The Innovation Economy Council has released a new report titled MAGNETIC NORTH: How Canada Holds Its Own In The Global Race For Innovation Talent.
The report covers a variety of topics including the COVID talent landscape, the remote work trend, and Silicon Valley setting up shop in Canada.
The COVID talent landscape
The pandemic and its aftershocks wiped out about three million jobs in Canada. Many of those have returned, but not all; there were 270,750 fewer jobs in October than there were in February. Our economic landscape remains deeply scarred.
A silver lining in this grim outlook is the remarkable resilience of the knowledge economy. Jobs for STEM workers — engineers, programmers, scientists and the like — are even more plentiful now than they were before the pandemic. Like most other occupations, they took a hit when the economy went into lockdown. But by October, all of those lost jobs had come back, and then some.
Employment in STEM occupations was 8.7 percentage points higher in October than it was in February, a net gain of 98,500 jobs. STEM-related employment has also bounced back for workers such as lab technicians and nurses. Employment rose 1.7 percentage points in that sector between February and October, a gain of 61,750 jobs.
Remote Work Is Reshaping Tech
The pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already taking root in the tech industry, namely the shift to distributed workforces. Large and small companies alike now realize that workers can be productive from virtually anywhere with a good internet connection. That could be home, another city, even another country. Companies also know they might be able to pay people less in lower-cost locations.
The impetus to spread their workforces around is perhaps greatest for companies in high-cost locations, such as Silicon Valley, Seattle and New York. These cities have traditionally been magnets for tech talent from around the world, including Canada, but the salaries and office space add up.
Many large tech companies now acknowledge that many employees may never return to the office, even after the pandemic. At Google, for example, most employees will be working from home until at least summer 2021. Many other companies, such as Twitter and Slack, are letting employees work from home permanently.
Meanwhile, the appeal of the United States isn’t what it was. The high cost of living, congestion, political division, tighter immigration rules, even environmental factors such as wildfires are all conspiring to make that country less attractive to young tech workers.
Foreign companies are tapping Canadian talent
Tech companies have learned that it’s no longer essential to bring people to them. They can just as easily set up shop where the talent is, virtually anywhere in the world. That’s created new opportunities for Canadian cities with good universities and existing clusters of technology companies, including the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver.
If their employees can work from nearly anywhere, why not Canada? That’s part of the reason why tech colossuses Google, Facebook and Amazon have all opened large offices in Canada in the past five years.
But it’s not just the tech behemoths that have discovered the Canadian advantage. Foreign startups are also coming here, eager to hire people with valuable skills in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.