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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about Calgary.

Calgary IT Job Market Update at the end of November 2017


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By Morley Surcon (Vice President Western Canada at Eagle) and Brianne Risley (Delivery Manager at Eagle)

The following is a short summary of the IT Labour and Job Market in Calgary – supply, demand, and dynamics.

There are 3 “Trends” That Eagle has Noticed Over the Past Months:

Calgary IT Job Market UpdateCalgary has Developed an IT Skillset Gap: Information Technology changes and evolves very, very quickly. This means that what is “leading edge” today, may be “old news” in a matter of months. Over the past 18 months, Calgary companies have had a focus on sustainment. As a result, contractors have not had the opportunity to work on the technologies that are pushing the industry forward and a noticeable gap has developed between the skills available in the local Calgary IT community and the types of technology that are now starting to be requested by some organizations. Eagle is finding that in areas such as Dashboarding, SaaS, Front-end Development and Cloud development, it is difficult to find local people with the experience/knowledge in newly-in-demand technology. For example, we are now seeing demand for people with CSS/Javascript vs. the C# .NET that used to be so prevalent in the Calgary market. The same is true in the SAP space, where our customers are now looking for people with Fiori or HANA experience. We are seeing that companies are reaching out to out-of-town resources to fill these ‘niche’ skills and, in some cases, are paying elevated rates to do so. Companies may also be bringing in outsourcing companies and/or specialty partners to implement new-technology focused projects, going the way of out-sourcing or out-tasking to supply niche resources rather than running the projects in-house themselves.

Move Toward Greater Simplification:  Companies have been working towards consolidation and standardization over the past months. This encompasses both the technology that they use as well as the business partners with which they choose to work. Organizations in Calgary have shed roles over the past year(s) and must, therefore, focus on their core business/industry. It is increasingly difficult to find “the cycles” to complete projects that they do not have the in-house skills to complete. We are seeing much less custom development work in favor of their chosen ERP’s solution and/or implementing off-the-shelf software packages with little customization. And, instead of building up their own teams, more organizations have been opting to outsource or out-task project work to 3rd parties. Additionally, many of the companies in Calgary have undergone a vendor rationalization, reducing the number of suppliers/outsourcers that they deal with on a daily basis. This represents a clear shift in the quantity and types of roles for which staffing agencies are being hired and a greater degree of simplification for the companies themselves.

M&A Project Work: In Calgary, the majority of any new project work across many sectors is attributable to mergers and acquisitions. The necessity of integrating IT departments, reporting capabilities and business processes standardization work has created a short-term ‘bump’ in contract work. Many of the projects are due to be completed early in the New Year (or before). Once finished, these companies will be shedding staff once again to remove redundancies due to overlap in roles between the two companies and freeing up the staff that were solely employed for the integration project work itself.

The Following Market “Conditions” Have Also Been Noted:

Rates: Rates for non-specialized roles have remained flat for the past 6+ months. The exception is for ERP as demand has increased, albeit often for specialized skillsets as described above. Company “rate roll-backs” have halted as the employee and contractor rationalizations have been completed.

Skills with High and Growing Demand:  Eagle has noticed increased interest for contractors with the following skillsets:

  • Front-End Developers
  • Java Developers/Software Engineers/DevOps
  • Cyber Security Consultants
  • Project Managers (Agile, ERP, some Infrastructure)
  • ERP (Fiori/UI5) enhancement/upgrade work
  • IT Reporting – Cloud tools for data visualization – Tableau, Spotfire, Hana and related data warehousing/BI work. Predictive analytics and driving business value from data stores.

Skills with Neutral Demand:

  • Network/Storage Administrators
  • SaaS implementations (Sales Force, Service Now, Workday) + Traditional ERP (SAP/PS/Oracle)

Skills for Which We Have Seen a Decline in Demand:

  • .NET Developers (this is the first time in 10+ years that demand for Java/Front-end skills have outstripped .NET in Calgary)
  • Server Analysts/Administrators (Outsourcing companies are handling much of this demand by leveraging overseas options)

Existing open roles for Calgary can be viewed on here Eagle’s Job Board.

**Disclaimer: The market summary above reflects Eagle’s own experience. Please understand that this does not include interaction with 100% of the market. Eagle’s clientele tend toward the larger enterprise companies, therefore experience in Calgary’s SMB market may be substantially different.

If your experience or observations have been different, I encourage you to leave a comment so all may learn from your perspective as well!

Calgary Economic Development – Efforts to Diversify Making a Difference!


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Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Calgary Economic Development

I thought I’d use this blog entry to give a shout out to the CED (Calgary Economic Development) for the great work they are doing to attract new business to Calgary.  They are a relatively small group of very dedicated and committed people working to make a big impact.  In order to stretch a fixed budget, their marketing plans are lazer-focused and, as it turns out, they are gaining the ears of companies south of the border!

Calgary faces a number of challenges as a result of the changing business dynamics within the global Oil & Gas industry.  These challenges manifest themselves in several ways:

  • Increased unemployment/underemployment in all sectors, but especially in professional STEM positions which are typically higher income (tax paying) positions;
  • Down-town vacancy rates are over 40% by many accounts and this threatens to put additional tax burden on the remaining businesses, making a bad situation worse;
  • Reduced spending by the companies that have been driving our economy produces a trickle-down effect that has impacted small and medium sized businesses as well whether in the Oil Industry or not.

These issues could start a downward spiral if not for the efforts of the CED, other like-minded businesses and the municipal government who are taking this slow-down as an opportunity to attract new businesses across other industries.  Calgary has had some extreme advantages over other North American cities for some time – a young highly-educated workforce; an entrepreneurial spirit second to none; fantastic and reliable infrastructure; and it boasts the most head offices and small businesses per capita in Canada (and being one of Canada’s 5 largest cities is saying something!).  All this, while being a place where people want to work and live (Calgary ranks second of major Canadian cities for healthy lifestyle and life satisfaction according to the Conference Board of Canada).  AND NOW… we have ample (and affordable) downtown office space and available highly motivated and educated workers too.  This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring in new industries.

Rising EconomyThe CED have set targets for themselves based on the goals of increasing levels of employment, filling unused office space and diversification of the local economy.  To accomplish this, they target companies that require knowledge workers and who struggle in their “local” labour market to attract/keep top talent.  Some smaller to medium sized high-tech companies struggle to hire technologists with competition the likes of Google and Apple.  Other US-based companies have hired huge numbers of foreign workers for their expertise in areas such as engineering, software development, and technology hardware; and, with the new Trump administration threatening to “send foreign workers home”, there is an opportunity to potentially move these people lock, stock and barrel to Calgary and continue to have them be productive employees.  Yet other companies are looking for affordable places where people want to work to help start-up companies get a foothold and succeed…  Rocketspace is such a company and is one of the first to commit to opening new offices in Calgary.

After a couple years of economic misery, there is a new “buzz” in Calgary and a new feeling of optimism as the city rebuilds (and rebrands) itself!  New opportunities are coming… as a professional contractor, are you ready for this?  Do you have the right “transferable skills” to take advantage in new industries?  People who have chosen to specialize in Information Technology have embraced the notion of life-long learning and, as such, can and will adapt and pick-up the needed knowledge to enable them to work in any industry.  The following are links to other TDC articles written on the topic of professional development… I hope they share some insights that you will find useful!

Calgary Job Market Outlook: The New Normal


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Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Calgary Job Market Outlook: The New Normal The New Normal” is a phrase that has been used to describe the aftermath of a paradigm-changing event.  As recently as 2014, Calgary’s economy/job market/opportunity outlook was very robust, then the floor fell out of the oil market.  Since then, over 40,000 knowledge worker jobs were lost and the city is sitting at 8.6% unemployment, 1.7% higher than the Canadian average of 6.9%.  Economists are predicting a continued contraction, but at a slowing rate, as Calgary find its new equilibrium.

Over the next 12 months, economic conditions will continue to improve, but few believe that the economic spin-off from the Oil industry can or will reach the pre-oil-crash highs.  Some companies are gone completely — whole industries have been shipped off to be served by the global labour force.  These are unlikely to come back.  Hence, talk of “the new normal”.

As the Calgary economy does begin turning around, it is anticipated that independent contractors (contingent labour) will be leveraged prior to direct, permanent job openings seeing a recovery.  New expectations with respect to lower contract rates and salaries will need to be adopted by the labour market, which is happening already. The premiums that Calgary workers have enjoyed for close to a decade will be brought in line, nearer to those of the rest of Canada. Companies will do their best to stick to the cost-cutting plans that they’ve put in place, resulting in limited opportunity to raise rates and build larger teams; and we may see stronger interest in “generalists” vs. “specialists” as the need to wear multiple hats will likely exist.

In the vacuum created by Calgary’s imploded Oil and Gas industry, we are seeing this city’s entrepreneurial spirit sparking to life.  Calgary has one of the youngest and best educated labour markets in North America.  Prairie values of strong work ethic and the ability to tighten belts are resulting in people making the needed adaptations to take transferable skills to other new and existing industries.  Organizations such as Calgary Economic Development are actively pursuing companies/industries remote to the city, encouraging them to re-locate or open new offices to take advantage of the surplus of knowledge workers, including many IT professionals, now available.  Some nay-sayers are beginning to draw parallels between Calgary and Detroit; however, the skills, education and entrepreneurial spirit truly set Calgarians apart.  A good article discussing Calgary’s favourable outlook can be found in this Globe and Mail article.

So, what is the “new normal” for the labour market in Calgary?  Well for the short to medium term, it is certainly going to mean continued pressure on independent contractor rates and employee salaries; and many Oil and Gas positions have left, never to return again.  However, in the medium-long term, Calgary’s prospects are still very bright — there will be a period of transition, re-building and re-tooling but the raw energy, enthusiasm and talent that exists in Calgary’s working population will help the City to re-invent itself.  The hurdles will be great, but our collective determination will be greater.  Calgary’s potential remains unmatched and it will, again, be the pearl of Canada’s labour market; Calgary’s economy will re-emerge, more diversified and, in this way, stronger than before.

My city’s new normal is coming and I, for one, am looking forward to our bright future!