Information, Communications & Technology
ISSUES & CHALLENGES: The sector has bled jobs since the 2000s in the manufacturing, telecoms and broadcast sub-sectors, and employment in Ottawa’s ICT sector has shrunk substantially. Mature industries in Ottawa include knowledge-based support services, telecommunications, software and defence. There is a fairly severe shortage of particular skills in ICT. Specific occupations such as Computer and information systems managers, Telecommunications carriers managers, Information systems analysts and consultants, and Broadcast technicians are in high demand. Technology trends (most notably the adoption of ‘Cloud’ computing) and off-shoring has weakened demand for Computer network technicians, and User support technicians causing another shift in employment. The ICT sector is also undergoing another convergence. ICT has become a foundational skill and interactions between information technology, engineering, biology and other disciplines are creating entirely new ways of generating, organizing and interacting with our world. This is causing challenges in trying to find workers with multidisciplinary skills, as well as workers combining technical and management skills.
Labour supply conditions in Ontario are much more strongly influenced by immigration than other provinces. Internationally-educated professionals account for just shy of 20% of ICT workers, yet, overall, their employment rates are much lower than Canadian-born workers. Women tend to be concentrated in certain disciplines such as web and graphic design.
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: The contraction of the early 2000s can be seen in a positive light – excess fat has been trimmed and ICT organizations are running tighter ships. Coupled with emergence and growth of new firms and new clusters, including clean technology, digital media and life sciences – the latter of which grew 73% between 2006 and 2008 – Ottawa has an opportunity to brand itself an innovation capital. Whether it’s green construction and housing, patient informatics or assistive devices for the elderly (pertinent for markets with rapidly ageing populations), there are a plethora of occupations, products and services arising out of the convergence of technologies and human-technology interaction. Some suggestions to deal with the current tight labour supply include:
- Encouraging more post-secondary students to take ICT-related courses and evolving a more multidisciplinary curriculum; integrate more foreign-educated workers into Canada’s ICT workforce.
- Embracing more diversity in the ICT workforce by integrating more foreign-trained workers and women. Almost 50% of all ICT workers in Canada initially settle in Ontario, yet they make up 20% of the labour supply. Whether it is through additional training (communications/ language/ soft skills) for immigrants, or better human resource training for employers, this is an important labour pool. Women make up 25% of ICT workers and are not evenly spread across disciplines. More effort needs to be made on both the training and employment side to move women into engineering, technical roles.
- Moving workers from declining KBI sub-sectors to growing sub-sectors, particularly leveraging their experience in larger businesses, so that they can contribute to small businesses since 50% of Ottawa’s KBI companies have 10 or fewer employees.
The Sector Summary: Information, Communications and Technologywas further developed in October 2011 to provide in-depth analysis of labour market issues.