Canada is a major player in the global IT industry. There is well-developed educational and research infrastructure that promotes innovation. R&D centers, commercialization and manufacturing are concentrated in high-tech clusters in major cities of Canada. The common features of these clusters are federal and provincial initiatives and grants, powerful research programs, collaboration with academic institutions and incubator resources for small high-tech startups. Such an innovative environment is particularly attractive to foreign investors who want to enter the market, become key players and minimize their training costs. Prosperous high-tech clusters also attract world-class talent from abroad.
Continued decline in the world oil prices is gradually shifting the balance of economic power in Canada from oil and mining to high-tech sectors of the economy. Thanks to the “soft” rate of the Canadian dollar, high-tech companies interested in economy and political stability started moving to Canada from the United States. The flagship in this process is undoubtedly the province of Ontario.
In fact, the Greater Toronto Area (Toronto with 25 smaller neighboring municipalities) is considered to be the country’s main high-tech hub rated next to the Silicon Valley of California, Boston, Seattle and Washington in the United States.
Thus, in January 2016, Google opened new ultramodern headquarters in the suburbs of Toronto – Kitchener, and Cisco Systems recently opened its new Innovation Center in Toronto. Blackberry also has its headquarters in GTA. In November last year, Microsoft announced its intention to open new headquarters in downtown Toronto and invest more than $ 570 million over the next three years. This is apart from the IBM, DELL, OpenText, Amazon, AMD, CityBank, TD, RBC, Accenture, CIBC and other offices, plus hundreds of high-tech startups lumped around Toronto.
IT industry clusters in Canada are concentrated in Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto and Kitchener Waterloo in the East, as well as in Calgary and Vancouver in the West. The Toronto Waterloo Corridor is the second-largest IT cluster in North America (after California).
The sector’s rapid development generates certain competition among individual regional centers. For example, Montreal is currently ready to host IT professionals even by granting a permanent resident status. The only additional requirement here is the knowledge of French.
Canada’s IT sector is significantly different from that of Ukraine. Here, for example, there are many old men and women who still remember punch cards and floppy disks and can talk for hours about PL/I and Ada programming features that were used back in the 1990s. However, they are also well familiar with modern technologies and systems. Local experts are professional virtuosos in their narrow sphere, while Ukrainian specialists are do-it-all workers that see everything in a different way.
Also, the Canadian IT sector has a large proportion of women – about 63.4% according to official statistics. Most Canadian employers understand that the more diverse is labor force, the more innovative the company is and the better is its performance.
Diversity is a company’s large competitive advantage on the market and a guarantee of its successful development and welfare of its workers. The number of young people who work in the IT sector in Canada is only 6% (aged 15-24), while the share of people over 55 years is 13%! That is, Canadian employers are quite conservative and prefer more experienced employees.
The rapidly growing demand for technology specialists absorbs all talent in the country and is also fueled by immigration. In general, immigration in Canada is an integral part of strategic economic development, especially immigration through education, as this is the way to attract the most talented and promising specialists. According to some experts, approximately 216,000 new jobs will be created in the sector by the year 2021. Due to immigration and involvement of students from Canadian universities, the country will be able to meet only 30% of these needs. Thus, the conclusion is obvious: Canadian companies will look for opportunities to attract foreign professionals, companies and outsourcing. And this is a great chance for Ukraine!
Is Ukraine attractive for IT outsourcing from the point of view of Canadian companies? No doubt, it is! These are just a few arguments. First of all, Ukraine offers a good value for money. In Ukraine, labor costs are relatively low.
For example, Canadian ICT sector employees earn $ 80,074 per year on average, while the wages in the IT industry in Ukraine are about 20,000 – 30,000 dollars per year. In our country, IT sector is developing extremely fast. This means that companies can offer their customers competitive prices along with the highest quality.
For instance, the respectable international ranking of Global Innovation Index has included Ukraine in the top 50 countries in the IT field in 2017 putting it ahead of such popular IT outsourcing countries as India, Philippines and Brazil.
Another advantage of Ukraine is its startups. According to AngelList statistics, there are now 1,600 Ukrainian technology startups with an average value of $ 2.5 million and nearly 3,000 investors. With regard to Canada, these figures are more modest – 600 startups with an average value of $ 5.2 million and slightly more than 500 investors. Not only investors but also industry giants believe in startups of Ukrainian origin. For example, Amazon recently bought a startup called Ring with an R&D office in Ukraine. Another example is the startup called Looksery, which was founded in Ukraine and acquired by Snapchat. In addition, such well-known companies as Grammarly, Petcube, People.ai and CleanMyMac have also emerged in Ukraine and are used by clients from around the world.
Ukraine has a large number of highly qualified professionals, most of them are fluent in English. Today, our country ranks fourth in the world among the countries with the largest number of technical workers. In Ukraine, there are more than 90 thousand IT specialists, of which 50 thousand are software developers.
In addition, Ukrainian universities annually produce more than 38 thousand technical specialists. In general, 79% of people in Ukraine have higher education, and 57% of technical specialists have STEAM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
According to experts, the number of web and mobile developers in Ukraine by 2020 will exceed 200 thousand. The community of Ukrainian developers is also very active as they regularly attend dozens of international conferences, exhibitions and training forums.
Therefore, despite the fierce competition from countries such as India and China, Ukrainian ICT companies have great chances to succeed in establishing partnerships with Canadian companies. For example, the successful collaboration of Canadian business and Ukrainian IT helped the Canadian Tire’s technological redevelopment. Established in 1922, Canadian Tire today offers residents of Canada a wide range of goods for home and entertainment, household repair and improvement, automotive and seasonal goods. In total, the company employs about 85,000 people, and its retail network consists of 1,700 stores. The corporation includes retail companies, financial services subdivisions and a national charity fund for engaging children in sports. The Company EPAM has developed the Canadian Tire Digital Commerce Project and provided a new experience for consumers who make online purchases through mobile applications and stores.
Today, many Ukrainian companies are interested in finding partners in Canada. There are many ways to do this including personal contacts and participation in various industry events: exhibitions, conferences, forums, etc., wherever there is an opportunity to present a company and its services and get new contacts (networking); as well as active use of social networks – LinkedIn (first and foremost) and Facebook – by participating in closed thematic groups of the geographic area where a company has interest. However, the company’s best advertising is its satisfied customers – better in Canada but also in the US, Australia or the UK. You do not have to ignore good old cold calls or emailing because you never know where you will meet a partner. The main things, however, are perseverance and consistency!
The first ICT mission in the framework of the CUTIS project (Canadian-Ukrainian Trade and Investment Support Project) will be held in April this year when 15 Ukrainian companies will visit Canada. Hopefully, they will be able to learn by their own experience of the existing increased demand for professional services and ICT sector specialists in Canada, contribute to the development of fruitful cooperation between the two countries and find reliable partners across the ocean.
Olha Shtepa, Coordinator, Canada-Ukraine Trade and Investment Support Project (CUTIS)