Opportunities for startups and tech-enabled companies are emerging from the sober economic reality wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, says the CEO of Prospect, a Canadian data and startup career hub.
And that much-talked-about tech talent shortage that existed before the pandemic? It still exists, says Marianne Bulger, and it does despite massive layoffs across the industry since the pandemic swept across Canada and the world.
“It’s my belief that we are still in a talent shortage,” said Bulger, speaking to Communitech News shortly after the release Wednesday of her organization’s quarterly report, titled The State of Startup Talent.
“I really do think that technology is becoming more important than ever before to the way in which we live, work, stay safe, engage with others, be with our family members, our colleagues. I do believe that the economic uncertainty that is upon us right now, and even constraints due to isolation, is forcing a lot of businesses into a pretty dark place.
“But I think as we start to return to normal life, technology is going to become even more important – and tech innovation for that matter.”
At first blush, the stark numbers in the Prospect report, based on a survey taken April 20-27 and from Prospect’s job-seeker data, describe considerable devastation across the tech sector. Notable among the data:
- A 61-per-cent decline in new job creation during April, as compared to the monthly average for the rest of Q1 2020
- 24 per cent of Canadian tech companies have made layoffs, totalling 5.5 per cent of the overall workforce pre-COVID-19
- Marketing and Communications (30 per cent) and software engineering personnel (22 per cent) account for most layoffs
- 73 per cent of startups are scaling back hiring efforts due to the economic impact of COVID-19
- 36 per cent of startups are pausing all hiring activities for the foreseeable future
- 69 per cent of startups indicate that an attempt at raising funds has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and 39 per cent have postponed a raise to a later date
As dire as the numbers are, Bulger sees silver linings. For starters, the decline in job postings is levelling off and stabilizing, she said.
And several tech sectors are seeing an increase in demand for goods and services and a corresponding demand for talent: Medtech, edtech and fintech firms have all been presented with opportunities as people seek virtual access to services they previously obtained in person.
Bulger acknowledged that many companies are suffering at the moment, but said further intangible opportunities will emerge:
“The intangible opportunities [are] really speaking to how the government will respond, beyond just providing relief, but actually starting to capitalize on the opportunity to contribute to and lead in this post-pandemic world,” said Bulger, a response “which is going to depend more on technology.”
As for talent, Bulger said Canadian tech companies will benefit in two ways from the ongoing lockdown and the economic hardship:
First, Canadian tech graduates who might have been open to accepting jobs in the U.S. may now be more inclined to stay home given the current travel restrictions and the chaotic pandemic response throughout the U.S.
And, second, a company looking to a post-pandemic future now has its choice of many high-quality people who have been laid off or let go since the pandemic began.
“It’s definitely an incredible time to capitalize on picking up some of the best talent in the industry, especially homegrown talent
“A ton of companies are pivoting their business activities to adapt to this moment. And I know that a lot of companies scrapped their entire hiring plan when the crisis hit. But I think we have a clearer picture now. And so it’s really important that if you think you’re going to hire in the next couple months, now might be a great time to do that.”
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Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto. This article originally appeared on their site.