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Published On: Tue, Dec 5th, 2017

How Canada’s Developers Are Winning Our Hearts and Giving Us an Advantage

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Amazon has a proposal: it plans to create a second headquarters—complete with 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in US investment—somewhere in North America. But instead of going on the hunt, Amazon has initiated the economic development equivalent of the well-known dating game, The Bachelor, and is asking cities across the continent to bid for its affection.

Canadian cities from Vancouver to Halifax have risen to the occasion to prove that they have the quality of life, transportation, infrastructure, and most importantly the talent necessary to woo the global tech giant.

However, in building their cases, these Canadian cities have often relied on traditional labor market information sources that can fail to accurately capture the kinds of skills that tech giants like Amazon are looking for. Specifically, I’m referring to a voracious appetite for experienced and versatile software developers.

While technology companies are comprised of much more than just developers, developers do represent an indispensable component of the tech sector. However, due to the constantly evolving nature of the profession, they are often not accurately captured by national statistics.

To help fill this gap, the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University partnered with Stack Overflow, to produce Stacking Up: A Snapshot of Canada’s Developer Talent. This report aims to pull Canadian developers into focus: where they are, what kinds of jobs and industries they work in, which languages they use, and what they earn. 

Looking to hire some of Canada’s developer talent? Here are a few of the report’s main takeaways.

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Why Canada Deserves a Rose

Canada accounts for 4.4% of developers in Stack Overflow’s 2017 Annual Developer Survey, making it the fifth most represented country regarding developer talent internationally. 

Internationally, Toronto ranks 13th among cities in terms of the number of developers. It also represents over 32% of Canada’s developer talent pool.

But Toronto is far from Canada’s only eligible suitor. Montreal and Vancouver collectively account for nearly 30% of Canadian developers, and Ottawa around 7%. But it’s not just the number of developers that counts. Many smaller Canadian cities such as Kitchener-Waterloo have very high concentrations of developer talent, pointing to a very active tech presence in the city.

Getting to Know Canada’s Developers

It’s important to move beyond the small talk and really get to know Canada’s developers. First of all, developers can support themselves. They report a median annual salary of C$70,000 in the 2017 survey, compared to C$45,280 in 2016 for the labor market as a whole.

Canadian developers are far from being one-trick ponies. They boast a wide variety of skills and knowledge. According to the Stack Overflow survey, over 72% of Canada’s professional developers identify as web developers, while more than two-thirds classified themselves as full-stack developers (able to work with both front- and back-end web development). JavaScript is the most commonly used language, and 90% of Canadian developers report using more than one language.

Developers are also well-educated and highly driven self-starters. Of those who participated in the survey, 95% have at least some college or university education. However, 60% also reported that they were at least partially self-taught and over one quarter had taken an online course. 

Canadian developers are versatile and can be found across industries and sectors. While they primarily work in the software and internet or web services industries, many can also be found working in finance, media, healthcare, and other sectors.

Overall, this report aims to provide policymakers, businesses, and Canadians across the country with a better understanding of one important segment of Canada’s labor market. Armed with this information, Canadian cities are better equipped to capture the hearts of tech giants around the world. We also hope this report will help to inform decisions around education and skills training and enable developers to identify and respond to trends in their profession. 

To find out more about Canada’s developers, you can read the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship’s latest report here.

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