Ottawa has once again proven it is a world-class tech hub

Aug 20, 2020
3 mins | 700 words
By: Jens-Michael Schaal

Jens-Michael Schaal Recently CBRE released its yearly Tech Talent Report. For the second time in three years, Ottawa took the top spot for the highest concentration of tech talent in North America, outperforming high-profile tech hubs such as San Francisco/Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston, Seattle, Toronto and Montreal.

Calculated by looking at what percentage of tech talent makes up total employment for the city, this ranking provides a valuable snapshot of how important the tech sector is to our city’s economy. Furthermore, it shows companies looking to invest in Ottawa that we have the talent pool (their potential employees) with the skills and experience they need.

Overall, Ottawa’s Tech Talent ranking saw one of the highest year-over-year jumps to number 14, higher than Montreal, Salt Lake City and Chicago

As you can imagine, we at Invest Ottawa are thrilled by the news. Such reports give our vibrant and diverse tech ecosystem the attention it deserves. They also validate what we already know – Ottawa is a great place for tech talent to study, live, work and, ultimately, succeed. Tech truly is in our city’s DNA!

But beyond the headlines, the report tells more about the Ottawa tech ecosystem:

1. We keep raising the bar

Not only do we have the highest tech talent concentration in North America, but it’s the highest it has been over the past three years.

When it comes to tech talent concentration in North America, it is really a showdown between Ottawa and San Francisco. But Ottawa has secured top spot twice in the past three years, and this year we landed on top with tech talent representing 11.3% of total employment.

That number is up over one percent from last year, and the absolute number of tech workers is also up to 76,200. That represents a net gain of 5,600 tech workers over the past four years.

2. The Ottawa advantage

So why does Ottawa’s ecosystem continue to grow? There are several factors, including our world-class education system and our excellent quality of life. Ultimately though, Ottawa offers great value and plenty of opportunities.

We consistently get ranked as having the best value for talent alongside larger cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. This is often credited to a globally competitive Canadian dollar, but when you combine that with Ottawa’s demographics, it means lower office space and residential real estate costs, which give us the edge compared to other Canadian cities.

But it is not just about cost savings. Ottawa’s innovation ecosystem has been building up a substantial pool of tech talent for more than two decades. Active recruiting by major players from Nokia to Shopify, 65 federal research labs, and top tier STEM programs at our universities and colleges bring talented people from around the world to Ottawa.

3. What about COVID-19?

Without question, COVID-19 has impacted businesses of all sizes and, unfortunately, that is unlikely to change until a vaccine is widely available. But our tech sector has shown a tremendous amount of resilience. In June alone, Ottawa’s tech sector added 1,100 net new jobs.

As the proverb says, necessity is the mother of invention – we are seeing that in Ottawa’s tech ecosystem, where a growing number of our city’s technology companies are pivoting to capitalize on new opportunities generated by the pandemic. Combined with those in the e-commerce and telecom space, seeing a significant increase in demand for their products and services as people stay home, it means the demand for tech talent in our region remains strong.

And even when companies are forced to make the difficult decision to reduce hiring or make layoffs, we often see this talent scooped up by other players in the Ottawa tech ecosystem that are still growing.

Ultimately, this tells us that as long as the large tech talent pool (employed or unemployed) exists and continues to grow, Ottawa can rebound from the current economic crisis. Our city’s innovation economy will continue to be a pillar of economic growth in our region.

Want to learn more about the advantages Ottawa offers businesses? Reach out to Invest Ottawa’s Global Expansion team by completing our online form. Whether you are looking to relocate to our city or expand your presence, we offer the services to support your company throughout your lifecycle.


About the author

In his current role as Vice President, Global Expansion, Jens-Michael Schaal provides strategic leadership and direction to Invest Ottawa’s Global Expansion team to drive foreign direct investment and trade, business retention and expansion and global scale-up services for later-stage scale-up companies within Canada’s Capital Region.

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