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 IT/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, but in the current competitive environment, this may now be understated. 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.
A Dec./18 news report, Hot Jobs: The $100K entry-level job you can get here in Canada (Global News). examines ICT compensation. Also, Stafflink, a staffing company specializing in the IT sector, provides this overview for IT programmers looking for a job: Cashing in: Top IT salaries in Canada.
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.
Bridging, training, and employment programs
Newcomers who already have high levels of English language proficiency (CLB 7 or 8, but in some cases as low as CLB 5) and who have international training and experience in the ICT field, may find bridging 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.
For those needing to improve their IT-related, English language proficiency, there are ELT and OSLT programs offered, for which only CLB 6 may be required.
Some organizations, such as Jumpstart and NPower Canada, provide free training that focuses on the basic tech competencies needed for entry-level ICT employment. Jumpstart’s “Hack Your Future Canada” program (requiring CLB 5) is specifically for refugee newcomers, while NPower Canada offers free technical and professional training, paid internships, job placement, and post-hire support(requiring CLB 7) to youth, including newcomers, who are experiencing barriers to pursuing post-secondary education and securing sustainable employment.
See our Programs database for up-to-date information, selecting “IT (Information technology)” under the “Sector” filter.
Organizations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), offering bridging, training, and employment programs in IT, include:
- ACCES Employment
- George Brown College
- Humber College
- Information and Communications Technology Council
- Jumpstart (formerly RCJP)
- JVS Toronto
- NPower Canada
- Ryerson University
- Seneca College
- Sheridan College
- Skills for Change
- Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
- Woodgreen Community Services
- York University
Programs an offer may include:
- .NET Bridging Program
- Bridging Programs for Internationally Trained Individuals – IT
- Coach Connect Program
- Cybersecurity Connections
- Digital Customer Care Program
- ELT for Engineers/IT/Architects/Construction Trades
- ELT for Internationally Experienced Professionals – Information Technology
- Empowering Women
- Hack Your Future Canada
- Health Informatics Training Program
- Information Technology Connections
- Information Technology ELT
- IT Infrastructure Bridging Program
- Junior IT Analyst Program
- Leadership Connections
- Middle-level Managers (MLM) with Technical Background Bridging Program
- Online Canadian Workplace Communication Training for Internationally Educated Professionals in Information Technology ELT
- OSLT – Technology
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.
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.
Attending a job fair that is focused on information technology may also be worthwhile. JVS Toronto, for example, has run recruitment events specific to the ICT industry.
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.
In the Spring of 2019, a Kitchener, Ontario company became the first to hire a software developer through TBB. Mohammed Hakmi, who had fled the war in Syria, came to Canada, not as a convention refugee, but under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program to work for Bonfire Interactive as a skilled immigrant in a high demand occupation.
- A young Nigerian newcomer explains what it took to complete her coding studies and be hired at CIBC. (YouTube, Jun. 14/19)
- ‘Canada is a dreamland’: Syrian refugee thrilled to start job at Kitchener high-tech firm (Toronto Star Mar 23/19.)
- Kitchener startup first in world to hire refugee under new program (The Record Dec 17/18.)
- Vancouver’s Lighthouse Labs helps female refugees and immigrants find careers as coders The Georgia (Straight Nov 21/18.)
- Tech Jobs for Refugees: Assessing the Potential of Coding Schools for Refugee Integration in Germany (Migration Policy Institute Europe Oct 1/18.)
- Tech Jam: How a Syrian Developer Found Happiness – and a Job – in Waterloo Region (CommuniTech News Jan. 25/17.)
- How we taught dozens of refugees to code, then helped them get developer jobs (freeCodeCamp May 16/17.)