and true process changes that will undoubtedly serve all interests much better include establishing a Vendor Performance mechanism to reward quality-based vendors over under-performing vendors focused on the lowest price only. As well, the elimination of paper only based grids (Ottawa is probably the only city in North America that sees 30,50, 80 page! resumes) and the implementation of a Skills Assessment/Interview both to assure resource availability and to truly vet skills as part of the process.

We know today there is a severe skills shortage that is expected to get more challenging in IT for the foreseeable future. The ability for the Federal Government to compete to acquire these resources will be imperative. Having an efficient, clean and quick hiring process will be critical to that competitiveness.

Regional Job Market Update for Montreal, Quebec

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Panoramic Photo Montreal city fron Mount RoyalRecent data has shown that both the job market and job growth has slowed in Canada’s largest metropolitan centres, including Montreal. While Central Canada, including Quebec, has led the growth in the last year, with the exception of cities like Kitchener and Ottawa in Ontario and Sherbrooke in Quebec, that growth is slowing slightly.

This past year, Quebec, and specifically Montreal, has very much been a positive employment and jobs story in Canada with consistent unemployment rates below the Canadian average due to a strong economy. Underlying all this is a very significant labour shortage, plus an aging population and over 100,000 estimated positions currently going unfilled. In fact, the recent Quebec Provincial election featured the skills shortage and how to address it as a very prominent issue for all the parties.

Nowhere is this more an issue in Quebec than in the technology sector. There are 250,000 tech jobs in Quebec. In Montreal and Quebec City, the tech sector is the third largest private sector employer, behind traditional companies in Financial Services and Telecom. It is led by exciting companies in Artificial Intelligence and Video Game technology. Provincial subsidy programs have targeted job growth in technology and Quebec’s technology sector has essentially been at full employment for a very long time. Montreal is now recognized as one of the top cities in North America for AI talent.

The last several months, we at Eagle have seen a very strong increase in demand for both permanent and contract resources in our Montreal office and there is an almost acute shortage of candidates for most client requirements. Clients are and will continue to adjust to this new reality by speeding up their hiring processes, having more flexibility in their must-have and desirables requirements, and in working with their staffing partners to be sure their value messages to candidates are fresh and attractive.

Some of the most sought after roles in recent months in Montreal include Project Managers, Developers, Tester/QA roles, System Analysts and Business Analysts.

Ottawa Regional Job Market Update

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Amazon has Chosen Ottawa!

That’s what they call the attention grabber! Though the title is true, it’s not the highly publicized Amazon HQ from October 2017, but rather a large logistics warehouse. Despite it not being the “Amazon Jackpot” we all heard about, it will nevertheless produce 1000 good, middle class jobs.

Traditionally, the Ottawa job market has been driven by the Federal Government and it’s by far the single biggest employer. But news like the Amazon warehouse has started some exciting conversations locally about the increased activity seen in Ottawa’s Private Sector. Ottawa’s high tech sector, once the pinnacle of the late 90’s/early 2000 economic boom, which led to Ottawa being referred to as Silicon Valley North, is now pared down. However, it is still led by the mighty $15 billion dollar global electronic commerce star, Shopify. The bulk of the company is in Ottawa and has been on an ever expanding hiring bonanza for several months now. Other high tech companies, albeit much smaller but not insignificant, like You.i TV ,Klipfolio , Kinaxis and Mindbridge AI have also driven up hiring in the high tech sector.

All of this is good news for the Ottawa economy, but the government or more broadly the Public Sector is still the straw that stirs the drink. The Trudeau government has been on a hiring frenzy since 2015. We already know that the Public Sector in Ontario has created 5 jobs to every 1 in the Private Sector for the last several years, but whether that is a sustainable formula is a topic for another day (Hint: it’s not)!

The broader Public Sector in Ottawa, in addition to the Feds, include the City that employs 20,000 employees, the universities with 12,000+, and the hospitals with another 11,000. These are all jobs that tend not to disappear, quite the opposite in fact. All of this has contributed to a blazing hot unemployment rate of 4.4% in May, the lowest in over a decade. The unemployment rate in tech, though not specifically measured, would be a mere fraction of the overall rate.

The Feds have added 1900 jobs in April alone. Shared Services Canada (SSC) is the most prominent having added 300+ in the last year. We know many of these jobs have been life time contractors converting to FTE’s in the Government. This caused a level of concern for many IT staffing agencies in Ottawa, as they suffer both a loss of revenue and the scarcity of quality candidates becomes even more exacerbated.

At Eagle, the greatest demand in Ottawa in the last quarter as been in these categories:

  1. Architect
  2. Project Manager
  3. Developer
  4. Database Administrator
  5. Systems Analyst

Bill 148: What Independent Contractors Need to Know

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

The Ontario Government introduced a sweeping legislation last fall regarding work and the ESA (Employment Standards Act). Many of the changes came into effect on January 1, 2018 with additional pieces that took effect April 1, 2018 and more to come on January 1, 2019.

Bill 148 covers an array of components. In addition to the headline-grabbing dramatic increase of minimum wage, there are changes to vacation entitlement, personal emergency leave, equal pay and termination of assignment pay for temporary employees, union certification rules and many others. All of these components have very significant impacts to employers and employees alike.

However, another very significant impact of Bill 148 that directly impacts independent contractors is employee misclassification. The new bill introduced a reverse onus provision whereby employers must demonstrate that any independent contractors they have engaged are not in fact employees.  Bill 148 shifts a substantial new burden of risk to employers and employment staffing agencies and will potentially have several unintended consequences as a result. As is often the case with activist governments, it is the unintended consequences of legislation that can be the most impactful.

In Ontario, it is estimated that about 12.5% of the total workforce of 5.25 million identify as self-employed, which is about 630,000 contingent workers. It is further estimated that of this group about 55,000 are knowledge workers in the IT, Engineering, Finance and Healthcare sectors, who bring significant economic impact to many of Ontario’s private and public sector organizations. The majority of these knowledge workers are independent, incorporated contractors. As the nature and notion of work transforms to a more project or engagement-based ideation, these knowledge workers are critical. With the modernization of our economy and overall productivity and competitiveness, our governments should be looking for ways to adapt to this new reality.

With the new legislation, when there is a question about whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor, the reverse onus provision is triggered. This means the burden lands on the employer or agency to prove the individual engaged with them is an independent contractor, not an employee and as such would be excluded from ESA coverage. As experience indicates, work moves offshore when employers are faced with impediments like this. Employers losing access to these valuable resources on a contingent basis should be very concerned.

Employers and staffing agencies are now looking at ways of assessing individuals to understand the true nature of relationships early on in engagements to ensure this risk is mitigated. These early assessments will help determine whether such individuals are properly classified as independent contractors.

As an independent contractor, there are a number questions you can ask to help establish the nature of your relationship with your clients. Here are a few of them to keep in mind:

  1. Are you providing services through a corporation?
  2. Have you registered with CRA for GST/HST?
  3. Do you carry business insurance, such as commercial liability or errors and omissions insurance?
  4. Do you market your services as a business, for example with a website, business cards, etc.?
  5. Do you have a corporate bank account, use business invoices in the corporate name and maintain corporate books and records?
  6. Do you have a written contract engaging your business? Is it for a fixed term period or completion of a project?
  7. Do you have the ability to determine how the services are provided?
  8. Have you invested his or her own financial resources into their business?
  9. Is there risk of loss or financial loss if the services are not successfully completed?

The answers to these questions will also help employers and agencies assess an individual’s status. There are numerous others that will have to be asked to help ascertain answers for all parties and ensure against employee misclassification. And just as important, independent contractors will need to be prepared to self-assess. Those who wish to be independent incorporated contractors should seek advice. Govern yourself as a business would and avoid acting or being treated as an employee.

2018 is Looking Great for Jobs in Canada… What Does That Mean for Employers?

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

As we head into the New Year, the economic news across the country, especially as it relates to employment and jobs in Canada, would strongly suggest we are at or close to peak full employment in Canada. While some regions are more active than others, we are seeing in many cities and provinces the lowest unemployment recorded in over 40 years! Canada created over 422,000 jobs last year, the best year since 2002, and many are full time. Quebec is at a record low 4.9%, plus Ontario and the West are also performing.

2018 is Looking Great for Jobs in Canada... What Does That Mean for Employers?Further economic indicators point to and back up this booming jobs market as wages have begun to creep up, a sure sign of a tight labour market. The Bank of Canada increased its rate a quarter point early this month, the 3rd increase since last July. The US economy looks to be also firing on all cylinders with recent massive tax changes which will only serve to increase the Canadian export economy provided a certain “very stable genius” doesn’t cancel NAFTA.

Here at Eagle, we are undoubtedly experiencing the effects of such a market in seeing a shortage of available candidates, candidates receiving multiple offers and down time between assignments being very short or non-existent. The ACSESS Staffing Index, a measure of billing hours in Canada among temporary labour, bears this out as it hits some of its highest levels in years. We also know that the “Technology” unemployment rate in Canada is likely less than half the nominal rate, likely in or around 2%.

Recent conversations with both the Federal Government and Ontario government suggest a looming crisis in attracting the next generation of technology professionals so desperately needed as their workforce ages out.

So what can clients, companies and governments do to thrive in a very tight job market? Here are a few suggestions meant to help navigate successfully to get the right people at the right time.

  • Review your hiring processes to be sure they are tight and efficient. Accelerate your hiring process where you can. Candidates with multiple offers — the “A” candidates — will not be available through an extended interview or hiring process in this market.
  • Hiring Managers need to review expectations. Many skills will not see multiple candidates to assess and therefore be sure you prioritize your “must have criteria” as the days of a candidate having 10 out of 10 requirements may no longer be realistic.
  • Work with your agency partners. Ensure a good and accelerated feedback loop exists, be proactive with your staffing partners on upcoming needs, be nimble on offers, and review competitive rates and salaries with your agency partners and others in the market to be sure your expectations align.
  • Make sure you understand your value proposition as a company to attract “A”candidates and articulate it to your partners so that we can help you. Know your organization’s “sizzle and its steak “. Understand your market, your comp structures and skills availabilities in your market and engage your staffing partners to fill in the gaps
  • It’s not the time to “overplay” your hiring hand. The market has changed and being slow to the market will not reward you. Be flexible. You will need valued partners because all but a very, very few elite companies will need help since the days of advertising an opening and sitting back to see what comes are gone

There will always be other ongoing events to stay abreast of, for example Toronto recently making the “shortlist” for the new Amazon HQ, (a move Apple no doubt is now likely to repeat). Although chances are slim they ultimately win, imagine if they did. It would present a huge game changer and competition for not only all of Toronto’s employers but many in Canada as well!

Organizations can still get the “A” candidates if they take to heart some of these and other suggestions and adapt to the marketplace. If not, it’s going to be costly with C and D level candidates.

How the Government of Ontario is Proposing to Procure IT Resources

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

How the Government of Ontario is Proposing to Procure IT ResourcesIn what was considered a stunning development to Industry, the Ontario Government announced its intent to make drastic changes to the way it procures IT Resources going forward once it’s current (and long standing) Vendor of Record (VOR) method expires early this Fall.

The Vendor of Record is an inclusive list of approved suppliers who provide the Ontario Government resources under the Task Based I&IT Consulting Services VOR. Last Spring, the Government asked the Vendor Community for input in how best to structure its next generation of IT Consulting Services VOR. The questions in the survey and the feedback compiled by large Industry Associations like the NACCB in no way resemble the drastic proposed changes sent out in late May in an RFB. In fact, it is effectively counter to public sector procurement objectives and the spirit on which that procurement is normally based — part of which is to support and encourage thriving Canadian small and medium size businesses.

The new VOR, by virtue of its massive qualifying mandatory criteria, will see  likely over 300 of the current 317 vendors not qualify, as the intended vendor list will only be 10 going forward. The qualification criteria would suggest the 10 vendors can only be very large, likely multinational/foreign companies, of which many do not compete or provide for in a Task-Based resourcing environment. As such it’s expected few Canadian-based companies could qualify.

It remains a mystery to what constituency this serves in Ontario and is a perplexing direction from the Ontario Government for many reasons, here are just a few :

  • The new VOR will eliminate over 300 vendors, many of whom are thriving Canadian businesses. It may effectively kill them along with the well-paying jobs they provide in an economy where Canadian SMEs, as the government itself says, are “the backbone of the economy “.
  • These same businesses are effective components of the thriving Knowledge Economy and instrumental in the very critical Innovation Economy of tomorrow. This VOR will eliminate the innovation these small and medium sized IT companies provide.
  • Perhaps most perplexing is the idea that the Government hopes to reduce costs through a drastically pared down vendor list. As noted, the resulting winning bidders are very likely to be large, multinational technology companies who will be asked to operate in a Task-Based environment while having much higher overhead and costs. They do not operate on the lower margins of smaller, nimble companies in an open and competitive bidding process, so it is difficult to see how costs will be reduced

Given there has been a groundswell of opposition in Ontario to this initiative for these and many other reasons, we can only hope the feedback sought in this process is being heard and considered.