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All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to Edmonton.

Regional Job Market Update for Edmonton, Alberta (February 2021)

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
VP & General Manager, Prairie Region at Eagle

By all accounts, Edmonton has had some challenges over the past few years, but I am happy to report that our team has seen a noticeable, positive shift since early fall. Back in September, I reported cautious optimism in the Edmonton market, as we were starting to see some signs of recovery. In spite of being under restrictive public health measures since mid-December, we continue to see an increase in demand for IT professionals for both contract and permanent roles.

Since September, Eagle’s job order volume and hiring in Edmonton have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Our clients have settled into remote work and are starting to see past “the grind” of the pandemic. While we are anticipating (and planning for) a recovery that has some bumps along the way, we are increasingly optimistic that the worst is behind us.

Current Labour Market Trends

Remote Work: With the world’s largest (and unplanned!) experiment in remote work well under way, one of the most common misconceptions about the workforce has been shattered… we CAN trust employees to do their jobs even if we can’t see them! Businesses were forced to rapidly transform as companies embraced remote work practices to adhere to public health measures. For the most part, organizations throughout our country have been pleasantly surprised at how successful remote work has been through the pandemic. Whether remote work continues post-pandemic remains to be seen, but we do believe there will be some form of hybrid work arrangements longer term. In the near term, this has resulted in access to a larger pool of talent as long as resources are willing to work in the time zone of the client for contract roles.

Wider use of contingent workers: As we expect uncertainty to continue through 2021, clients are increasingly leaning to contingent workers for project-based work to allow them to scale up or down should the need arise. While that may feel uncertain for people considering a contract role, rest assured that our clients make well thought out decisions prior to onboarding any contingent worker and funding is secured before contracts are written up. When hiring employees, most clients like to see a road map of 2+ years of work and growth before making an employment offer. With contract roles, that vision only needs to go the end of an approved project or milestone.

Pent-Up Demand: With the rapid shift to adapt technology, processes, structure and teams in a physically dispersed workforce, many of the projects that were deemed high priority on January 1st, 2020 became much less important a few short months later. Nearly a year into the pandemic, many companies have revisited that priority list and a number of new initiatives are kicking off.

Rates have equalized across Canada: Pre-COVID, there were geographical pockets in Canada where rates were high due to IT worker scarcity. Now that all of Canada has been opened as a potential candidate pool for remote work, rates in markets like Calgary, which were traditionally 10+% higher than other regions, have dropped to be in line with Toronto and Vancouver markets which were typically lower. A key point to mention is IT consultant rates have not eroded drastically with the advent of remote work. As an example, we do not have requirements for Senior Program Managers at $50/Hour. There remains a healthy up-take of resources in the market and base-line rates have remained quite stable.

Unemployment Rates: The unfortunate reality of the pandemic layered on top of an Alberta recession is that high unemployment rates will likely persist for some time. The good news is that IT unemployment tends to run several percentage points lower than the normal posted rate. In May, Edmonton had the highest unemployment rate in the country at 13.6%, while the unemployment rate in the IT subset of the labour force in the same time period in Edmonton was 7.6%. Things have been slowly improving, but all indicators point to the unemployment rate remaining high for the foreseeable future.

Skills Mismatch: While the unemployment rate is high, the market is tightening up in a few key areas. We are predicting labour market shortages in Edmonton for the following categories in the first and second quarter:

  • Project Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Full-Stack Development
  • Data Analytics / Business Intelligence
  • DevOps
  • ServiceNow
  • Organizational Change Consulting
  • Solution Architecture

With the initial surprise and disruption of the pandemic behind us and some light at the end of the tunnel, we are optimistic for the year ahead. Our clients continue to focus on implementing and leveraging technologies that lower costs, improve efficiency and retain talent as some form of remote work is expected to persist for much of 2021. We are also seeing some organizations shift from a focus on systems and supports required to sustain operations (reactive) to tools and capabilities that allow their organizations to be more innovative and productive in this new world (proactive).

While we like to think that the worst is behind us, we know nothing is perfect. If we have learned nothing else over the past 11 months, it is that we need to be prepared to deal with the challenge and change as it comes. Every prediction and forecast that anyone makes these days comes with crossed fingers, a prayer and an asterisk. They are all based on vaccine availability, effective vaccines, herd immunity and the end of the pandemic. We are also putting a lot of faith in compliance with public health restrictions until we get there, which gets harder as the pandemic drags on. Needless to say, we need a lot of things to go right!

What does this mean for the Edmonton IT sector? The good news is that things are trending in the right direction. While the economic impact of the pandemic was significant, the IT sector is expected to be one of the sectors to recover relatively quickly. Our clients continue to seek talent for key projects and they continue to ask Eagle to provide them with that talent to move those initiatives forward.

Regional Job Market Update for Edmonton, Alberta

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

City of EdmontonAlberta’s “recovery” from a challenging recession has been long, slow and a bit tortuous. On top of a challenging past few years, a belt-tightening by the provincial government last fall caused a ripple affect across a number of sectors.

In spite of starting 2020, with the highest unemployment rate in the country, many Edmontonians entered the new decade with a renewed sense of optimism. The only way to go from here was up, right?

Enter COVID-19.

These past 6 months have been very challenging, but things are slowly starting to turn. Edmonton is currently at 91% of pre-COVID employment levels and this slow climb back to “normal” is encouraging. A cautious optimism is slowly returning, but we are expecting higher than normal unemployment and low growth for the remainder of the year. With the threat of a “second wave”, there is still hesitation and many companies do not yet have enough confidence in the economy to kick-off large enterprise projects.

Among tech workers, the news isn’t all bad. Generally, less affected by major market swings, tech jobs have continued to remain in demand. On average, the unemployment rate in IS runs approximately 3-4% points below the general average.

With a few notable exceptions, it remains a buyer’s market with the number of job seekers outpacing the supply of jobs in Edmonton. Here at Eagle, we are seeing a steady increase in demand from our clients looking for IS professionals. While we aren’t back to normal activity levels yet, we are encouraged by this.

Looking ahead to the final quarter of 2020, we expect the greatest demand to be for contractors with specialized technical skills, including Software Developers, Data Engineers and Data Analytics consultants. Opportunities in Organizational Change Management roles also continue to come up as companies look to increase employee adoption and minimize resistance of some of the initiatives that were a result of rapid roll-out due to the COVID crisis.

With many IS professionals working remotely as the norm these days, the job market is also beginning to be more national in scale. Opportunities across the country are opening up to non-local resources as companies become more open to “out-of-town” contractors. Many local consultants are taking advantage of this to continue keeping their skills current while the local market continues its slow recovery.

Regional Job Market Update for Edmonton, Alberta (February 2020)

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

City of EdmontonLast time I wrote an update on the Edmonton job market, things were admittedly a bit stagnant and the Alberta economy continued to limp along. Activity in the IT sector, however, was still robust as organizations continued to push through large projects aimed at digitizing and automating their work environments. The public sector, a major contributor to the Edmonton economy, was still a large part of the IT contracting market and it felt like Edmonton, as it is inclined to do, would ride out the storm. How things have changed. Edmonton ended 2019 with the highest jobless rate in the country at 8%, almost 2 full points up from the previous December. Interestingly, Edmonton and Calgary basically swapped places with our neighbors to the south finishing the year with an unemployment rate of 7%. Other underlying numbers demonstrate the challenges the city is now facing:

  • GDP growth is at its lowest since 2015 (.5%);
  • Full time jobs have been declining, many of those positions formally in the public sector as the newly elected provincial government slashes spending as per the October budget; and,
  • If you are a young person aged 15-24, your options for employment have slipped drastically, with unemployment for that demographic at around 17% according to Stats Canada.

How does all this affect you if you are an Information Technology professional. The most obvious hit is the belt tightening going on in most government sectors. At Eagle, we’ve already witnessed the early termination of projects and the scaling back of major initiatives. And that has affected employees and contractors alike. The provincial government has also eliminated several tax incentives directly targeted at attracting technology firms in BC and other jurisdictions to relocate to Alberta. While hard to directly quantify what this means in terms of jobs and lost opportunity, it’s just one more blow to the tech sector.

What is also becoming evident is that the competition for contracts and jobs is heating up. You are not only competing with a greater number of candidates, but you can likely expect rates to become more competitive in the short term as individuals sharpen their pencil to better their chances of winning.

So, what can you do if you find yourself without a contract and panic starting to set in? First, stop panicking… there are options.

If you have saved funds for just such a purpose, how about taking that certification, course or program to skill up and make yourself as marketable as you possibly can. It can be hard to find the time, especially as a contractor, to keep up with your training, now might be a good time to do so.

Or, you might want to consider moving to a market that currently has demand for IT professionals. I’ve written before about moving to Winnipeg to take on contract work there. The reasons are simple. Lots of opportunity, less competition and a cost of living that makes it easier to relocate vs other urban centers such as Toronto or Vancouver. Remember, it doesn’t have to be forever, just enough time to weather the storm.

Hopefully, the storm won’t last and there might even be some good news. Edmonton gained 3100 positions in December and unemployment is expected to level off and perhaps move from its current position to the 7 – 7.5% range, according to City economists. In the meantime, stay close to your favorite recruiters and seek advice from them about how to make yourself as competitive and attractive a candidate as possible.

What to Expect from the Edmonton IT Job Market in Fall 2019

Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

A couple weeks ago, Cameron McCallum shared a snapshot of the Edmonton Job Market. As we all enjoy the warm Alberta summer, it’s the perfect time to look ahead at the market trends gaining momentum into Fall 2019.

In-Demand Skillsets

“In-Demand” skillsets are Eagle’s measure of job roles projected to be required by “70% of our Edmonton-based mid-to-enterprise-sized clients within the next 3 months”. It also functions as a good indicator of where we are in the software development lifecycle (SDLC).  With the popularity of PM/BA, and particularly OCM skillsets, it’s clear we are in early stages of some large-scale capital projects. The demand for Developers or Quality Assurance professionals will intensify in late Fall as these projects spin up.

In-Demand IT Skillstes in Edmonton for Fall 2019

September will be heavily focused on three “R“s – replacing, retiring, or redesigning legacy applications in favor of something cloud-enabled, consolidating existing apps, or enhancing an application for better functionality. Why the Windows Server admins? Because the legacy on-prem hardware is going through a refresh cycle, and some of it makes more sense to virtualize or migrate to the cloud to support the new systems.

Trending IT Projects

As a candidate, here are the key projects that should be highlighted on a resume to ensure you are aligned with what mid-sized to enterprise Edmonton-based companies are targeting. If you are a hiring manager with one of these projects in your care, there will be increased competition for strong candidates. Now is a good time to extend the people you have!

Trending IT Projects in Edmonton in Fall 2019

IT Employment Across Canada

Alberta continues to suffer with a high unemployment rate, but that is not the case for Information Technology. In practice, resource availability in IT within Alberta is tight with most candidates leaving “Company A” to take a role at “Company B” vs. being out of a job.

IT Employment Across Canada as of Dececember 2018 (source: e-Talent Canada)

Fun Fact: In 2017, 1 out of 20 of our Edmonton clients would accept remote workers on IT projects. Today, that number has increased to 1 out of 10.

Why? Better collaboration technology (O365/Cloud-enabled apps) is available, and companies have a need to expand beyond the local market to gain access to markets with a greater concentration of IT workers.

The market outlook in Edmonton remains strong in Fall 2019. Please connect with me if you’d like to learn more!

Regional Job Market Update for Edmonton, Alberta (July 2019)

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

City of EdmontonBy all accounts, Alberta’s recovery has been long, slow and a bit tortuous. Kind of like the last 10+ seasons of the Edmonton Oilers. According to economists, rising incomes, combined with continuing population growth, helped to buttress retail and other components of both the region’s and the city’s economies so far this year, but growth has been disappointing in the 1.3% range.

Previous risks identified are expected to continue and will likely offset gains in other areas. For Edmonton these include:

  1. Oil prices falling again and/or an increase in the price differential between West Texas Intermediate and Western Canadian Select. While the previous government was able to reduce this gap, increased supply (Americans fracking activity and Donald Trump’s aggressive energy policy) could signal lower prices.
  2. Continued challenges getting our oil to current and potential new markets either by rail or pipeline. I don’t think I need to expand on this although there has been some progress in the Transmountain debate!
  3. Stricter controls on carbon emissions and political and public opposition to energy projects continues to constrain longer term growth in the energy sector. Not sure it matters what side of the political coin you are on but I have no doubt that it is the continued legislative uncertainty and political rhetoric that is giving industry nightmares. Nobody likes uncertainty!
  4. And the continuing international trade conflicts or threatened conflicts continue to rock the markets and serve to depress the global economy. The US seems intent on winning concessions and the various posturing of nation leaders has hit close to home as China has banned Canadian pork and canola, directly impacting Alberta farmers.

But what has this meant for the Edmonton IT sector?  While economic growth in 2019 has been marginal, the IT sector continues to thrive. Looking back at internal numbers from this time last year would suggest little has changed. Our clients continue to seek talent for key projects and they continue to ask Eagle to provide them with that talent to move initiatives forward. Edmonton’s diversity is again its best defense.

Perhaps the only blip on the radar has been the fallout from the election of a new provincial government. As is often the case in these scenarios, the new government has decided that it is best to freeze hiring on projects and according to our sources, existing contracts are being allowed to end naturally and extensions are not being offered. A significant uptick in applications to our Eagle website is evidence that there has been a recent surge in available resources. This could mean greater competition for jobs and contracts. Typically these are short lived interruptions but with the province in debt, and a government that campaigned on getting the debt under control, it might be too early to predict with certainty that hiring will begin again soon. The provincial government is a massive user of contract IT resources so this will have to be monitored.

So what is hot in the market. We saw the following “Hot Skills” in the first half of 2019 and all indications are that these skillsets will be in demand for the rest of the year. There are a couple of more that we’ve added to the list:

  • Microsoft Stack Expertise (C#, HTML, CSS etc.)
  • Cloud Consultants
  • Infrastructure Specialists (VMWare)
  • Change Managers
  • Network Analysts (for cloud preparation)
  • Agile Project Managers

Regional Job Market Update for Edmonton

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

City of EdmontonIn 2017, Alberta led the country in growth and I think we were all celebrating the end of a recession that decimated the oil patch and put the brakes on Alberta’s economy. While the news in 2018 was ok (growth in the 2.5% range), domestic and international forces conspired against the province and continued to stifle confidence.

For 2019, with Alberta still unable to get its oil to current and potential new markets, growth is expected in the 2% range which is disappointing when you consider that we have in abundance, what the entire world craves, energy!

So what about Edmonton? The city and region saw a challenging year but the good news is that growth is expected to come in at around 2.6% with a similar 2.7% target in 2019. The mix of public and private sector along with a more diversified economy seems to provide the city and region with a bit of insulation from the vagaries of international policy and political upheaval.

If you are an Information Technology professional, you probably found 2018 to be a decent year for finding contracts or permanent hire roles. Our clients were busy this year and we saw a number of large-scale projects initiated or moved into implementation. While the contracting market remained robust, the biggest change was in the “permanent hire” category with many of Eagle’s clients hiring for key positions after years of holding back during the recession or to address an identified shortage caused by the adoption of new business and technology initiatives.

Much of this was driven by the following:

  • Move from on premise to Cloud, and integration of cloud with on premise applications and systems.
  • Continued need to manage and manipulate data in the private and public sectors as they strive to improve service delivery to their partners, clients or constituents.
  • Pressure on organizations to upgrade their business systems (and therefore their core IS) as vendors retire support for older versions and;
  • The continued advent of new products which made it easier to deploy to mobile and web platforms.

So what is hot in the market. We saw the following “Hot Skills” in 2018 and all indications are that the following will be in demand in 2019.

  • Microsoft Stack Expertise (C#, HTML, CSS etc.)
  • Infrastructure Specialists
  • Network Analysts (for cloud preparation)
  • Agile Project Managers
  • Business Analysts

Regional Job Market Update for Edmonton

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

Much has been made of the continuing recession in Alberta and the fact that we may finally have hit rock bottom means things can only get better from this point on. An interesting statistic takes a look at the sales of new vs. used cars and found that the sales of new vehicles fell 18% during the period between 2014 and 2016, while the sale of used vehicles rose 10%. This same trend was noted during the recession of 2008 to 2009. During that recession new vehicle sales fell 27%, a huge decline and an indicator that things were bad.

So what’s happening now? According to recent stats, as Alberta’s economy gradually gains traction, new vehicle sales are rising once again. They rose 11% in 2017 and signs point to that trend continuing.

Much like the trend in new car sales, the market for Information Technology professionals declined during the recession. The Edmonton market was not as heavily impacted as the Calgary market during this time however, there was a definite decrease as companies and organizations took a cold, hard look at their spending. Edmonton is supported by its large Public Sector and while much of the private sector was hunkering down and keeping the lights on, government at the municipal and provincial level didn’t have that luxury, as taxpayers were clamored for increased and improved services. Additionally, the newly elected government in 2015 brought in a large number of policy initiatives and changes and the result was the reorganization and/or implementation of new systems and processes, which created a consistent level of activity. Things felt a bit slower, but there still seemed to be a demand. If you were an experienced architect, project manager, business analyst or .Net developer, there was little shortage of requirements and opportunities.

What we’re seeing today is different. Those roles continue to be in demand, but we’re seeing (and hearing of) major projects either in the planning stage or already on the docket and ready to go. Clients in traditional sectors seem to have greater confidence and are moving projects from planning to implementation. And new companies and partnerships are springing up in response to new opportunities and legislation, such as the legalization of Cannabis. This is driving innovation and opportunities in technology, especially around data, security, mobile apps and the cloud.

So what roles are clients looking for? As mentioned earlier, project managers, business analysts, and developers continue to be in demand. But we’re definitely seeing the introduction of roles pointing towards the changes taking place in the market.

You may begin to find your skills are in high demand, if you possess the following expertise:

  • Data Scientists
  • Cloud Specialists, specifically “integration” architects
  • ITSM/Workflow Consultants (Service Now)
  • Front End Developers (JavaScript and associated tools)
  • QA Specialists

What’s Really Going to Happen to the Price of Oil?

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

The Edmonton Branch of Eagle held a Contractor Appreciation event just last week in Edmonton and I always enjoy the opportunity to meet those who share the front line of the IT contracting world. And as usual, while much of the chatter involves getting to know everyone just a bit better, there comes a point in the conversation where the inevitable happens and the discussion turns to the market and what our predictions are for the short and long term future of the economy. And a big part of the discussion this time around centered on the situation in the oil patch.

First off, Edmonton is not Calgary. Edmonton’s economy is more diversified and less directly impacted by the low price of oil. We have a large public sector that spends massively in health care, infrastructure and education. There is a thriving small to medium business sector that provides all kinds of products and services and employs a large number of Albertans. But also true is that the funds that the public sector uses to fund its projects comes from revenue directly related to the resource sector and many of those small to medium sized business’ products and services are directly targeted at the oil industry. So it was no surprise that the question being debated amongst a number of attendees was just what was going to happen to the price of oil.

What's Really Going to Happen to the Price of Oil?This article written by Peter Tertzakian for OilPrice.com uses the analogy of the fashion world to describe why oil prices might just be ready to ascend.  Given how interesting and relevant it is to the discussions I had just last week with independent contractors in Edmonton, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share it with all of our readers on the Talent Development Centre:

Why Oil Could Head Back To $90 Sooner Than Thought

Island in a Storm: Outlook for Edmonton in 2016

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Island in a Storm: Outlook for Edmonton in 2016I recently attended a presentation given by John Rose, Chief Economist for the City of Edmonton, where he offered an analysis of what the future — short and medium term — held for Alberta’s capital city. While the province’s struggles in the wake of an excruciatingly low-priced barrel of oil is well documented, he offered a cautious but mildly optimistic outlook for the city itself. The following are the salient points as I saw it:

  1. Rose predicted modest growth for Edmonton in 2016, likely somewhere around 1%, which is a slowdown from past years when growth hovered closer to 3% and higher.
  2. Construction, Public Administration, and growth in the Retail sector in Edmonton have offset losses connected to stagnation in the resource sector and he felt Edmonton will be much quicker than the rest of the province to return to more robust growth in late 2016 or early 2017.
  3. Growth in Edmonton will be dependent on government investment. Should resource revenues and oil prices continue to remain unusually low and government decides to drastically reign in spending as a result, all bets are off and further recessionary pressures would be forthcoming.
  4. Unemployment in the province will increase by as much as 3.5 to 4.0% in the North (Wood Buffalo) and South (Lethbridge/Medicine Hat) and Fort McMurray, Red Deer and Calgary are seeing a surge in job losses. Edmonton is likely to see this key indicator grow as well, but only by 1.0%.
  5. Low oil prices will continue into 2017 when a potential slowdown in US production helps firm up the cost of a barrel. However, Mr. Rose was quick to point out that he doesn’t see the price of oil returning to the $100 mark and that the new normal would be between $50 and $80.
  6. While a slowdown is not typically ideal for any economy, Mr. Rose did point out that continued low interest rates and modest inflation pressures would contain cost escalation for capital projects and gives the city a chance to address infrastructure and services deficits and that now is perhaps as good as any time for investment in our future.

While I’m unqualified to make these types of predictions, I can say that what I am seeing in the Edmonton market and from conversation with our clients, these observations are accurate for now. A downturn in some sectors has been offset by activity in others and Edmonton remains, at least for now, a viable and prosperous city with excellent opportunities for professional contractors.