As fast as technology stocks evaporated, so did many jobs when
dot-coms fell by the wayside ...
By Derek Sankey
Featured In THE CALGARY HERALD
December 29, 2001
As fast as technology stocks evaporated, so did many jobs when dot-coms fell by
the wayside months ago.
Now that trend appears to be turning around as the tech sector makes a slow recovery
and brings a new wave of demand for specialized workers.
A survey of 130 tech firms across Canada by The
Wynford Group shows companies have some lofty expectations for 2002 despite
the uncertainty of today’s economy.
The Information and Advanced Technology
(IAT) Survey found 40 per cent of tech companies expect growth in 2002,
while 87 per cent are increasing salaries and 35 per cent hiring new workers.
“There is a problem finding very specialized or high-level skills,” says Wynford.
While general technology workers are not in heavy demand, it is the specialized
workers in areas such as data warehousing and security that are being sought out.
So-called “defence-based communications” technology is another area where Evans
says workers will be sought after in the New Year as companies like Computing Devices
Canada work to fulfill recent contracts.
Other top emerging technical skills include Linux system operators and Multimedia
workers, as reported in the IAT survey at the Palliser Hotel in Calgary during the
recent Economic and Compensation Update 2001.
“It’s almost like the rationalizing that took place in the oil and gas sector .
. . where they have focused more on their core talents,” says Evans.
Ron Caputo of management consulting firm Towers Perrin says the tech sector is also
following in the footsteps of the oilpatch when it comes to incentives such as stock
“It’s ironic because the oilpatch is saying that we went too far (with giving out
stock options) and now all the other industries are still trying to catch up to
the point of the oil industry in regard to stock options,” says Caputo.
Continuing on last year’s trends, tech firms are also using other incentives to
lure talent such as student loan subsidies, recreation facilities, and retention
Adds Evans on the tech sector recovery: “We’ve seen a lot of mergers, divestitures
. . . and streamlining of organizations. I think it’s stabilizing and my expectation
is that we’ll see more growth in 2002.”
That’s good news for tech workers who, like many employees, have been facing uncertain
More than 80 per cent of companies that took part in the IAT survey stated they
would increase or maintain their training budgets.
One area that may burden Calgary’s technology recovery is the city’s concentration
of wireless technology firms. With large amounts of people already laid off by companies
such as Nortel, job seekers in that market will continue to have a more difficult
search ahead of them.
A recent economic forecast by TD Bank reinforced the reality of a slow recovery,
stating it could take until late next year before workers in all fields will be
at a premium.
It hasn’t been easy for the industry to get to the brink of recovery, though.
Sue Kallis of DMR Consulting, a national IT consulting firm, says the growth “hit
hard” when the company’s Calgary office went from a staff of 90 to more than 600.
“We’re effectively re-organizing to meet (our goals) and become bigger and better,”
says Kallis. “We started re-grouping and taking a look at what . . . was value-added
and what wasn’t.”
However, demand for workers isn’t even close to the days of skyrocketing technology
stocks, according to Mark Roberts, a financial executive in Calgary’s tech sector.
“You suddenly had a big glut (of workers) on the market” after the economy took
a dive, says Roberts.
The biggest obstacle to hiring new workers and growing tech companies will continue
to be the ability to raise capital, he says.
While the cash crisis appears to be over for many companies, “ I don’t think it’s
all behind us yet,” says Roberts.