Pandemic pressures expected to put IT, e-commerce skills in high demand

Prior to 2021, recruiting firm Randstad's annual list of the upcoming year's most in-demand jobs would typically feature roles such as truck drivers, heavy duty mechanics and welders.

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However, the COVID-19 pandemic’s sweeping effect on the economy has upended those trends, and roles such as customer service representatives, essential retail workers, security analysts and architects are expected to be some of the most sought after positions in 2021, according to industry experts.

Carolyn Levy, president of Randstad Technologies, said the boom in e-commerce has created demand for a variety of jobs to ensure goods can get from business to consumer, such as warehouse workers, delivery drivers and procurement specialists.

Meanwhile, the rush for corporations to digitize their workspaces has bolstered an already strong demand for IT workers in the country.

“In Canada in general the IT sector was a hot area, and now it’s going to be even more prevalent,” said Levy, who said the field may shift away from previous practices of hiring for short-term contracts.

“There are going to be more permanent opportunities just to support the way of living and our new reality as we work more remotely in general.”

Koula Vasilopoulos, a district president with the recruiting agency Robert Half, said intense growth around the IT sector is driven by organizations that have realized they have to pick up the pace as the corporate world and consumer interactions move online.

“While some companies might have been thinking about digital transformation and doing it in bits and pieces before, the pandemic has forced them to have to act quickly,” said Vasilopoulos 

“(Organizations) are ramping up technology initiatives to modernize their IT infrastructure to both support remote teams, but also to position the business to thrive in how they interact with their customers.”

She pointed out that roles in artificial intelligence, cloud computing and development operations will also be in high demand in the long-term.

A report by Robert Half pointed out that certain sectors had unemployment rates that are much lower than the national unemployment rate of 12.3 per cent.

In the second quarter of 2020, those sectors included business, finance and administrative (8.2 per cent), natural and applied sciences (4.9 per cent) and social science, education and government service (7.3 per cent)

Both recruiting firms said the prevalence of remote working will have long-term effects on hiring and work life, with Robert Half estimating that 79 per cent of all employees are currently working from home. 

Randstad pointed out that people looking to find remote work can expect high demand for jobs around administrative work, human resources, digital marketing, accounting and data analysis among others. 

Levy said internal workplace surveys from some companies show that between 70 per cent to 90 per cent of employees say they’d like to work from home at least three days a week once the pandemic subsides and companies will have to repurpose offices as a result.

Businesses have to ask, “If we no longer need all of this space, how can we repurpose it to make it more meaningful?” said Levy, who added that managers also have to change their leadership strategies to work best with remote staff.

“Thinking that leaders understand how to drive culture without four walls is a really big assumption. There’s a lot of development that people need to create meaningful connections and to learn how to completely run a remote office.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press

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