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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 Winnipeg.

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.

Hang Your Hat in Winnipeg

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Updated: February 2020

It’s funny how we develop preconceptions of things.  While there might be some semblance of truth involved often the evidence that we use for forming our opinions of something comes from anecdotal or third party sources.   So how, without experiencing something directly, can we develop such strong feelings?   This seems to be particularly true when we talk about places and locations.  We associate a place or location with very specific words or emotions and those take on a life of their own.  I currently live in Vancouver, BC, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived but a place where the real estate is outrageous and traffic is challenging. Before that, I lived for 17 years in Edmonton where the sun doesn’t set until 11pm in the summer but where the winter is long and hard. When you tell people where you live, 9 out of 10 times, they will say the same things. “oh it rains too much in Vancouver, I couldn’t live there” or “ Edmonton, oh the winter is too long, I couldn’t stand it”.  The point is, every place has its positives and negatives and we humans are pretty good at adapting and making a place our home.  And what about the hundreds of thousands of people who live in those cities? Are they all crazy?

"Winnipeg from Above second version" by user:Haljackey - :File:Winnipeg_from_Above.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Winnipeg from Above second version” by user:Haljackey:File:Winnipeg_from_Above.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

So, what about Winnipeg? I lived there for many years as well and still have family there. I have fond memories of camping and time spent at any one of the myriad number of lakes. Eagle works across Canada with clients from all geographic locations, including Winnipeg and as it turns out, Winnipeg happens to have a lot of great opportunities right now and it is a challenge filling these roles. So, I want to highlight why you as a contract professional, might want to pay more attention to what is happening there and why it is important for you to do so.

1. There are lots of opportunities in Winnipeg!

It may not be a large city (750k) but Winnipeg has a healthy market for IT professionals and any number of exciting initiatives to take part in. I’ve seen an increasing need for Project Managers, Business Analysts, Programmer Analysts and Management Consultants along with a number of other skills. Rates are competitive and it is not overly difficult to find accommodation and settle in. And Winnipeg is the center of Canada (no it’s not Toronto) so it’s an easy flight home for a weekend visit, typically not more than 2 hours, whenever you might need to.

2. There is less Competition!

Competition in major markets can make it a challenge to line up contracts, especially when the market slows down in your particular location. If you are living in Toronto, sure there is a lot of volume but the number of applicants for a single posting means you are competing against many, equally talented and skilled workers. And if you happen to be in Calgary right now, you know the impacts of the price of a barrel of oil on the job market. The volume of work is certainly less in Winnipeg, but there is also a shortage of professionals to do the work, so if you’ve come to the conclusion that you wouldn’t mind a change, you just might find that Winnipeg has a lot to offer.

3. Winnipeg is fun!

Stop rolling your eyes! I lived in Winnipeg for a number of years and I can speak from experience. I also visit Winnipeg frequently and have spoken to a number of out-of-town contract resources that we’ve placed with clients there. All of them spoke of being a bit reticent about moving to Winnipeg initially. But all of them also said that once they were established, they began to see that the city had a lot going for it. They talked about golfing, joining the Running Room, visiting the new Human Rights museum, skating and ice fishing and just generally getting a feel for the vibe of the City. I personally know that Winnipeg has a vibrant cultural scene, great restaurants and lots of options for entertainment.

4. This doesn’t have to be forever!

You never know, you might actually find you like it so much, you end up staying. And that is exactly what one of our contractors decided to do. He found things that he really liked about Winnipeg and he also found a place with a decent economy and good opportunities for someone with his skills. But even if you don’t end up deciding to stay forever, Winnipeg represents an opportunity to work your next contract while seeing what makes the city tick. Just remember, traveling for a contract is not everyone’s cup of tea. Not only do you have to take care of the logistics of moving and the impact that will have on your life, but it is also extremely important that once you’ve accepted a contract, you are committed to seeing it through to the end.
So what do you do if you are interested?  Just follow this link and see what we have open and if you see something that matches your experience and skills, simply apply.  Who knows, a new life adventure might be waiting for you in Winnipeg.