There is currently tremendous demand in Canada for talent in the information technology sector (commonly referred to as ICT, for “Information and Communications Technology”). There is no question that employers are keen to hire qualified newcomers. Immigrants already represent over 40% of the ICT workforce in Canada. However, while job opportunities are plentiful, newcomers may have some difficulty finding work, due to language proficiency or unfamiliarity with Canada’s workplace culture. Fortunately, there are many programs, training opportunities, job services, and job fairs that can help qualified newcomers find employment in this industry.
Types of employers
Types of employers within the ICT sector include:
- Software and app developers;
- Software service providers;
- Hardware manufacturers;
- Communications service providers;
- In-house ICT departments (private and public users of all kinds); and
- Consulting firms.
Types of jobs
The types of jobs available in the ICT sector are highly varied. They include:
- Computer coding and programming;
- Interactive media development;
- Web development;
- Network administration;
- Project management;
- Analytics and data;
- Health information technician;
- Software engineering and design;
- Information systems analysis; and
Compensation is highly variable within the ICT sector. Different types of jobs, which may require different levels of education, training, skills, and/or experience, will have different rates of pay. Additionally, companies that hire ICT professionals vary widely from small startups to international corporations, government and education.
While it is difficult to generalize about compensation across the industry, the FAST website reports that ICT professionals earn on average over $73,800 a year. To attract talent, many technology providers offer equity in the form of share options, along with attractive benefit packages. In major technology centres, high demand is pushing compensation even higher.
As reported in Canadian Newcomer Magazine, Help for internationally-trained IT professionals (Sept. 14/17), the basic qualifications for most ICT jobs in Canada include:
- A bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, or a related discipline; or completion of a college program in computer science; and
- For some management or engineering positions, a master’s degree or doctorate.
There is no government certification required to work in the ICT sector, nor is there any regulatory and licensing body such as the College of Trades or organizations that oversee professions such as medicine, engineering, and law.
However, for some positions, employers may require job applicants to have already been certified by a software vendor (such as Microsoft or Oracle.) Such requirements vary from employer to employer. Canadian Newcomer Magazine lists the following positions as those that are most likely to require such certification:
- Informatics/ IT/System consultant;
- Computer Systems/Business/Security/MIS/QA Analyst;
- Systems Auditor;
- Database Administrator (DBA);
- Database Analyst/Architect; and
- Computer Engineer/Technician (Hardware).
Need for English language proficiency
In order to find employment in the ICT sector, the Government of Ontario recommends a minimum of CLB 7 English. However, many employers will accommodate those with lower English language proficiency, if a newcomer’s technical expertise is what they really need.
There are various occupation-specific language programs available. In our Programs database on this website, filter for “ELT” or “OSLT” under the “Type” heading and for “Information technology” under “Sector.” Be aware that there is a minimum CLB level required to enter each of these programs and that the “Newcomer’s CLB Level” filter can help identify appropriate options.
In the GTA, for example, the Toronto District School Board, COSTI, Skills for Change, and WoodGreen Community Services offer ELT programs for ICT professionals already at the CLB 5 or 6 level. Humber College and Sheridan College offer OSLT programs at the CLB 6 level.
Newcomers who have high levels of English language proficiency and who are trained and experienced in the ICT field, may find programs that focus on employability and hiring to be helpful. These programs offer assistance in job seeking and orientation to the Canadian workplace culture, while also providing introductions to ICT employers. ACCES Employment, Ryerson University, and Humber College are among those that offer such programs, with a minimum English language entry requirement of CLB 7 or 8. See our Programs database for more information, selecting “Bridging” under the “Type” filter.
Assuming that a newcomer has a sufficient level of English proficiency and ICT skills, job opportunities may be found through the extended networks of private sponsors or through networks of newcomers themselves. There is such demand for ICT professionals, that word-of-mouth and personal connections have become major sources of recruitment.
There are also many regular tech meet-ups in the large urban centres, where newcomers can meet other ICT professionals, often during evening hours, and learn about specific opportunities or recommended approaches. One might simply google for “tech meet-ups” or “tech events,” for example, to find upcoming events.
Attending a job fair that is focused on information technology may also be worthwhile. JVS Toronto, for example, has recruitment events specific to the ICT industry.
Early stage technology companies
Associated with the development of these early-stage tech company clusters has been the formation of innovation centres and hubs, which often organize events that newcomers can attend and which may be able to identify employers seeking talent. In Toronto, for example, the biggest such centre is MaRS. In Peel Region, it is the RIC Centre.
One organization that has been focusing on employment opportunities for refugee newcomers in ICT is Jumpstart (formerly known as RCJP.) Its “Hack Your Future” program is still in its early stages. However, even if there isn’t an opening for a particular newcomer or if the timing isn’t right, they may be able to offer many good contacts and suggestions. Jumpstart also offers its Welcome Talent Canada program, which can be very helpful for job hunting and career development in ICT. This program trains newcomers to leverage LinkedIn’s resources to find employment, grow their network, develop new skills, create a strong professional identity, and research the Canadian job market. It also provides mentorship through a matched LinkedIn member, who will help them with their entry into the Canadian job market.
NPower Canada offers a Junior IT Analyst Program for youth (to age 29). The program provides free training that focuses on the basic tech competencies needed for entry-level ICT employment. The program includes paid internships, job placement, and post-hire support. While not exclusively for newcomers, they are very much encouraged, as the program targets youth experiencing barriers to pursuing post-secondary education and securing sustainable employment.
Employment services may be another source of good job opportunities for newcomers in the ICT sector. In Toronto, JVS, ACCES Employment, and Skills for Change are among those offering programs in this area. See our Programs database for a list of upcoming scheduled and ongoing programs for “Information technology.”
Some recruitment firms specialize in the ICT sector. These can be found through a Google search for each local area.
Opportunities to learn English
In general, jobs in the ICT sector are office jobs that provide ample opportunity for interaction with fellow employees. That interaction, in turn, provides built-in opportunities for newcomer employees to improve their English language skills.
Helping refugees immigrate to Canada as skilled workers
Some sponsors may be seeking to help a family member of already-settled, refugee newcomers also come to Canada. If such a family member has IT expertise, consider an alternate admission route. Even if this person might be officially certified as a refugee, immigrating as a highly skilled worker may be much quicker.
Consider, for example, the program of the American non-profit, Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB). Although this is a U.S.-based organization, it is helping skilled refugees come to Canada, as well as to Australia, and soon perhaps, the UK (but, ironically, not yet the USA, given the current political environment.) The program’s objective is to have refugees admitted as skilled workers in the “economic immigration” category, rather than under the much smaller, “refugee” classification.
TBB views economic immigration as an additional solution to refugee resettlement. It believes that opening this economic pathway for eligible refugees would serve to increase the mobility options available to refugees worldwide. As of Fall, 2018, the program is just getting off the ground, with the first newcomers expected to arrive shortly. See Pilot Project Aims to Bring Refugees to Canada as Skilled Workers (Toronto Star Oct/18.) The main advantage of going this route is speed.
In the pilot stage, TBB and its government partners are trying to identify and overcome roadblocks that refugees would normally face in applying as economic immigrants, including, for example, expired passports and non-access to credentials.