Edmonton surges in CBRE Canadian tech talent report


Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Waterloo Region, and Montréal continue to rank as the top tech talent markets in Canada in CBRE”s recent CBRE‘s new Canada Scoring Tech Talent 2019 report. Smaller and medium-sized markets like Edmonton and Victoria experienced score boosts, allowing them to move up in the rankings due to their talent offerings.

A notable number of tech degrees are also earned in Halifax and Edmonton, where each produces over 1,000 tech degrees annually.

The CBRE report looks at 20 of Canada’s cities to generate a rubric that ranks tech talent markets, based on their depth, vitality, and attractiveness to tech employers and potential workers. Although the markets that ranked in the top five have not changed since last year’s CBRE report, their order did. Helped by boosts across nearly all 13 metrics, Vancouver and Waterloo Region each increased by one spot, placing third and fourth, respectively, shifting Montréal to fifth, which received an almost equal score to 2018. Toronto and Ottawa took the first and second spots.

Noteworthy in this year’s report was Edmonton’s overall score, which improved by over 10 points, making it the leading score increase of any market. The Alberta capital snagged the 10th spot overall. Top performing drivers for Edmonton included tech quality to cost, tech pool labour size, and quality of labour, which received an A. While Edmonton rose, fellow Alberta city Calgary maintained its position in sixth place.

Edmonton’s recent surge could be in part attributed to institutions like the University of Alberta, as well as the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), but up-and-coming startups are also starting to put the city on the map, like Jobber and Showbie, both of which were included in the city’s top deals of the year. Edmonton’s strength in artificial intelligence R&D has also helped to sustain the emerging sector.

Despite this growth, Alberta’s tech sector has experienced what stakeholders are calling setbacks thanks to the recent provincial budget. The budget cut the Alberta Investor Tax Credit and significantly reduced funding to the AI sector and Alberta Innovates, causing the latter to recently lay off 125 employees.

RELATED: Alberta tech leaders express concern over “short-sighted” provincial budget

The CBRE report’s top five Canadian tech talent cities were the markets that produced the highest number of tech graduates. Montréal has three of the top 10 university computer science programs, as ranked by Maclean’s, and produces the highest volume of tech graduates.

The Waterloo Region, Vancouver, and Toronto rank the highest in terms of the quality of tech talent within each market. Victoria and Oshawa saw the largest increase in their scoring for quality of tech talent, according to the report, moving up by three and two spots, respectively. Outside of these top five ranked cities for quality of tech talent, a notable number of tech degrees are also earned in Halifax and Edmonton, where each produces over 1,000 tech degrees annually.

“The competition to attract and retain talent has intensified.”

“Each type of market has [its] own advantages – while large markets tend to have a deeper pool of talent, mid and small-sized markets typically offer operating cost savings, lower levels of competition, and high quality of life,” the report said.

The volume of VC funding in Canada has continued to rise each year and surged in the year-to-date to $4.7 billion, beating last year’s total of $3.7 billion by a long shot. Toronto and Montréal comprise the lion’s share of the VC funding both in terms of capital and the number of deals, with $2.2 billion and $1.37 billion invested, respectively. Vancouver comes in third, but is less than half of that of Montréal, at $558 million. More on this year in VC funding in 2019 can be found in the Canadian Venture Capital Association’s report, released this month.

“Venture capital is a crucial element for the development of homegrown tech firms. The funding allows companies to scale before becoming self-sufficient while supporting tech infrastructure and R&D,” the report said. “The availability of VC also funding boosts the potential for a city’s tech market to support the creation of a cluster.”

The tech labour pool in Canada comprises 832,900 workers nationwide, with Toronto coming in as the largest single market by a sizable scope, home to over 25 percent of the Canadian tech workforce.

RELATED: Toronto one of top three North American markets for tech talent

The labour shortage in tech has only deepened since last year’s report, and CBRE said it has historically been easier for tech companies in large cities to meet their talent requirements than it is today. A February report from Hays supports these conclusions, which noted that this ongoing skills shortage is negatively affecting productivity.

“Tech talent job creation has outpaced overall growth for qualified professionals in recent years, leading to rising labour costs and a shortage of available labour,” CBRE’s report said. “The competition to attract and retain talent has intensified.”

Image courtesy iqremix via Flickr (licence)

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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