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Community Care Access Centre nurse Dennis Facun cares for patient Ernest Ohennesian at his home in Toronto, Ont.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

For human resources practitioner Dennis Fong, the job doesn't get much better than this. While his counterparts in other sectors are holding the line on hires, Mr. Fong has the enviable challenge of recruiting – heavily – for the rapidly expanding home health care sector.

As senior HR director for the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre, Mr. Fong plays a pivotal role in ensuring that his organization has the professional expertise to serve the complex needs of clients who are discharged from hospital "sicker and quicker" than used to be the case. He employs "rapid response nurses" to make house calls if medical issues arise, along with a host of other support workers to allow clients to remain in their residences.

In Ontario and elsewhere, home and community-based care is "the fastest-growing component in the health care system" as government funding priorities shift, Mr. Fong said in an interview.

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Agencies such as Ontario's Community Care Access Centres – at the forefront of this transition – are working flat-out to meet the demand. In one recent week alone, the CCAC home page listed 18 current career opportunities – not just for registered nurses and other medical professionals, but for IT specialists, a senior financial analyst, a risk management specialist, and social workers.

Despite the gloomy 12-month employment outlook recently released by the Bank of Canada, in which it said hiring intentions are weaker for most sectors in most regions, there are bright spots, and prospects for people open to exploring industries they might not have previously considered, industry analysts and career experts say.

"It's easy to typecast the types of people that work in different sectors, but it's important to remember that there are all kinds of different occupations in any particular industry," Michael Burt, director of industrial economic trends at the Conference Board of Canada, said in an interview.

Health care, as evidenced by the variety of skill requirements sought in the CCAC postings, is a case in point. Wholesale trade, a strong and growing industry that Mr. Burt said "tends to fly under the radar," employs more than 600,000 Canadians in a wide gamut of roles – material handlers, buyers, sales representatives, account managers, logistics co-ordinators and business analysts, to name just a few.

"Believe it or not, we have continued to see fairly healthy growth in things like retail, food services, accommodations," – sectors that offer good prospects for managers and marketing specialists in addition to the more obvious front-line roles, Mr. Burt said. There are also pockets of resurgence in manufacturing, with producers poised to take advantage of the lower Canadian dollar and strengthening U.S. economy – "wood products would be an example of that."

All of these sectors require professional services such as accounting, finance and information technology, regardless of what goods or services they are producing, Mr. Burt said.

Toronto-based Eluta.ca reports that the three specialties most in demand on its national online job board are in computing software, sales and nursing (with an emphasis on home health and community care.) There is high demand, as well, "within the trades/technicians, hospitality and manufacturing fields," said Kristen Chow, operations manager at Eluta.

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"We have noticed an increased number of startup companies whose main focus is in the area of software development and expanding their clientele through larger sales efforts," Ms. Chow said. Bigger companies, afraid of being overtaken by these upstart competitors, are also redoubling their development and sales capacity.

Shari Angle, vice-president of special projects for the recruitment firm Adecco, said the market is particularly hot for certain manufacturing and warehouse jobs in Ontario – "particularly for experienced, certified forklift operators, that's something we can't get enough of."

Finance and accounting skills continue to be in high demand, and employers are, increasingly, looking to recruit bilingual candidates across a wide spectrum of occupations, Ms. Angle said. "Stay in French immersion. That comes up a lot."

And there is an emerging demand for engineers with expertise in the medical equipment field, she said.

Still, as the Bank of Canada noted in its 2015 spring business outlook survey, "firms report that, over all, labour shortages are less intense than they were 12 months ago."

For job seekers, this means tougher competition for the available openings, Alan Kearns, head coach of Ottawa-based career counselling firm CareerJoy, said in an interview.

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"Postings have never been more easily accessible," but harder to land because hundreds of others are potentially chasing the same job prospect, Mr. Kearns said.

The most successful candidates in any field uncover unadvertised opportunities through their professional networks, but they also attract offers by showcasing their accomplishments through social media and other venues.

"Often people say it's who you know," Mr. Kearns said. "But it's not just who you know, it's who knows you. There are all these new rules for the way you manage your career and the way you pursue opportunities."

Interestingly, Ms. Angle has discovered a related trend: increasingly, candidates for executive support positions are expected to have social media skills.

"Company executives are now turning to their assistants to help them gain more visibility for both their personal brand, but also their company profile, through social media," she said.

ON THE JOB

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Dennis Facun, who was hired as a rapid response nurse by the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre about a year ago, talks about the job he says he loves.

"I help patients transition from hospital back to their home, because right after leaving hospital is a fragile time, and they really need extra care to ensure that they don't wind up back in hospital. I provide health teaching, review their medications, explain them all, connect with their family doctor, assess their overall health needs. I link them to resources that can help them get better, live better and stay safe at home.

"I look at the whole person, not just what landed them in emergency. My job is to educate them, care for them and coach them on all the things they can do, and help them find the people and places they can get support. I set my patients up for success … they are not alone. Going in and out of hospital isn't good for patients. Keeping them well cared for at home is a much better option for everyone.

"I really like this type of nursing. I find it really satisfying to see the results of the work and my efforts when I know patients are safer, better connected and happier because I was there to help them. I prefer working with patients in their home and in the community versus a clinical setting. Being in someone's home is very personal and it's a privilege to be there. I get to know my patients much more and I can really make a difference in helping them meet their goals. It's very satisfying to be part of their recovery so intimately.

"There is a real need for this role … it is critical in helping patients stay at home and preventing hospitalization."

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