Canada needs tech talent

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: December 21, 2020

Canada is losing tech talent and as a consequence, Canadian companies are trying to attract foreign talent to move north.

This is according to a report published December 2020, by Innovation Economy Council entitled Magnetic North: How Canada Holds its Own in the Global Race for Innovation Talent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the Canadian economy, affecting three million jobs in the process.

Occupations in the information and technology sector also took a hit when Canada went into lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. However, unlike other occupations, STEM jobs have recovered spectacularly.

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In fact, STEM jobs are even more abundant than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.STEM-related employment across the country was 8.7 per cent higher in October than in February. Examples of these jobs include programmers, engineers and other tech workers.

One possible explanation for why tech jobs in particular were resilient through the pandemic may come down to the industry’s readiness to transition online, allowing employees to work remotely.

Foreign companies are also tapping into the talent available in Canada. Since tech companies are realizing that employees can work from practically anywhere, many are creating opportunities for Canadians. This may explain why tech giants such as Google and Facebook have opened up shop in Canada over the last five years.

Canada continues to build its reputation as a tech hub. For example, the software company Gatik opened up a research hub in Toronto, early last year, to attract the local talent available from Waterloo and the University of Toronto.

“Toronto has been touted as a new Silicon Valley… There’s no better place than Toronto, as far as we’re concerned” says Richard Steiner, head of policy and communications at Gatik.

Canada’s loss is also Canada’s gain

Despite the abundance of jobs in the tech sector, Canada’s brightest minds are looking to move south with the promise of higher salaries in the U.S.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Toronto and Brock University found that a quarter of STEM graduates from top Canadian universities are now working abroad.

Canada is third after India and China in receiving H1-B visas to the U.S. These visas are typically used to hire talented individuals from abroad. The future of the H1-B program, however, is unclear. This is because U.S. president Donald Trump suspended the program earlier in the year, citing the pandemic as the main reason.

Many Canadian tech companies are capitalizing on this by attempting to lure U.S.-based tech workers, who are worried about their immigration status, to come to Canada. An example of this is the Communitech billboard campaign in Silicon Valley, California.

Since many Canadian tech graduates choose to move abroad, Canadian companies are looking for new immigrants to fill job vacancies. Canada has become somewhat of a magnet, attracting tens of thousands of highly skilled foreign workers and STEM students to come to Canada.

Canada has also recently announced that it will welcome upwards of 400,000 new permanent residents every year between 2021 and 2023. This is consistent with the premise that Canada is dependent on new immigrants to help the economy recover.

The Global Talent Stream

The Global Talent Stream (GTS) is a fast-track federal immigration program that helps employers attract and retain highly skilled temporary foreign workers. Under the GTS, employers need to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This is to prove that they have exhausted all possibilities to hire from the local talent pool. This process takes two weeks.

Once this process is over, foreign nationals can then apply to come to Canada through the GTS. Canada processes these applications in just two weeks. This means that it can take just four weeks for a foreign national to come to Canada through this program.

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