IDC Canada estimates there are 54,000 unfilled information technology jobs in Canada, a problem that delays projects and inhibits innovation.
But the IT skills gap has been around so long it's seen as "business as usual" by most employers, according to Mark Schrutt, IDC Canada's research vice president for services and enterprise applications.
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"The skills gap we defined as not having the right personnel of the right kind at the right price to do the work," Schrutt said in an interview with CBC News.
Businesses have learned to adapt to skills shortages, hiring from overseas, training internally and contracting out information technology work, Schrutt said.
He estimated Canadian businesses will spend $960 million this year on training and contracting out work.
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IDC's figures are based on interviews and surveys of Canadian businesses and calculations of the costs of farming out work to IT manufacturers or bringing in contract employees, what IDC terms "staff augmentation."
Schrutt said he was surprised when a majority of businesses told IDC surveyers they did not consider an information technology skills gap a major issue.
"I didn't take that at face value. I wanted to dig deeper," he said. "Basically, from what companies are saying, it's not an issue because they've found workarounds."
Always an unfilled need
For most businesses, it's a problem every year and they have to turn to staff augmentation continually.
Schrutt said the shortages are mostly in application development, IT operations and business-centric IT roles including security, which is ramping up as an area of increasing need for businesses in the past few years.
He estimates the skills gap will grow to 71,000 jobs by 2017.
He urged businesses and educational institutions to work together to try to address the IT skills gap, because it is holding back Canadian productivity and competitiveness.
"We're not graduating enough people. An IT career is not as valued as it used to be," Schrutt said.
Business needs to work with educators
Businesses also need to step up to provide internships for college and university students that will introduce them to IT careers, he said.
Many have given up on internships because they need people who can start work right away on high-paced, high-pressure projects, Schrutt said.
Schrutt said he has talked to federal and provincial officials about the problem, as well as to industry groups, but at the moment "there is no concerted effort" to address the skills gap.