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Andrew Eppich is the managing director for Equinix Canada, the world’s digital infrastructure company.

This year has been a tumultuous year for workers across the broader technology sector, with some of the largest companies, including Google and Shopify, laying off thousands of employees in Canada and around the world. Despite the mounting layoffs, skilled workers are still hard to find as businesses continue to struggle to close the talent gap.

In Canada, the majority of organizations (70 per cent) continue to see this shortage in skilled workers as a major barrier for success, according to Equinix’s Global Tech Trends Survey. Businesses are struggling to find and retain skilled talent with cloud computing specialists (41 per cent), those with an artificial intelligence/machine learning background (27 per cent), and security architects (25 per cent) being the most in-demand tech employees. Other skills shortages include IT technicians (24 per cent), data analysis (24 per cent), data protection (24 per cent), and security analysts (24 per cent).

Furthermore, a recent release from hiring and job-searching platform Indeed, revealed that 13 of the 20 best jobs in Canada for 2023 are tech-related roles. It’s clear that workers with specialized technical skillsets remain highly sought-after despite layoffs across the industry.

Is Canada’s talent pool drying up? The short answer is no. So what’s driving this increase demand?

The pandemic forced businesses across Canada and globally to digitally transform their operations and as a result, businesses across all industries are now competing for the same skillsets that make the digital-first economy possible.

Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary are recognized as major centres of innovation with some of the highest concentration of tech jobs in North America. Toronto moved up to third in commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE’s new Scoring Tech Talent report rankings of tech centres in North America.

The report noted that Toronto achieved the most tech employment growth between 2016 and 2021 of the 50 North American markets covered, with 88,900 jobs added, trailing only Silicon Valley and Seattle as the leading technology hub in North America. Additionally, Toronto and Montreal are home to three of the most reputable universities for AI research and computer engineering: University of Toronto, McGill University and University of Waterloo.

Canada produces some of the best tech talent in the world, but businesses often require highly specialized skillsets and still struggle to find the perfect candidate. So, how can businesses address their current needs in an increasingly competitive talent market? Upskilling and reskilling programs may be the answer.

Investing in reskilling programs to address the talent shortage for key specialists can help alleviate immediate pressures by opening the door to a wider pool of talent. The GTTS report notes that more than half (56 per cent) of Canadian respondents are reskilling workers from similar industries, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) exploring candidates from unrelated sectors.

Reskilled workers can help businesses bridge the tech skills gaps by focusing on the transferable soft skills and previous experiences. Problem-solving under pressure and critical thinking are valuable and can be supplemented with training to further enhance hard skills.

Empowering current workers

Reskilling programs can not only open the door to a wider pool of new candidates, but it can also be a valuable tool for a company’s current workforce. Upskilling and reskilling existing employees can help fill specialized talent gaps more efficiently by equipping employees with the skills to take on new roles and responsibilities to meet the company’s needs.

An added benefit of empowering current employees to develop new skills is they feel more valued and see it as an opportunity to have greater control over their professional development. As a result, employees are more likely to stay with and recommend the company to others. According to the Infosys Future of Work 2023 report, 43 per cent of senior executives and managers involved in workplace and workforce planning for large companies say reskilling has improved employee retention. Upskilling and reskilling programs offer tangible advantages to employees as well as allow businesses to adapt more quickly to an ever-shifting landscape.

Eliminating skills gaps is a never-ending process and the battle for talent is only becoming fiercer. Developing new skillsets in existing workers and exploring adjacent industries can help businesses address the current needs, while improving employee retention.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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