Canadian tech CEOs see shortage in talent; university education an issue?

empty chair shortage of talent tech technology canadaWhile most companies have shown they’re willingness to keep good talent, the biggest challenge for CEOs is finding people that will match up with their company’s needs. The shortfall for most candidates — many of whom are recent graduates — is a lack of experience.

Professional services firm, PwC, recently released a report on Canadian emerging technologies industries from the CEO perspective. According to the study, CEOs (44%) listed finding new talent and management team members as their biggest talent management issue. This is the first time since the report began in 2004 that recuiting became an issue.

Last year, the biggest concern among CEOs (40%) was developing the skills and training for their staff. This year, only 8% felt this was an issue. 

Peter Matutat, National Emerging Company Practice Leader at PwC, sees education as a problem in training proper candidates for jobs that CEOs need them for: 

It is interesting to hear that IT entrepreneurs are challenged with finding qualified people… At the heart of the issue may be that IT grads are coming out of school with a skill set that isn’t quite what employers are looking for…

The nature of emerging technology companies means they aren’t just seeking people with the technical know-how, but employees who are more well-rounded… Start-up companies also highly value softer skills like creativity, an entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen.”

While technical expertise is a valuable commodity for potential employees, there are still a lot of workplace skills that aren’t learned in the classroom. As universities struggle to adapt to the demands of employers, we should see an increasing amount of work experience and co-op programs emerge.

Tobi Day-Hamilton, director of advancement at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus, says that universities need to change their approach to education so that grads can be equipped with the skills that technology companies look for.

According to Day-Hamilton,

“We’re seeing a skills gap in what grads learn in post-secondary and what companies are now requesting in employees. In recent years, we found students were specializing in one area of technology, which meant grads were lacking general business and creativity skills. Increasingly, these are attributes that are becoming must-haves for many employers.”

Day-Hamilton also stresses the importance of co-op education throughout the university experience. “Employers want new hires to come in and hit the ground running, which is difficult to do if you don’t have the practical experience,” she says. “The more experience you can get before graduating, the better.”

For candidates who have the right skills to offer, companies appear to be holding onto their talent. 81% of CEOs reported less than 10% turnover and close to 70% with less than 5% turnover. Higher compensation and new challenging opportunities (both 21%) were the main reasons for voluntary turnover. And involuntary staff turnover was mostly attributed to poor performance (32%) rather than cost containment (11%), and 35% of respondents indicated they had no involuntary turnover at all.