View of Rogers Centre, Toronto

Wanted: Talent to Keep Driving Toronto’s Fast Growing Tech Engine

We’re facing a double-edged sword up here in the north as our tech sector continues its explosive growth. The growth, in and of itself, is hugely positive. But, we must be able to continue to provide a ready supply of qualified talent to drive the engine. And the competition is increasingly fierce.

Toronto holds considerable allure as the hub of Canada’s knowledge economy, and it seems as though we’re seeing almost weekly announcements from major names on new and exciting developments that affirm our standing.

Earlier this year, for example, the prestigious startup accelerator Techstars announced a program in Toronto, which it’s funding with Montreal’s Real Ventures fund. Citing our “incredible ecosystem,” the Boulder, Colorado-based Techstars said it anticipates advancing the Toronto- Waterloo tech startup corridor up to the next level.

Techstars is looking at filling a gap and enriching the ecosystem by launching a more intensive, three-month classic accelerator program – which Toronto currently doesn’t have. All that’s needed is smart people with the ideas and savvy it takes to create great things.

No problem.

Toronto’s known for its exceptional tech talent. And we’ve shown to have the environment to keep the ranks filled. Since 2012, our region’s expanded our tech jobs to 400,000 at a pace that’s twice what the rest of Canada’s experienced. And by 2020, another 20,000 jobs are expected to be added.

But, we’re not the only ones that are growing. It’s a hot market all over, and opportunity beckons, particularly given developments south of the border.

As the welcome mat to foreigners gets pushed behind the door in the U.S. under the new Trump administration, it opens opportunity for investment and people in Canada. Demand for tech jobs is growing four times faster than our economy, and active recruiting is underway everywhere.

The rallying cry?

“Expat Canadian techies, come home!”

Invest Ottawa’s Work in Ottawa recently launched such a campaign, seeking to entice talent for openings in a wide range of areas, from software development to Internet of Things to artificial intelligence. Toronto’s aggressively recruiting, too, along with Halifax, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Waterloo.

Expat Canadians currently making their homes in California, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Florida are being specifically targeted, and it makes sense. They already know the cultural landscape in the north. What they may not know is how the rich the tech ecosystem has become – and how the livability quotient also adds appeal to the move.

Even as we’re actively recruiting, though, many tech companies are seeing a surge in applications from U.S. based applicants – up to as high as 15 percent of the total. While once it was hard to compete with big salaries U.S. companies offered, the political climate combined with cost of living issues in tech centers like San Francisco, have made Canada more competitive.

Toronto, specifically, and Canada generally, have a great story to share and successes to bolster our case as a contender for global tech leadership. The challenge will be staying creative as we battle for the talent to keep this engine moving.