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Skilled Talent and a Collaborative Environment Give Canada a Competitive Edge

Its highly educated and diverse population, along with policies geared toward attracting the best and brightest talent, has made Canada essential to technology companies’ growth plans.

Location Canada 2017
Talent is the life blood of a company. Without talent, businesses cannot compete, innovate, or meet their economic goals. Unfortunately, for some industries, the demand for talent is increasingly outweighing the supply.

In a recent study, Indeed surveyed 1,000 hiring managers and recruiters in the United States’ technology industry to gauge their experiences in hiring tech talent. It found that there is a “demand gap” for highly technical jobs in the technology field. Specifically, the study found that interest in software architect job postings meets only 29.4 percent of the employer demand. Likewise, development and operations job postings meet only 39.6 percent. Despite how critical finding the right talent is for companies, time is not always on their side. Companies are desperate to achieve their hiring goals, and are often forced to settle for subpar candidates. According to the findings, 53 percent of respondents have hired tech talent despite candidates not meeting the job description requirements.

When companies hire the right talent, they can achieve the growth they seek. As a result, the war for the best and brightest within the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields continues to gain momentum. Education, diversity, and regulations that promote business innovation and expansion are all factors that contribute to a rich talent pool. While a unique mix, one country offers businesses and technology talent all the right elements: Canada. But more than just talent, at every jurisdictional level, Canada has a long record of engaging with the private sector to sustain growth and allow businesses to do what they do best.

Through my experience over the past four years as Ontario's representative in the U.S. Southwest, I've met a surprising number of people who are quite familiar with Canada — from my dentist who has cousins in Mississauga, to my neighbor whose company just hired a Toronto-based marketing firm, to a venture capital investor who has invested in several Ontario companies. I've also met an equally surprising number who couldn’t pinpoint Canada on a map and are shocked to learn that a flight from California to Toronto is shorter than a flight from California to Boston or New York. Both groups — with the exception of a number of investors — are surprised to learn that Ontario has the second highest number of IT companies in North America after California.
Canada has hundreds of thousands of STEM degree holders. According to research by Randstad, in Toronto there are more than 44,000 engineering candidates averaging 32 applicants per job.
Canada has hundreds of thousands of STEM degree holders. According to research by Randstad, in Toronto there are more than 44,000 engineering candidates averaging 32 applicants per job.
Source: Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Growth
A New Hub of Educated Technology Talent
Canadians are highly attractive to foreign employers, because they’re among the most equipped labor force for the 21st century knowledge economy: 53 percent of Canadian adults hold a tertiary qualification, which is the highest level among OECD Countries.

Canadian universities are consistently ranked among the top in the world, and they’re renowned for preparing our young graduates for highly technical careers. The University of Toronto is ranked in the top 25 universities globally and the top 50 most innovative universities in the world. The University of British Columbia is also ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, and nearly a quarter of their students are international, coming from 162 countries. The University of Waterloo has the world’s largest co-op education program, and as The Wall Street Journal notes, Waterloo graduates are prized by top firms. Its graduates are also known for their entrepreneurial nature and fresh thinking. Waterloo is the number-one Canadian university for venture-capital-backed student businesses in North America.

Canada is stocked with STEM degree holders, and it has a high number of engineering applicants per job, indicating intense competition between qualified candidates. In fact, according to research by Randstad, in Toronto there are 44,000 candidates averaging 32 applicants per job. In Vancouver there are 16,000 candidates averaging 22 applicants per job; 31,000 candidates averaging 26 applicants per job in Montreal; and Ottawa also has a large per applicant average — 74 per job out of 24,000 candidates. With a quality educational system in place, firms will continue to have an increasingly large and qualified labor pool from which to choose the best fit.

Canadians are highly attractive to foreign employers, because they’re among the most equipped labor force for the 21st century knowledge economy: 53 percent of Canadian adults hold a tertiary qualification, which is the highest level among OECD Countries. Beyond the extensive home-grown talent pool, Canada is also home to a diverse population, with a strong history as an inclusive attractor of talent from around the world. Among the G7 countries, Canada has the highest proportion of foreign-born population (20.6 percent). In some regions that figure can be significantly higher — such as in Toronto where approximately 50 percent of the population is foreign-born, with representation from all 193 countries in the world. While the Canadian refugee program has generated headlines, most of our immigrants are skilled migrants. Canada has visa policies meant to attract the most highly skilled workers from around the globe.

Changes in Canadian policies are facilitating greater ease for talented workers to move to Canada. At the national level, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently unveiled a plan “aimed at making it easier for growing firms and major companies to get access to the highly skilled foreign talent they need that is not available in Canada.” Under the current system the minimum processing time for companies to obtain visas and work permits is six months. Now, however, that process will be exponentially expedited with approvals moved up to within a two-week span. There will also be the creation of a 30-day work permit that can be spread across a year, meaning companies can bring in workers for short stints without the need to apply for new paperwork each time.

This influx of talent has spurred healthy competition among the Canadian provinces to attract new neighbors. For example, the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program seeks to attract migrants seeking to invest in, or start, a business. The program also allows Ontario to nominate individuals who have the skills and experience to contribute to Canada’s economy to become permanent residents.

Beyond the extensive home-grown talent pool, Canada is also home to a diverse population, with a strong history as an inclusive attractor of talent from around the world. Canada is truly the ideal jumping-off point for firms seeking to scale globally. Individuals from every country in the world that speak hundreds of languages call Canada home, and Pearson International Airport in Toronto has more than 1,000 flights daily to destinations on all six continents.

Multiculturalism makes Canada stand out among countries as a source for talent. According to research on How Diversity Can Drive Innovation, diverse countries out-innovate and out-perform others. In fact, the author states, “Employees at these companies are 45 percent likelier to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70 percent likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.”

Building New Industries Together
At all jurisdictional levels, Canada has a strong record of collaboration with the private sector.

Canada was among the first to open its roads for autonomous vehicles. Seen as one of the top emerging technological advancements, autonomous vehicles are a growing industry in Canada, where cities are doing what they can to continue the trajectory. For example, Waterloo, Ontario, is the birthplace of the smartphone and home to Ontario’s first road-tested autonomous vehicle. Stratford, Ontario, has become one of the first fully connected cities, allowing full testing of driverless vehicles and connected car technology.

Another emerging market — artificial intelligence (AI) — is also growing in Canada. Major technology companies like Google, Microsoft, and IBM have all expressed plans to grow their AI research teams in Canada. The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $93 million ($125 million Canadian) to support AI research centers in Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton (public-private collaborations) as part of its new budget. The investment is a continuation of the work Canada has already done to advance research in AI, with the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Toronto already positioned as one of the most respected hubs for AI innovation. AI was, after all, discovered by a Canadian-by-choice, Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, who is now chair of the Vector Institute.

Time to Go North
With a highly educated and diverse population, policies geared toward attracting the best and brightest talent, and a friendly climate to do business, it’s no surprise that Canada’s economy is flourishing. Canada is becoming an increasingly essential equation in firms’ growth plans as they look to enhance talent, scale-up, and be globally competitive.

For technology leaders, the time has come to consider Canada.
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