Toronto recently made waves on the web with the news that the Ontario capital had become North America’s fastest-growing tech market.
According to the CBRE’s 2017 North American Scoring Tech Talent report, Toronto added 22,500 new technology jobs to eclipse tech hotbeds New York (5,370) and San Francisco (11,540) combined. In doing so, Toronto lept from 12th to sixth in the overall annual ranking.
Those familiar with the red-hot tech job market in Toronto weren’t surprised.
“Absolutely I think that Toronto’s tech scene is booming,” said Lara Torvi, manager of media and community relations for MaRS. “We shouldn’t make the mistake of perceiving Toronto as less mature or smaller than we actually are. We are quite a hub and I think it’s just going to increase. We’re at a tipping point where we will become one of the world’s leading hubs for innovation.”
How did Toronto get here? Let’s take a closer look at the circumstances that have helped Toronto become a serious player in the tech industry.
Torontonians, give yourselves a hand – the first reason Toronto is flourishing is you.
Analysts say that the city’s diverse workforce of highly skilled tech talent is a draw. CBRE’s report further found that the quality of labour locally is “very high,” scoring significantly better than far more highly paid talent in cities including Dallas, Minneapolis, Miami, and Phoenix.
“We are recognized as one of the most diverse cities in the world, and I think that the way Toronto recognizes the fact that diversity boosts innovation is really good for business,” Torvi said.
Having the University of Toronto, York University, and a variety of other top educational institutions is a boon both for creating tech jobs and training tech talent.
CBRE’s analysis found a 35 per cent growth overall in tech degrees in the Toronto area between 2011 and 2015, with a 47 per cent boost in computer engineering degrees.
The University of Toronto alone houses 10 start-up accelerators, including the Creative Destruction Lab.
Then, of course, there’s the aforementioned MaRS network, which works with more than 1,000 ventures, employs more than 6,200 people, and has raised over $3.5 billion in capital.
“We’re considered the largest urban innovation hub at 1.5 million square feet,” Torvi said. “We have some of the leading centres for research and development in areas like artificial intelligence, stem-cell research, data science, cyber-security, and even blockchain and cryptocurrencies.”
Toronto’s other big advantage? We’re (relatively) light on the wallet.
Out of all the tech talent markets included in CBRE’s study, Toronto was the second-cheapest to operate in with a $26 million total cost (only Vancouver did better), compared to $57 million for the Bay Area.
Unfortunately for those working in the field, Toronto’s talent was also much cheaper than the competition, particularly considering their high level of performance. The average tech talent wage in Toronto was $62,400, a far cry from the $123,200 brought home on average in Silicon Valley. Even the U.S. city with the lowest average wages, Oklahoma City, saw employees make an average salary of $74,400.
Still, observers expect that the more competitive Toronto’s tech talent scene becomes, the faster salaries will rise.
“As we look to Toronto as that hub, and as organizations are continually looking to invest in our infrastructure and talent, the focus of employers will shift to competitive pay and perks, efficient hiring methods, frequent reviews and positive corporate culture,” said Nima Mirpourian, branch manager for Robert Half Technology in Toronto.
“Those are important points to help combat the war for top talent in tech.”
Government immigration policy
As certain other countries competing for tech talent have tightened their borders, Canada’s comparatively welcoming attitude toward immigrant workers has been a huge help for companies recruiting the most talented people.
In June, a new federal program gave Canadian companies the option to bring in foreign workers in as little as two weeks. It’s a $7.8-million two-year pilot run as part of the government’s Global Skills Strategy. The government also recently announced that the Start-up Visa Program, which allows foreign entrepreneurs to get permanent residency if they move their companies to Canada, would be extended.
These policies are still new, but both could increase Toronto’s surging tech job numbers even further in the future.
“I think we’re just starting to see the results of some of those policies,” Torvi said. “There’s a lot more activity and excitement to come.”
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