Canada’s economy will create at least 218,000 tech jobs between now and 2020, but lacks the people to fill them, says a new report from a not-for-profit think tank.
The report from the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC)calls for reforms to Canada’s education and economic policies, including starting computer science education in kindergarten and offering tax credits to small businesses to hire IT people.
Canadian businesses, particularly small and medium sized ones, are falling behind in adopting new technologies, mainly because they can’t find the people they would need to implement the changes, the report says. And that could have negative consequences.
“If Canada does not address the talent and skills gap, it could cost the economy billions of dollars in lost productivity, tax revenues, and gross domestic product,” the report states.
Out of 527,000 students who graduated in Canada in 2015, only 6 per cent — 29,000 — graduated from an IT field, the report found. Canada would have to graduate around 43,000 IT students per year to keep up with job growth.
The lack of interest in tech jobs is despite the fact that the field is growing at a pace that’s four times as fast as overall job growth in Canada.
Job growth in Canada, Feb. 2015 to Jan. 2016. IT jobs grew more than four times as quickly as other jobs. (Chart: ICTC)
The problem isn’t limited to Canada. The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts the country will create some 1.4 million IT jobs by 2020, but schools will barely be able to fill a third of them, the ICTC study says. The European Union will be short 825,000 IT workers by 2020.
But other countries are out ahead of Canada in addressing the issue. U.S. President Barack Obama in January pledged $4 billion to bring computer science classes to the nation’s schools.
In Britain, computer coding classes are now mandatory for all students from the age of five to the end of high school.
“If Canada does not address the talent and skills gap, it could cost the economy billions of dollars in lost productivity, tax revenues, and gross domestic product.”
The ICTC report also urges Canadian governments to “remove barriers to the full participation in the IT field by women, immigrants, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and visible minorities.”
Doing this “will be critical in mitigating the talent shortage,” the report says.
It calls for an increased focus on research and development, and programs to help people transition to jobs in the IT economy.