Now is a great time to be studying computer science in Saskatchewan, says tech advocate

The hi-tech industry is booming in Saskatchewan. More than 200 jobs were created in just the first nine months of 2018 and that number could double this year.

Province's tech sector growing and will need hundreds more workers, says expert

Computer network equipment, including orange cords, in a server room in Vienna, Austria, October 25, 2018.
Post-secondary institutions in Saskatchewan are producing top engineers and computer scientists, according to Aaron Genest. (Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters)

The hi-tech industry is booming in Saskatchewan.

More than 200 jobs were created in just the first nine months of 2018 and that number could easily double this year if companies can find enough workers to fill those jobs, Aaron Genest told Leisha Grebinski on CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

"They are high-paying, they have flexible work hours, they have great work environments and lovely buildings in which to work," said Genest, president of SaskTech, a company that advocates on behalf of technology firms in Saskatchewan.

He said some companies are growing anywhere from 20 to 40 per cent year over year. For example, Vendasta in Saskatoon recently added 70 people.

'Worldwide there is a movement toward technology'

Genest said there are a couple of factors fuelling growth in the tech industry.

"First, worldwide there is a movement toward technology and there is a demand for labour and lots of tech companies are growing, so we are kind of hanging on the coattails of that a little bit," Genest said.

Another factor is the top talent being churned out at Saskatchewan's post-secondary institutions.

"The University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina, SIIT and SaskPoly — all of those institutions, for 15 to 20 years, longer in some cases, have been turning out top-rate engineers and computer scientists."

SaskTech president Aaron Genest said more than 400 jobs could be created this year in Saskatchewan's technology sector. (CBC News)

Some leave for bigger centres to get experience, but now many are returning and have started building their own companies, Genest said.

Finding workers

While Saskatchewan universities are churning out solid engineers and computer scientists, it isn't enough to fill all of the jobs, Genest said.

One part of the solution is through immigration. Genest said workers are coming from places like Brazil, India, France and China.

The other potential solution is for post-secondary institutions to expand their programs and for industry to work with school boards to attract more people to technology.

"One of the big things we are missing is the kind of diversity and gender that we would like in technology," said Genest, noting women are still vastly under-represented in the industry.

"So if we can supply those workers right here in Saskatchewan, that's the best situation for everybody."

If companies can't find the workers here, they will end up moving to other jurisdictions so that they can continue to grow, he said.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning