After two years of keeping the pedal to the metal, there are signs that the Canadian economy is going to ease off the gas a bit in 2019. But there is no sign yet of that expected slowdown in the labour market. Unemployment is still at 5.6 per cent, a 40-year low.
There are all kinds of openings out there, but what types of workers does the economy need most of all? Randstad Canada, one of the largest staffing agencies in the country, combed through its own data to see which occupations top the “most wanted” list this year.
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It turns out there are two kinds of hot jobs. The first are the ones that register the highest number of vacancies across the country. Those are the jobs the economy is creating right now.
Then there are what Randstad calls “emerging jobs.” These are new roles, almost exclusively in tech, that didn’t exist until a few years — or a few months — ago. The volume of open positions for these roles is often smaller, but fewer Canadians have the chops to fill those positions, and competition among employers to recruit top talent is fierce. This is where the economy is likely headed.
Here are the top five jobs in each category:
Most in-demand jobs:
Forget the doom and gloom about the demise of brick and mortar stores. Sales associate is the most in-demand role in Canada right now, according to Randstad.
One possible explanation: retail trade is the country’s largest employer, providing jobs for some two million Canadians, or over 10 per cent of the workforce. With the economy doing well, the sector is adding lots of warm bodies, which is perhaps temporarily masking a longer-term trend of decline.
Carolyn Levy at Randstad Canada, though, offers a different narrative. “People still want the bricks and mortar retail experience,” she told Global News.
Rather than edging out in-store shopping, e-commerce is increasingly complementing it. Often people do their research online but then head to the store to check out products and get advice in person. Retailers need sales associates to deliver the extra service that will make it worthwhile for you to make it to the store, Levy said.
For example, someone heading to Best Buy to purchase a Google Home smart speaker may already know all about its features and capability. The sales associate, though, can tell them all about how to set up their new gadget, Levy said.
For permanent positions, job pays between $52,000 and $62,000 on average, according to Randstad data.
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This is another job that was supposed to be a prime target for robot takeover. But the position is evolving along with the new technology, Levy said.
In addition to the usual clerical tasks, administrative assistants who can take on functions such as accounting and bookkeeping are most in demand, according to Randstad.
Pay is between $44,000 and just under $52,000.
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If you have a commercial vehicle licence or a certificate to operate a forklift, there’s a job for you. With the economy humming, more goods are being shipped across the country and stacked into warehouses — hence the demand for people who can help move the merchandise.
Forklift operator, in particular, is an opportunity for new immigrants to Canada, Levy said. While truck drivers coming from warmer climates might need some adjusting to winter conditions, working a forklift looks the same no matter where you come from.
“It’s a skill that translates,” Levy said.
Pay is between $42,000 and $51,000 according to the Randstad dataset. That, though, doesn’t reflect gigs like long-haul trucking, where Canadians might make over $100,000 a year, according to Global News reporting.
Much of the economy runs on code — and on the people who can write it, whether it’s building apps or business software.
Though all sorts of developers are in high demand in Canada, so-called full-stack developers are the most wanted, according to Randstad. They are the ones who can handle both front-end programming — the consumer interface — and the back-end, the part that users never see and where data is stored or processed.
Average wages in the Randstad dataset are between just under $85,000 and over $101,000.
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Much of what can be said about administrative assistants holds for receptionists, too. The role is fairly easy to automate, but it turns out that being greeted by an iPad doesn’t make for great customer experience.
The job now generally requires knowledge of telephone systems and computer programs that record customer information. At smaller firms, receptionists might also take on some accounting and bookkeeping, as well as manage the company’s social media accounts, Levy said.
Receptionists make between $35,000 and almost $41,000 on average, according to Randstad.
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Randstad couldn’t provide complete pay data for its emerging jobs category, but previous reporting by Global News found that compensation for developers and researchers working on blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and data science easily reaches $100,000 or more even for those fresh out of school (although, especially with AI, those working in the field often have graduate degrees or PhDs).
You may associate the word “blockchain” with cryptocurrency, but the technology that made it possible to create digital money has countless other potential applications. Blockchain provides a permanent record of who owns what and when ownership is transferred in the digital world, creating a decentralized network for moving data and value that doesn’t need to rely on a central authority or intermediaries. That can be used for anything from executing financial transactions based on conventional currency to storing and transferring patient data securely. And that’s why old-economy employers like banks and healthcare providers, to name just two, are rushing to develop and experiment with their own blockchains.
“We think we’re going to see more blockchain developers present in enterprises versus just startups,” Levy said. “Anywhere you have huge data sets, you’re going to see this opportunity.”
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Automation in supply chains is nothing new. Robots have long supplanted humans when it comes to things like stamping pastries or fastening bolts.
Now, though, robots are taking on more “human-like skills,” Levy said. Robots are now helping doctors perform surgery, for example.
Needless to say, those who can develop these kinds of machines are in high demand.
Automation engineers can expect to make between $65,000 and $79,000 in base salary, Randstad data shows.
AI is software capable of learning on its own, and artificial brains feed on enormous amounts of data. AI researchers typically have a background in software engineering and data science and are tasked with building AI that can perform specific tasks like spotting financial fraud, predicting customers’ needs or picking up relevant information.
The boom in AI-related jobs has come as faster and cheaper computers allow companies to sift through enormous volumes of data to spot useful patterns and make predictions. And coders are using big data to train so-called artificially intelligent machines, software that is capable of autonomous learning. The applications are seemingly endless: from the ability to recognize and tackle fraud in real time, through predicting customers’ needs to teaching a car to drive itself.
Artificial intelligence engineers are making between $77,000 and $92,000 on average in base salary, according to Randstad data.
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Chief experience officer
Meet the new CEO — not chief executive officer but chief experience officer (to avoid confusion with the top boss, the acronym actually being used for the title is CXO). They’re the latest C-suite addition for many companies. Their role? Making sure clients fall and stay in love with the brand and that online customers go from browsing to buying or booking. The job may include anything from creating a painless online check-out process to safeguarding the organization’s reputation on review sites and social media. In terms of experience, CXOs generally have a background in quality assurance, customer service, operations and marketing, according to Randstad.
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Live chat agent
You can think of live chat agents some of the CXO’s foot soldiers. They’re the people on those chat boxes that might pop up when you start checking out a website. It’s the live chat agent’s job to ask you whether you’re finding what you need or have questions. They may also help with things like booking in-person appointments or handling simple customer support tasks. Live chat agents are the futuristic cousins of call centre operators and cater especially to millennials and Gen Z customers, who seem to prefer texting to phone calls. Though some organizations leave it to bots to strike up the conversation, agents usually take over in the latter stages of the chat or to handle more complex issues and questions. Only those with a solid grasp of grammar and spelling need apply.
The Randstad ranking of most in-demand jobs doesn’t capture much of the construction and healthcare sector, two of Canada’s largest sources of jobs. Healthcare, in particular, will replace the retail sector in the next decade as the top employer in the country, according to government estimates. Randstad told Global News it recently started a healthcare-focused division but didn’t have enough data yet. Still, the company’s annual jobs survey provides a valuable look at how economic trends translate into “help wanted” ads across Canada.