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The economic impact of an IT labor shortage in Canada has been outlined in a new study commissioned by Bell Canada, the nation's largest communications company. Bell is heading a group of organizations called the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow's IT Skills which hopes to work collaboratively to "develop insights for securing the future of Canada's IT workforce."

The 'Securing our Future' study, undertaken by the Conference Board of Canada, revealed the economic cost of not filling the estimated 90,000 IT positions expected to be available in Canada over the next five years.

"If left uncontested, the IT skills gap will create gaps in our economic performance, gaps in our productivity, and gaps in our ability to compete globally. It is in everyone's interest to close those gaps as quickly as possible," said Stéphane Boisvert, Bell president and official spokesperson for the coalition.

Dr. Michael Bloom, Vice President, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning for the Conference Board of Canada, said that the repurcussions to the Canadian economy would be severe if the IT positions were not filled.

"Based on an average annual contribution of $120,000 per IT worker, the economic impact will be more than $10 billion," he said.

The Conference Board research identified several major factors contributing to Canada's impending IT labor shortage, including the country's under-representation of immigrant workers in the field of IT.

Canada currently allows an expedited process for temporary employment of foreign IT professionals in a few key jobs, but this may not be enough of an effort to head off the impending labor shortage. However, Canada has an active skilled worker program for bringing overseas workers to the country, which includes some IT professions on its National Occupation Classification List.

"Today, there are some 600,000 IT workers in Canada, employed in the most mission critical, technology intensive sectors of our economy. We're putting both short and long-term economic growth at risk if we don't take action now," Boisvert said. "The coalition, together with the corporate and public sectors, can help turn the tide of the professional IT shortage, and reverse the flow of outsourcing of these important, high-paying jobs beyond our borders."