The Gallant government continued its job-creation announcement blitz with IBM Canada on Thursday, with 150 new positions in Saint John and Florenceville-Bristol.
- IBM adding 100 cybersecurity jobs in Fredericton over 3 years
But one information-technology entrepreneur in Fredericton says the hiring spree may strain an already tight market for skilled workers.
Keith McIntosh, the CEO of Fredericton-based software-testing firm PQA, says the $12,000-per-job taxpayer subsidy for IBM will make it easier for the global firm to poach employees at his company and others.
"Whenever an announcement like that gets made, we all look at our staff and say, 'Can we retain them? What's going to happen? Who walks out the door next?'" McIntosh told CBC News. "It's not like there's a pool of a hundred or a thousand people looking for that work."
Despite New Brunswick's high unemployment rate, IT firms often have a hard time finding employees with the right training.
"A lot of times they don't exist, and we have to bring them in or create them somewhere," McIntosh said. "That's always a challenge."
And IBM's decision to hire 100 people in Fredericton, 110 in Saint John and 40 in Florenceville-Bristol will increase that challenge, he said.
"It's only a hundred 'new' jobs if they are new people. If it's a person who goes from one job to another job, that's not a new job. That's just moving a job," McIntosh said.
But it means a higher cost for his company, which must then replace the poached workers.
"It's an expensive proposition, as I'm sure the IBM folks said when they were getting the assistance from the province. It costs us money to find people. It costs a lot of money to do the recruiting, the training, on-boarding, the ramp-up time."
"So if I can find somebody to replace them, it costs me money out of my pocket, my operating budget, to get up to speed again," said McIntosh.
At IBM's Fredericton announcement on Wednesday, University of New Brunswick president Eddy Campbell said there's a shortage of about a million trained workers in the global cybersecurity industry.
Another indication of the shortage was IBM Canada's general manager of global technology services exhorting existing employees in Saint John to spread the word that the company needs people.
"Tell your friends and family with IT skills to apply," David Drury said.
He told CBC later, "It's a competitive world, IBM's competing for talent, so we've got an opportunity here to make it known we've got jobs here."
Even so, officials are upbeat about IBM finding the employees they need.
"They know they can get more people with great skill sets here in our province," Opportunities New Brunswick CEO Stephen Lund said at the Saint John event.
But McIntosh wondered how easy it will be.
"Do the hundred people [needed in Fredericton] exist? I don't know exactly what IBM is looking for. If they're looking for experienced cybersecurity professionals, they certainly don't exist in the province."
"Now can they make them, or take other trained IT people and repurpose them and retrain them or direct them where they want to go? Probably."
Drury said IBM is making "a longer-term play" by ramping up the hiring over three years, which he said will give the company time to work with universities and community colleges.
"We see developing a pipeline of skill," he said. "So we collaborate with higher education on curriculum so we can capture students coming into the institution, develop their skills and talent, then we try to capture them as graduates or co-ops."
McIntosh said he'd prefer to see the province do more to help local companies first.
PQA was offered job-creation subsidies by the province in 2009 but "we weren't able to take advantage of that due to economic conditions," he said. "I would think the million dollars on my bottom line is a much bigger percentage than a million dollars on IBM's bottom line."