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It’s never been a better time to find a new job — but do employers realize it?

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Job prospects in Canada are the best they’ve been in decades, employment experts say, but many businesses seem to have missed the memo.

According to an annual salary survey, 63 per cent of employers expect the flourishing economy to boost their bottom lines in 2019, but less than a quarter plan to raise salaries more than three per cent.

About 4,000 Canadian employers and employees responded to the 2019 Hays Canada Salary Guide. The online survey was conducted by recruiting firm Hays PLC in late summer and early fall of 2018, and has margin of error of plus or minus 2.19 per cent.

Three-quarters of employers said a shortage of skilled workers has heightened stress and workloads of existing staff.

That makes sense given that the national unemployment rate hit a 40-year low in November, and job vacancies — totalling 551,000 nationwide — are up in almost every province and territory.

“Jobs are pretty plentiful and we see that employers have really strong demand for workers,” said Brendon Bernard, an economist at job-search company Indeed Canada.

Of course the situation isn’t rosy everywhere. “In oil-producing provinces, conditions really haven’t made a full rebound since the decline in oil prices,” Bernard said.

But across much of the country, there are compelling signs that labour shortages will cause significant operating difficulties if employers don’t take proactive steps to not only attract new talent, but keep the staff they’ve got.

The fear of moving jobs has gone away for most people.– Rowan O’Grady , president of Hays Canada

Indeed is hearing from employers about challenges filling rolls, Bernard said. And both the Bank of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses have noted labour shortages are becoming a problem for day-to-day business.

It’s not just landing new hires that businesses need to worry about.

Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada, said the survey also found almost 90 per cent of people are open to hearing about new opportunities.

“That’s a testament to the confidence people have in the job market,” he said. “It shows that the fear of moving jobs has gone away for most people.”

Should you have to quit to get better pay, opportunity?

There’s also a disconnect between the reality of a tight job market and Canadian business practices, said O’Grady.

“The one bit that doesn’t actually make sense is the very conservative approach to salary increases,” he said. “Only about 21 to 22 per cent [of employers] are planning on offering three per cent or more increase to their staff for 2019.”

Five years ago, that number was around 42 per cent, he said.

That’s puzzling, Grady said, given more than 90 per cent of respondents say they expect the economy to be the same or better than it was in 2018, and that more than half of businesses plan to add staff in the year ahead.

The Hays survey found that any increase in payroll budget is being spent attracting new hires, filling holes a company has today, instead of working to prevent future staff departures.

There’s risk in that, said Bernard.

“One thing about the tighter labour market, it doesn’t just mean that employers have to think about attracting new hires, but they also have to be cognizant that their current employees might have options outside of their workplace,” he said. “So being competitive on compensation is important to retain your own workers as well.”

Human resources departments can be too slow to switch to the “employee-centric” outlook needed in a booming job market, said Corey Phelps, associate dean of executive education at McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management.

“Organizations need to think about their value propositions for employees,” he said.

Not just dollars

Salary isn’t the only important piece of the puzzle, he said. Today’s workplace needs to pay better attention to providing staff with work they find meaningful. 

“Millennials are very purpose-driven individuals,” said Phelps. “They’ve seen their baby boomer parents, who went through 60-hour workweeks to climb the corporate ladder. They’re saying, ‘I don’t want to do that. I want more work-life balance.'”

Our HR systems have been designed for previous generations. They’re not working for  millennials .– Corey Phelps, associate dean of executive education at  McGill  

On average, millennials are less concerned with advancement and more concerned with growth, he said. Many like to do project-based work that allows for variety, and they value good company culture.

“Our HR systems have been designed for previous generations; they’re not working for millennials,” said Phelps.

“If we don’t adapt our approach, we won’t be able to attract these folks and we won’t be able to keep them. And that’s especially problematic in a tight labour market.”

Aligning values

Laura Mindorff and her husband run two small businesses in Ottawa: a digital design firm and a software company. 

Though her current operations total just 13 people, she’s done a lot of recruiting for people with in-demand skills, such as graphic designers and software developers.

“People want to work for companies where they feel their values are aligned,” she said. 

Her efforts to retain staff range from things like biweekly one-on-one meetings, where “the employee gets to talk about anything they want,” to fun traditions like “fantastic food Friday,” with free breakfast in the morning and beer in the afternoon.

Chris Farley Ratcliffe, who works in non-profit management in Ottawa, has experienced the growing strength of the job market. After landing a six-month contract in early 2018, he started looking for permanent work again in September.

“There were very definitely more opportunities in the second half of the year,” he said. “I felt more optimistic and I was doing interviews pretty well every week for maybe a month-and-a-half.”

These included some for jobs he felt were “a bit of a long shot.”

Oil and gas sector the big exception

But in Alberta, many are still unemployed or underemployed, said Tara Dragon, an HR consultant in Edmonton.

“There’s lots of examples of people with professional backgrounds — engineers, geologists — who weren’t able to find work in the oil and gas industry, and they’ve taken roles with less responsibility, less salary.” 

As the founder of Work Evolution, a business that promotes flexible employment, Dragon said she encourages those people “to think unconventionally about their work circumstances.”

That could mean working remotely for employers in other parts of country or even abroad.

But she also invites them to consider transferring their skills to up-and-coming industries, such as clean tech.

“If experienced people are willing to change their industry, maybe learn some new things, those roles are out there for them.”

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Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics to commercialize Canada’s first automated heavy duty trucks

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Canadian Tire Corporation and Toronto based start-up NuPort Robotics, Canada’s first autonomous trucking company, are partnering with the Ontario government to invest $3 million to undertake an automated heavy duty trucking project to test a “first-of-its-kind-in-the-world” technology. 

The breakthrough technology provides a transportation solution for the middle mile, the short-haul shuttle runs that semi-tractor trailers make between distribution centres, warehouses and terminals each day.

It is designed to enable next-generation automated trucks that are more fuel efficient, safer to operate, and provide an enhanced driver experience.

Backed by $1 million in support from the Ontario government through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network and matched by $1 million investments from Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics, respectively, the two-year project is applying proprietary, artificial intelligence technology from NuPort Robotics to retrofit two conventional semi-tractor trailers – which will always be attended by a driver – with high-tech sensors and controls, a touchscreen navigation system, and other advanced features such as obstacle and collision avoidance.

Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, says: “Ontario is proud to be a global leader in automated and connected vehicle technology and this innovative project is an exciting milestone toward automated vehicle tech in the trucking industry.

“Ontarians rely on goods being delivered by trucks across the province every day and projects like this are demonstrating the ways that automated truck technology could help businesses meet delivery demands more efficiently while supporting a strong supply chain in Ontario.”

Vic Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, says: “This project applies unique and made-in-Ontario Artificial Intelligence technology that offers increased safety and efficiency, with a reduced carbon footprint, to the goods supply chains on which we all rely.

“This is the latest example of how Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network acts as a catalyst, fostering partnerships between ambitious technology start-ups and industry to develop and commercialize next generation transportation technologies that strengthen our economy and benefit society.”

Raghavender Sahdev, CEO of NuPort Robotics, says: “The trucks are currently transporting goods between a Canadian Tire distribution centre in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby rail terminals within a 12.5 mile radius, and early results are promising.

“The aim of the project is to develop a system that incorporates an autopilot feature for conventional trucks with a driver, leading to the most efficient way to drive and increase safety.

“The sensors work as a ‘safety cocoon’ to cover blind spots and prevent accidents and the end result is peak fuel efficiency, meaning lower carbon emissions, and peak driving performance for an overall more optimal transportation experience.”

NuPort Robotic’s approach to autonomous trucking is unique in the industry because it focuses only on solving the middle mile challenge, using a known set of predetermined trucking routes that are repetitive and high frequency as opposed to general highway driving.

Ultimately, when implemented on fixed routes in the future, Canadian Tire will benefit from faster commercial deployments and improvements in supply chain sustainability.

Gary Fast, vice-president of transportation, Canadian Tire, says: “Canadian Tire embraces innovation and is always testing new technologies to improve our operational efficiency and safety.

“As proud Canadian companies, the safety of all stakeholders, including drivers, employees, customers, and public will be the top priority as we work together towards deployment of this technology.”

Cari Covent, vice president of intelligent automation, Canadian Tire, says: “Over the last three years, Canadian Tire has made a significant effort to solve complex business problems by using the Canadian start-up Artificial Intelligence ecosystem, and NuPort Robotics exemplifies what we look for in a start-up with a focus on innovation, automation and artificial intelligence.”

Sahdev says: “As NuPort Robotics continues to develop new technologies to overcome middle mile supply chain problems and advance autonomous trucking, I am extremely grateful for the support of the Ontario Government through AVIN and the Ontario Centre of Innovation.

“With their continued support, we are striving to position Canada as the leader in autonomous transportation.”

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Constellation Software is money in the bank, this fund manager says

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If you’re looking for a long-term hold in Canadian tech then Constellation Software (Constellation Software Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:CSU) should definitely be on your radar. So says Jason Del Vicario of Hillside Wealth Management who likes not only Constellation but its recent spin-off Topicus (Topicus Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSXV:TOI) which Del Vicario says could do even better than CSU over the next ten years.

Software consolidator Constellation has been running on the same game plan for years, buying small vertical market software companies providing so-called mission critical software solutions globally. Over the years CSU has completed over 500 such acquisitions, buying the top names in their respective niche verticals and then using its clout and breadth to grow the business and expand into new markets. The resulting cash flow is then plowed back into more acquisitions and the cycle repeats.

The strategy has worked wonders for Constellation, which has grown its revenue from $631 million in 2010 to almost $4 billion for 2020 while taking earnings from $4.12 per share in 2010 to $20.59 per share this past year.

Shareholders were given a special treat last month when Constellation spun out recently acquired Topicus, giving CSU owners about 1.9 Topicus shares for every Constellation share as a dividend-in-kind. Constellation bought Netherlands-based software company Total Specific Solutions BV (or TSS) in 2013 and that subsidiary recently acquired Topicus BV, a Dutch information service company focusing on sectors such as healthcare, education and finance.

Topicus was singled out by Constellation founder Mark Leonard for its ability to grow without using outside shareholder funding. Leonard said the spin-out was part of the intention since a purchase agreement was struck last year.

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Nuvei wins price target raise from National Bank

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Strong quarterly results and an even brighter outlook for 2021 are reasons to celebrate for Canadian payments company Nuvei (Nuvei Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:NVEI), according to National Bank Financial analyst Richard Tse. In an update to clients on Wednesday, Tse left his rating unchanged at “Outperform” while raising his price target from C$85.00 to C$100.00.

Montreal-headquartered Nuvei is a provider of payment technology solutions to merchants and partners around the world, with a platform geared for high-growth mobile commerce and e-commerce markets. Nuvei’s solutions include a fully integrated payments engine with global processing capabilities, a turnkey checkout solution and a suite of data-driven business intelligence and risk management tools and services.

The company released its fourth quarter and full year 2020 financials on Wednesday, showing Q4 revenue of $115.9 million, up 46 per cent year-over-year, and adjusted EBITDA of $51.3 million, up 61 per cent year-over-year. Total dollar value of transactions processed by merchants (‘total volume’) with Nuvei rose by 53 per cent to $13.9 billion. (All figures in US dollars except where noted otherwise.)

The 2020 year featured revenue up 53 per cent to $375.0 million and adjusted EBITDA up 87 per cent to $163.0 million, with total volume rising a full 76 per cent year-over-year to $43.2 billion.

“Our performance continues to be driven by strong momentum in the high-growth verticals we serve, as well as by our customizable, scalable and feature-rich technology platform which provides one of the industry’s most complete payment technology solutions going well beyond merchant acquiring,” said Philip Fayer, chairman and CEO, in a press release.

The company said the fourth quarter represented the strongest growth yet experienced by Nuvei, driven by wallet share expansion from current merchants along with accelerated uptake of new merchants. New e-commerce business almost tripled compared to a year earlier, Nuvei said, while the company expanded its connectivity coverage over the quarter, introduced new product innovations on its platform and continued to execute on M&A.

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