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New study rates Canada’s best cities for tech talent

When it comes to tech talent, Toronto is still king, but a new study shows cities across Canada are also proving competitive.  

The new 2018 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent report ranked cities like Hamilton, Quebec City, and Halifax among Canada’s top 10 tech talent markets, and placed Ottawa and Waterloo in the top five.


“Tech has become a force for city building,” says the report, which is published by CBRE Canada. “Technology has become woven into every traditional component of a region’s economy and the future of many Canadian cities seem inextricably linked to the prospect of becoming a tech hub.”

The report, which looks at 20 Canadian cities, strives to provide a “comprehensive picture of Canada’s tech ecosystem” and follows CBRE’s 2018 Scoring Tech Talent in North America study, which came out earlier this year.

Like that earlier report, Toronto remains Canada’s tech powerhouse, ranking first based on 13 metrics arranged under three key indicators: tech talent employment, educational attainment and the high-tech industry.

The survey noted investments in Toronto from major tech firms such as Uber, NVIDIA, Etsy, Samsung and LG as well as major office deals inked this year by Shopify, Microsoft, Touch Bistro, OpenText and Google.

Ottawa, Canada’s national capital and home to Shopify, placed second and Montreal, Vancouver and Waterloo rounded out the top five Canadian tech talent markets.

“These locations possess the strongest combination of attributes that the technology sector needs to flourish, especially when it comes to a high concentration of tech employment,” the report reads.

Montreal, Canada’s second largest city behind Toronto, replaced Vancouver in third place this year, which the report attributed to its “overall tech talent and high-tech concentration outpacing that of Vancouver for a second consecutive year.”

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Top cities for tech jobs

Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and the Region of Waterloo, Ontario — all cities with established high-tech sectors — were responsible for 63.1 per cent of Canada’s high-tech job growth between 2012 and 2017, the report says.

In Toronto alone, 82,100 new tech jobs were created over that time period, CBRE reports, which represents a growth rate of 51.5 per cent.

Overall, Canada added 178,800 tech jobs between 2012 and 2017, the report says, including 57,600 in 2017 alone.

Of note was the job growth rate of Canada’s mid-sized and small markets. Hamilton, Ontario, led mid-sized Canadian cities with a tech work force of 10,000 to 50,000 workers, posting a growth rate of 64.8 per cent between 2012 and 2017.

Oshawa, Ontario, led small market cities with under 10,000 tech workers, posting a five-year job growth of 71.4 per cent, which made it the fastest growing tech talent market between 2012 and 2017.

Quebec City and Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, also performed well and placed in the top 10.

“Quebec City has a strong concentration of tech talent that’s above the national average, while Victoria and Hamilton feature high quality, well-educated labour forces at a moderate cost to employers,” the report says.

CBRE Canada Vice-Chairman Paul Morassutti said the proximity of these smaller markets to major markets like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver is helping them thrive.

“These neighbouring cities have policies in place that encourage interconnectivity through economic partnerships and they are putting transit infrastructure in place to expand their tech networks and the reach of venture capitalist funding,” he said.

Ottawa leads North America in tech labour concentration

In terms of tech workers, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa share a combined 60.9 per cent of Canada’s total tech labour force.

Ottawa, meanwhile, leads the country — and North America — with its 11.2 per cent tech labour concentration, which considers tech’s share of total employment in the city. The report said this indicator is an important determinant of growth potential and how “tech-centric” a market is.

In terms of concentration of local high-tech firms, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal ranked first, second and third, respectively. Waterloo, which has also benefited from its proximity to Toronto and efforts led by the University of Waterloo to develop the city as a tech hub, placed fourth.

All four cities had a tech company concentration above four per cent compared to the Canadian national average of 2.6 per cent.

“These markets are home to companies that specialize in artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, robotics, financial technology (fintech), and software development,” the report says.

CBRE says Canada could benefit from greater emphasis on the development and promotion of tech clusters, which form when large and small companies in a related business area combine with post-secondary and other research institutions in a concentrated geographic area.

“Tech clusters don’t form overnight, but are essential to attracting large investments from global tech leaders,” Morassutti said.

The Canadian federal government is working to rectify this with its $950-million Innovation Superclusters Initiative, he noted.

The initiative provides funding for the development of five Canadian superclusters in five regions of Canada —the Digital Technology Supercluster in British Columbia, the Protein Industries Canada Supercluster in the Canadian Prairies, the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster (NGen) in Ontario, the AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster (SCALE.AI) in Quebec and the Ocean Supercluster in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces.

According to the Government of Canada, the five superclusters represent more than 450 businesses, 60 post-secondary institutions and 180 other participants in sectors covering 78 percent of Canada’s economy.

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