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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 IT jobs.

Job Market Update Across Canada

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

Here’s a look at Canada’s job outlook, specifically for IT, as we finish up the first quarter of 2019.

Canadian Job MarketThere are a number of indicators that I have used over the years to give an idea of how things are going, one such indicator is the markets.  For this purpose I focus on the TSX.  The markets have been fairly volatile for some time now, but The TSX was sitting at 16,000 at time of writing.  This is not that different from this time a year ago, although we have seen some wide swings during that time.  The relative stability of the economy here is always a good factor when looking for employment.

Obviously the unemployment rate is a decent indicator and at 5.8%, the job situation is fairly positive.  This indicator would also suggest unemployment in the skilled, in demand professions is probably 50% of that number … which at less than 3% is effectively full employment.  Canada has created 370,000 jobs (270,000 full time) in the last twelve months, which is not at the pace of the US, but is still a healthy growth, particularly since 270,000 of those were full time jobs.  In a tale of two provinces Ontario has seen the strongest growth in employment in the last few months, whereas Alberta has struggled and has an unemployment rate of 7.3% primarily due to a hurting oil patch.

Some stats worth noting when looking at the job situation in Canada; the biggest 4 provinces represent close to 90% of employment in Canada, with Ontario the largest (close to 40%); Quebec (approx. 23%); BC (13.5%) and Alberta (12.5%).  BC has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada (4.5%), with Newfoundland & Labrador the highest (11.8%); Quebec and Manitoba enjoy good unemployment rates (5.3%); Ontario has a respectable 5.7% rate.  So, when considering where to look for jobs a province that employs a lot of people and has a relatively low unemployment rate is a good place to look … BC, Quebec and Ontario all fit that bill.

One of the big factors affecting the Alberta market is the price of oil.   The price of a barrel in Canada is probably $10 a barrel less than on the world market, given our only customer is the United States.  Until there is a clear change that will likely remain a factor in Alberta’s economy.  The current price in Canada of less than $60 a barrel, coupled with the barriers presented by the Federal Government and other governments means that investment in the Canadian oil industry is significantly reduced which would suggest it will be some time before we see a boom in employment in that sector.  Having said that there are still opportunities in Alberta, just not the booming demand we saw in the past.

Google LogoThe continued growth in the US market has led to skills shortages, and significant cost increases for companies with large workforces.  This has created an opportunity in Canada, where large US companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google etc. are adding to their Canadian presence to tap into the talent up here.  We have seen big announcements in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto in recent months and I expect this trend to continue.

If there is one market to highlight it is the Toronto area, which is Canada’s largest market, the fourth largest city in North America and home to more head offices than any other city in Canada.  The financial sector is largely headquartered here and is a huge employer, as is the telecommunications industry.  The GTA represents 60% of Eagle’s business and probably 60% of tech jobs in Canada.

Tech job activity is relatively strong in most markets across Canada.  Even Calgary, which has not returned to pre-oil crisis levels of activity is seeing some demand.  This makes sense if you recognize that even at a 7.3% unemployment rate that probably represents a less than 4% unemployment among professionals and in-demand skills.

Eagle’s focus is technology professionals and the most in demand areas/skills recently have included: Cloud, Healthcare, Government, Telecom, Banking, CRM, BI and AI; Project Managers, Business Analysts, Change Management, Quality Assurance, Architects, Sys Admins, Full Stack developers, Database Admins & Dev Ops engineers.

In summary, people with tech skills should have little difficulty in finding employment, either contract or perm for the foreseeable future.  A willingness to relocate to the bigger centers will only increase their marketability.

There is continued concern about an economic slowdown, which will of course affect hiring.  In the short to medium term I don’t expect a big change in the job market.  Perhaps as the election approaches in the fall we will see some impact.

Our advice to clients is to ensure there are clear, clean hiring practices that move quickly through the hiring process.  It is a candidate market again and that means the best talent is snapped up quickly, often with multiple offers.

New and Growing Job Opportunities for IT Contractors by 2022

According to a recent survey from Nintex, 71% of decision makers across multiple industries say automation will affect up to one out of five positions at their companies. In IT departments, this could include those in roles that include troubleshooting, password resets, and upgrading security patches.

Given the numerous studies being released on this topic every day, should IT contractors and technology professionals be concerned about their future? Only if they’re not willing to change and learn future skills says the Future of Jobs Report published by the World Economic Forum. In fact, there are a number of opportunities! Just have a look at this very brief summary of the report:

1. Automation, robotization and digitization look different across different industries

The many faces of the robot revolutionWhile it’s expected that companies world-wide will be developing robots and automation, different industries will have different needs. As such, WEF says we can expect to see fewer of the robots we’re used to seeing in sci-fi movies, and more stationary robots.

2. There is a net positive outlook for jobs – amid significant job disruption

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, 75 million current job roles will be displaced due to machines and algorithms. That may sound devastating; however, they also expect 133 million new job roles will emerge. Moreover, occupations like Data Analysts, Software & Applications Developers, and E-Commerce & Social Media Specialists should see some significant growth.

3. The division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms is shifting fast

Of all of the industries covered in World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, there is currently a 71%/29% split in task hours performed by humans versus by robots. By 2022, this is expected to be 58%/42% and 48%/52% by 2025.  According to the report, “Even work tasks overwhelmingly performed by humans today — communicating, interacting, coordinating, managing and advising — will begin to be taken on by machines, although to a lesser degree.”

4. New tasks at work are driving demand for new skills

Skills such as precision, memory, reading/writing, even management are expected to be less and less significant on resumes. Instead, the experts at World Economic Forum predict that you’ll get ahead in the next few years if you start highlighting skills such as analytical thinking, active learning, technology design and emotional intelligence.

5. We will all need to become lifelong learners

As noted in the previous point, learning is more and more important. Both individual workers and senior leaders are seeing a growing skills gap that can obstruct an organization’s growth if not managed properly. This shows opportunities for independent contractors in IT who manage to keep up with the latest skills and trends. It’s expected that one-half to two-thirds of the world’s companies will be turning to them for help.

What are you doing to prepare for the future and the inevitable changes due to automation? Will you be a leader taking advantage of the new opportunities or will you fall behind due to fear and resistance?

Regional Job Market Update for Calgary, Alberta

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Job SearchingAs we head into the last 6 weeks of 2018, it is a good opportunity to reflect back on how far we have come these past 11 months.  We entered 2018 with cautious optimism and – as expected – we have seen a slow and steady improvement in tech/IT hiring this year.

What is most encouraging is that the hiring activity spans many different industries and – with more diversification – comes more confidence that we can weather the setbacks that are inevitable on the road to full economic recovery.

That said, we still have a long way to go before we can remove the word “cautious” from our vocabulary when talking about Calgary’s labour market.  High unemployment rates, falling capital investments, high office vacancy rates and heavily discounted Canadian crude continue to challenge our city and the pace of recovery is not nearly as quick as we would like it to be.

While the unemployment rate remains high, technology is a great place to be with ICT careers expected to outpace all job growth in Canada by a rate of 4:1 (ICTC, Labour Market Outlook, 2017-2021, April 2017).  In particular, the trend toward automation and digitization in many sectors is creating interesting contract and career opportunities. Combine that with the limited IT spend over the past few years due to the recession and the resultant pent-up demand for IT project work.

So what does the current market offer IT professionals in Calgary?

Project activity centres around these four main buckets:

  • Big Data/BI/Analytics
  • Cloud Migration
  • Digital Transformation
  • SaaS Solution Implementation
  • Cyber Security

The most in-demand roles/job titles include:

  • QA Automation
  • Java Development
  • Cyber Security
  • Project Management
  • Agile Business Analysis

The overall supply of resources with these skills has shifted and we have moved into a candidate market.  There are less available consultants and – those who are looking – often have a choice when it comes to selecting their next assignment.

In these areas, it is of utmost importance for our clients to work closely with their recruitment partners to deliver the right message to attract the best candidates.  Additionally, we encourage our clients to speed up the hiring process and be flexible with “must have” technical skills when hiring.

Given the improving labour market, we are expecting to see a bit more labour movement in the first quarter of 2019 as both independent consultants and long-term employees pursue new opportunities more aggressively to gain new project experiences.

The landscape for technology workers in Calgary is improving and we expect it to continue into 2019.  Be sure to keep an eye on the Eagle job board and keep your recruiter informed as you start to think about pursuing new opportunities.

Do These 5 Things Before You Even Apply to Your Next IT Contract

If your job search strategy consists of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks… and very little is sticking, then it’s time to re-vamp your way of thinking. Applying to multiple jobs with little thought or preparation is not just aggravating to recruiters but you’re wasting your own time as well. Rather than taking an “Apply and Pray” approach to finding your next gig, take a step back and review these five items Dice suggests an IT professional should do before applying to their next freelance opportunity:

Build Up an Online Reputation

Believe it or not, Recruiters have access to the Internet. And they know how to use it. Yes, an Internet-based job like a Web Designer should have a portfolio, but those seeking offline jobs also need an online presence. Recruiters always look beyond a resume to learn what others think of you and if it matches what you say in your resume. When you consciously build up your online reputation, you control the narrative!

Create a List of Verifiable References

The keyword here is verifiable. IT contractors have a different challenge finding great references compared to those in permanent positions. You don’t have the luxury of a long-term relationship with a manager who will remain at their company for a number of years. Instead, your top references could be other contractors who move around and lack the fancy title. You’re also in an industry where the landscape changes fast, so that valuable reference from five years ago may not be able to speak to your skills on a newer technology. When you build a relationship with a credible professional, add them to an on-going list of potential references. Organize that list based on experience and maintain it to keep it up-to-date with current contact information.

Make Sure Your Expectations Align with Reality

In this section, Dice suggests doing some homework to get a solid understanding of the workload, deadline structure and pay to ensure it matches your own needs. This may require a phone call to the recruiter working on the role, but your 5 minute discussion will be well worth your time compared to the hours you spend customizing your resume. Another piece of reality to align is whether or not you are the right fit for the job. In this article we found on The Muse, the author suggests you ask yourself not just if your skills match those requested, but also if your goals match the position and if the client’s culture and workspace fit with your ideal working conditions.

Research the Client

When you work through a recruiter, you have two clients — the staffing agency and the end client — and it’s wise to research both. First, always know what you’re up against before you start working with any recruiter. There are many criteria on which to evaluate an employment agency and how you weigh each one is your personal choice. What’s important is that you’re working with a recruiter you trust. Knowing the end-client is equally as important. For example, if they’re on the list of tech companies most likely to cause burnout or if they have a terrible reputation in how they treat independent contractors, then the higher rate may not be worth your pain.

Understand the Hiring Standards

Finally, Dice warns freelancers that they should not to assume that hiring standards are more relaxed for independent contractors versus full-time employees. A quick contract does not mean your recruiter or client will skip due diligence. Expect that they will conduct detailed reference checks, run background checks, and hold you under a magnifying glass before extending that final contract offer.

What kind of job seeker are you? Do you take similar steps before sending your resume (if so we’d love to hear them) or do you apply for everything that looks like it could be interesting (if so, we’d love to hear if it’s successful). Regardless, share your comments below!

Applying to Government IT Jobs: 8 Things to Expect Will be Different from the Private Sector

If your independent contracting career has predominately been serving clients in the private sector and you’re considering moving into government, then read this article carefully because what has worked for you in the past will not work well when searching for jobs in the public sector. Especially if you’re moving into a “government town” like Ottawa or Edmonton, it’s important to know what you should expect when trying to land a contract with a government client.

  1. Expect RFPs

Government procurement processes are in place to ensure fair and transparent purchasing decisions and that holds true when they’re hiring IT contractors. Before we even hear about the opportunity, you can be sure that the job has been reviewed by many departments and requirements have been edited so it all fits into one fair (sometimes confusing) Request for Proposal. The good news is that when you work with a staffing agency, they will comb through the document, filter out the legalese, and give you what you need to know to apply.

  1. Expect Black and White

Due to the nature of RFPs and the government’s obligation to remain fair and transparent, you need to be aware that every decision is black and white. There is no such thing as wiggle room when responding to government bids — 5 years of experience is not 4 years, 11 months… it’s at least 5 years.

  1. Expect Grids and Matrices

How do government evaluators ensure they’re seeing all responses consistently and evaluating fairly? With grids (sometime referred to as matrices) that can get to be long and complicated. These tables allow for a simple cross reference between the requirements and resume so it’s easy to check off who will move onto the next round and who will be dumped. Grids have both mandatory and point-rated requirements and a failure to clearly demonstrate that you meet their minimum threshold is automatic disqualification. If you’re not prepared to put some effort into a grid, then a recruiter is not likely to consider you for government jobs.

  1. Expect Longer Resumes

Everything you write in a grid to prove your experience must be substantiated in your resume. This means that you can throw the old “2 page resume” rule out the window. If it takes 50 pages to create a resume that clearly demonstrates all of your relevant experience, then so be it. Content is a must.

  1. Expect Strict Rates

Past experience isn’t the only strict, black and white requirement the government insists on. Before being invited to provide IT resources, all suppliers (staffing agencies, individuals, consulting companies) must first get onto a pre-approved vendor list. During that process, they often have to provide a maximum bill rate and charging anything higher is unacceptable. When a recruiter tells you that their hands are tied and they can’t go any higher with the rate, they’re probably not bluffing and are contractually obligated to remain at that number.

  1. Expect Hard Deadlines

You should be noticing a trend at this point that government RFPs for IT contractors are quite regimented and there is no deviating from what they want. Submission deadlines are no different. Nearly every RFP you come across will include an exact submission deadline (ex. 2:00pm on a specific day). Even being 1 minute late could result in disqualification, demonstrating how much more important it is to meet all deadlines provided to you when working on an application to a government IT contract.

  1. Expect Security Clearances

Primarily in Federal Government, if you want to work, you’re going to need security clearance at some level. It may be as simple as Reliability Status, which just requires a short background check, or as high as Top Secret Clearance, which will ask for your history over the past 10 years, plus information about your immediate family, to do a complete review involving both the RCMP and CSIS. Depending on the clearance level and your personal history, this can take anywhere from 2 weeks to more than 2 years!

  1. Expect Long Wait Times

“Hurry up and wait.” That’s how you may feel after you’ve worked overtime updating your resume, spent hours working with a recruiter to perfect a grid, and rushed through the security clearance application forms. Because after your agency finally submits the proposal, getting a response from the government can take months. While some departments will have results back in weeks, it’s not unusual for other departments to spend much more time evaluating. This is usually due to the many responses they receive as well as their commitment to a thorough and fair evaluation process to ensure tax payer money is being spent wisely.

Working in the public sector is definitely a different experience than private and the application process ensures job seekers are aware of that early-on. Still, IT contractors who live it every day will tell you that it remains a good industry with plenty of opportunity, you just have to know your way around.

If you’re considering moving into the government as a next step in your IT contracting profession, we recommend starting today. Get in touch with your preferred recruiter to begin security clearances and to learn about new opportunities. Remember, even if you apply to a job this month, it may be another six months before the work begins.

 

Some of the Best IT Jobs are in Canada’s Financial Sector

 

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Interested in a Technology Career in the Banking Industry? Get an Exclusive Invitation to a Networking & Hiring Event in Toronto

Some of the Best IT Jobs are in Canada's Financial Sector

Forget everything that you thought you knew about working in a big bank’s Technology Group. The financial world has changed and FinTech is driving the way they do business!

The traditional banking model is undergoing massive change. Banking clients expect more from their banks than ever before so getting the right technology in place is more critical now than ever. Being ahead of the game in technologies including AI, mobile apps, data analytics and cloud computing is a huge differentiator for banks and is essential in gaining an edge over their competitors.

In the past, banks followed and implemented the latest technologies as they were released. Now, Canadian banks are actively involved in building the latest technologies. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and waiting, they’re putting themselves at the forefront of change by getting involved with technology labs like CommunitechMaRS Discover DistrictOneEleven and DMZ.  Several banks have also launched digital factories and innovation labs of their own to help cultivate ideas that address clients’ needs, as well as streamline processing all with a focus on technology.

Eagle works with all of Canada’s top banks and in the past year, we have seen a massive influx of both contract and permanent opportunities with their technology groups.  The focus has changed from merely acquiring the latest technology to leading technology innovations. Banks offer ambitious techies the opportunity to lead the way with new developments in AI and blockchain, and be part of creating new software.

For instance, many banks are employing an increasing number of data scientist and data engineers.  The engineers and developers work in an active DevOps environment where code can be deployed in months… and sometimes even weeks.  The technology world, in large part due to FinTech, has changed and the Banks are evolving with it. Teams are agile and work in cross functional groups. The technology environment within today’s banks resembles the environments traditionally associated with Silicon Valley companies such as Google.

There are great career opportunities at all of Canada’s major banks.  Many offer hard core technology resources the chance to be part of a culture shift and take their career to the next level, while being supported by institutions with long histories and sound financial backing.

Eagle is currently working with a major banking client to build an exclusive guest list for an upcoming IT networking and hiring event. As well as the opportunity to meet with the organization’s top hiring executives, attendees will enjoy the opportunity to hear from an industry-leading Big Data guest speaker and will gain preferred access to current full-time job openings in the data space. For the opportunity to attend this event, complete this quick online form.

Exciting times are ahead within the technology groups in all of Canada’s major banks.  When you consider your next job move, take a fresh a look at this exciting industry.  You may find your own little part of Silicon Valley on Bay Street.

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Regional Job Market Update for Toronto

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

Toronto… The Place to Be for Technology

Toronto, Ontario CanadaToronto has long been recognized as a centre of technology in Canada.  That reputation only grows with each passing month and year.  Toronto is among the best cities in the world to work in technology and there are over half a million working in the technology space in Toronto.  This number is growing fast as is the roughly 25% of those that are self-employed. Plus, a recent study by the Compass Group showed that Toronto’s tech growth is outpacing the rest of the country almost 5-1.

What is responsible for this growth?  It is a number of things and anytime in economics or business that there are numerous factors to growth, that is a very good thing.

Let’s look first at the straw that stirs the drink for Toronto’s Tech sector — our major financial institutions.  The Big 5 are all headquartered in Toronto and in 2018 continue to invest massively in technology.  Cloud computing, security, application development, risk management through technology, customer experience, are all areas that the banks continue to invest in.

The Major Telco’s equally influence the Toronto Technology sector.  The intense competition for customers has led to significant investment in a better customer experience through technology.  This competition also drives investment in the latest network and cellular technologies to bring faster speeds and better experiences for their customers.  2018 has been a huge year for this type of infrastructure investment in Toronto and elsewhere.

The new world business Goliaths such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all recently invested money and resourcing in Toronto and continue to grow their presence in 2018.  In today’s world of technology, you can never really be a true world technology hub without their presence.

And let us not forget the importance of a vibrant environment for start-ups.  Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, were all start-ups at one time, making it critical that Toronto maintains a not only viable but an exciting environment for start-ups to take root.  Companies like Top Hat, Bridget, and others are following in the footsteps of more established start-ups like Shop.ca and Fresh Books.  2018 has seen an incredible number of start-ups show us exciting things in Toronto.

The landscape is bright for technology in in Toronto in 2018.  The battle for talent is fierce but it also shows that this is where a huge pool of talent resides.  The healthy mix of factors described above has Toronto in a good place for years to come.  If you are technology professional in Toronto it appears you are in the right place.

IT is No Longer Just About Technology

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

IT is No Longer Just About TechnologyAs explained in this recent article from Dice, the marketplace for IT contractors and technology employees is changing at a pace similar to that of technology itself. With many of the “heavy lifting” IT jobs having been outsourced either on or off shore, the IT employees or contractors that remain in high demand are those with both technical and business capabilities.

What does this mean?  In order to add the value companies are looking for, prospective employees and independent contractors need to be able to both understand and communicate the business objectives of any IT activity.

The Agile framework is being implemented in more and more large organizations and communication is a pillar of Agile delivery, as all disciplines work together and collaborate throughout the development process.  Agile delivery cannot be successful without all stakeholders clearly understanding the business objectives and able to communicate as such.

Furthermore, the concept of performing a single function on “an island” within an organization has either been outsourced, as mentioned, or become entirely a thing of the past.

How do you as a contractor address these changes?  Firstly, take the time to understand the big picture: What is the overall project objective, not just your piece?  Understand the company you are working for, their history, their results, their major projects and initiatives.

Most consultants today work with one or more staffing agencies.  Hold your recruiter accountable for as much information as possible on each particular job opportunity.  This information will allow you to demonstrate your business capabilities and understanding as well as your valuable technical skills.

Keep up-to-date on the overall technology landscape. If you are in Telecommunications, know what the big 3 Telco’s’ major initiatives are.  If you have focused on the financial sector, know what major initiatives are coming from the big banks.

It is no longer possible to maximize your earnings and potential with technical skills alone.  All aspects of IT and business have become too interdependent.  Businesses rely more and more on technology every day as we know.  With this increased reliance comes a greater need for technology resources to understand business objectives and vice versa.

Ironically, the single most effective way to increase your business knowledge and communication skills… is a good old face to face conversation.