Why tech talent is choosing Toronto over the US

Toronto is gaining tech workers faster than any other North American city – and the reason why might surprise you

Why tech talent is choosing Toronto over the US
Toronto is now North America’s fastest growing market for tech talent, as skilled workers and new graduates join Canadian companies instead of heading to the United States.

Toronto added 22,500 tech jobs between 2015 and 2016 - far more than San Francisco’s 11,540 new jobs, and New York’s 5370, according to CBRE’s Scoring Tech Talent report.

With 212,500 tech workers, Toronto is now the fourth largest tech talent market in North America, behind San Francisco’s Bay Area (328,070), New York (246,180) and Washington, DC (243,360). Vancouver is 16th in the tech talent rankings, with 65,100 tech workers.

A large part of the boom is down to a growing millennial population, and the fact that Canadian graduates, coming out of strong domestic university programs, are choosing to stay on home soil, says CBRE’s Werner Dietl, executive vice president and GTA regional managing director.

“The majority of the labour is domestic-bred and trained, and so that’s a great story for us, because it means that our Canadian students are staying in Canada, as opposed to going down to the Bay Area, which is where the majority of them have ended up [in the past].”

Large firms are also establishing bases in Toronto, and taking advantage of Canada’s immigration policies to hire skilled tech experts from overseas, he says.

“It’s a dual effect, quite frankly.”

Key to the appeal is Toronto’s liveability: while rents may seem high to locals, they’re considerably more affordable than the other main tech centres, while the cost of running a business – including wages and real estate – is also among the lowest in North America.

“We have a downtown core that has grown and really come to the next level of being a liveable city where people can live and work, and walk and ride their bikes and take transit, and actually live in the city, and it’s relatively affordable,” Dietl says.

“If you’re going to be a tech worker, it’s a pretty good place to be.”

Dietl suggests businesses wanting to have even more appeal to tech workers could “spend a bit more time thinking of your workplace as a productivity tool” – with a focus on the environment they’re creating for employees to work in.

Overall, Canada now has 776,000 tech workers – comprising 5.1 percent of all of the country’s workers. In Toronto, tech talent comprised eight percent of all workers in 2016, up from 6.9 percent in 2015.

Related stories:
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Will your tech-talent stray to smaller pastures?

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