Overview | Onwards and Upwards: Digital Talent Outlook 2025

This article summarizes findings from a full-length study. Read the full report here. All figures in this article are sourced from the full study.

Study Scope

This report examines the most in-demand occupations across the digital economy and their associated critical competencies and skills through till 2025.

The forecast includes an analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 on Canada’s economy, key trends in consumer behaviour and digitization, and the effect of new technologies on productivity, innovation, and the workforce.

Study Context

COVID-19 public health restrictions and lockdowns worldwide precipitated the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

A partial recovery since the first wave has been strikingly inequitable: the economic crisis in Canada disproportionately impacts younger workers, women, and visible minorities.

The pandemic has also brought some unexpected and positive changes, notably for the digital economy. Digital tools and services became a lifeline for locked down Canadians in 2020, facilitating work and study from home, shop, and access news and entertainment. For Canadian businesses, digital tools and services helped maintain connections with customers, as storefronts were shuttered.

Some portion of this online activity is expected to persist beyond the pandemic.

Photo by Kvnga on Unsplash

Forecast At a Glance

Canada’s digital economy is expected to employ a total 2.26 million digitally skilled workers by 2025 (about 11% of all employment in the country), triggering a demand for an additional 250,000 jobs.

Employment forecasts for six key innovation areas:

  1. Cleantech — a demand for approximately 41,000 workers by 2025, for a total employment of 352,000
  2. Clean resources — a demand for approximately 14,000 workers by 2025, for a total employment of 185,000
  3. Health and biotech — a demand for approximately 14,000 workers, for a total employment of 129,000
  4. Advanced manufacturing — a demand for approximately 14,000 workers, for a total employment of 321,000
  5. Food tech agri-food — a demand for approximately 49,000 workers by 2025, for a total employment of 683,000
  6. Interactive Digital Media — a demand for approximately 103,000 workers, for a total employment of 962,000

Some portion of this online activity is expected to persist beyond the pandemic.

Study Findings

COVID-19 lockdowns have varied impacts across the economy.

Lockdowns have a greater impact on women, youth, and the less educated:

Key Factors

1. Vaccine Developments

Most advanced economies are making steady progress with their vaccination campaigns, setting the stage for economic recovery starting in the second half of 2021 and into 2022.

2. Household Savings and Pent-Up Demand

Lockdowns saw unprecedented levels of job losses in the Canadian economy. Canadians lost an average of $1,600 in labour income over 2020.

However, government programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), etc., offset these losses and actually increased average disposable income in 2020 to about $1,800.

This additional income, coupled with a sharp reduction in household spending during the lockdowns, had Canadian households save an unprecedented $180 billion in aggregate.

3. Supply Chain Disruptions

Recent supply shortages, notably in the global semiconductor market, have caused disruptions in several industries, including smartphones and automobiles.

High shipping costs and disruptions to global supply chains are causing production delays for manufacturers, causing inventory drawdowns, and upward pressure on consumer prices.

4. Commodity Prices and Inflation

In the first half of 2020 as global demand shrank, commodity prices, especially for energy, dropped.

An ensuing surge in broad commodity prices is prompting discussion of a new commodities “supercycle.”

Monetary and Fiscal Policy

Sustained inflation in the wider economy is a concern because of the extraordinary amount of fiscal and monetary government spending in response to the pandemic:

General Employment Forecast

Employment is expected to gradually recover to its pre-pandemic level by early 2022 and reaches a level of 20.39 million by Q4 2025:

The Canadian Digital Economy

Technology firms, which now drive major stock indices, have surged as a proportion of the economy:

National Survey of Canada’s Digital Economy

ICTC launched a national survey of firms in Canada’s digital economy in January and February 2021 to explore COVID-19 recovery, business priorities, hiring patterns, skill requirements and a general shift to a remote working environment.

Businesses in the digital economy reported significantly higher usage of advanced technologies:

On average, revenues for digital firms in 2020 were better preserved than in the general economy:

The following key technical roles are needed by firms in the digital economy:

Digital Economy Growth

As a proportion of the total economy (in terms of employment), the digital economy leaped from under 10% in 2019 yearend to over 11% during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis (Q2 2020):

Key tech workers are increasingly found outside of the tech sector:

In-Demand Occupations and Skills

The demand for skilled digital talent remains high. The following are the most in-demand digital occupations across Canada (for their associated top critical “hard” skills, please refer to page 49, 50, and 51 of the full report).

Top 10 Tech Snapshot:

Software Engineer

· Knowledge of software development practices and processes

· Proficiency with Application Programming Interface (API)

· Familiarity with scalability

· Proficiency with Java Familiarity with Agile Methodology Proficiency with Python

· Proficiency with JavaScript Proficiency with React.js

· Proficiency with C++

· Proficiency with SQL

Data Engineer

· Proficiency with Python

· Proficiency with SQL

· Knowledge of Extract Transform Load

· (ETL)

· Proficiency with Apache Spark

· Knowledge of Big Data

· Familiarity with Agile Methodology

· Familiarity with Data Warehousing

· Knowledge of Machine Learning

· Knowledge of Data Science

· Proficiency with Microsoft Azure

Web Developer

· Proficiency with JavaScript

· Proficiency with PHP

· Proficiency with QL

· Proficiency with HTML

· Proficiency with jQuery

· Proficiency with Python

· Proficiency with Linux

· Proficiency with C#

· Proficiency with Git

· Proficiency with Java

Data Analyst

· Knowledge of Data Analysis

· Proficiency with SQL

· Proficiency with Python

· Proficiency with Microsoft Excel

· Knowledge of Data Modelling

· Knowledge of Extract Transform Load

· (ETL)

· Familiarity with Data Warehousing

· Proficiency with Power BI

· Proficiency with R

· Proficiency with Tableau

Manager, Software Engineering

· Proficiency with Java

· Proficiency with JavaScript

· Proficiency with AWS

· Proficiency with Kubernetes

· Proficiency with Microsoft Azure

· Proficiency with SQL

· Proficiency with Python

· Proficiency with Application

· Programming Interface (API)

· Proficiency with C++

· Proficiency with Docker

System Administrator

· Proficiency with Linux

· Proficiency with SQL

· Proficiency with Microsoft Azure

· Proficiency with VMware

· Proficiency with PowerShell

· Proficiency with AWS

· Proficiency with Python

· Familiarity with DNS

· Proficiency with Jenkins

· Familiarity with DHCP

DevOps Engineer

· Proficiency with automation products

· for software infrastructure

· Proficiency with Python

· Proficiency with Jenkins

· Proficiency with Docker

· Proficiency with Kubernetes

· Proficiency with Ansible

· Proficiency with Linux

· Proficiency with Terraform

· Familiarity with Agile Methodology

· Familiarity with scalability

Engineering Manager

· Proficiency with Python

· Proficiency with Kubernetes

· Proficiency with Java

· Proficiency with SQL

· Proficiency with JavaScript

· Familiarity with Android

· Proficiency with Linux

· Proficiency with Docker

· Proficiency with C++

· Proficiency with AutoCAD

Data Scientist

· Proficiency with Python

· Knowledge of Machine Learning

· Proficiency with SQL

· Knowledge of Computer Science

· principles and practices

· Familiarity with algorithms

· Familiarity with Data Analysis

· Proficiency with R

· Knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

· Knowledge of Statistics

· Knowledge of Big Data

Security Analyst

· Proficiency with Linux

· Proficiency with Python

· Proficiency with SQL

· Proficiency with Kubernetes

· Proficiency with Microsoft Azure

· Proficiency with AWS

· Proficiency with Java

· Knowledge of Security Information and

· Event Management (SIEM)

· Familiarity with NIST

· Proficiency with PowerShell

Top 3 Business Snapshot:

Project Managers

· Proficiency with SQL

· Familiarity with tracking tools like Jira

· Familiarity with project management

· tools like Microsoft Project

· Proficiency with Google Analytics

· Proficiency with Azure

Business Analyst

· Familiarity with Agile Methodology

· Knowledge of Business Analysis

· Proficiency with SQL

· Proficiency with Excel

· Knowledge of economics or statistics

Business Development Managers

· Proficiency with CRM software like Salesforce

· Proficiency with Excel

· Proficiency with Google Analytics

· Proficiency with marketing tools like HubSpot

· Familiarity with Software as a service (SaaS)

Federal Government Guidance for Economic Recovery

In May of 2020, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry announced the creation of the Industry Strategy Council to serves as an advisory board on the COVID-19’s impact on key sectors of the economy and provide recommendations for a strong recovery across sectors as follows:

1. Boosting the confidence of Canadian businesses and consumers to navigate the new normal, and adjusting the economic response plan to better support a safe reopening of the economy

2. Stabilizing and securing the hardest-hit sectors through targeted measures

3. Reigniting growth by doubling down on a future-oriented investment plan

4. An industrial strategy with four key pillars for a digital, sustainable, and innovative economy for all Canadians

5. Establishing renewed public-private sector partnerships and investments anchored in a sound and rigorous fiscal framework

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