Experts: Laid off Loblaws workers entering mixed job market

Laid off employees at Loblaws  head office in Brampton are entering a job market with solid demand for high-skilled IT workers but they still face many challenges.

Tech industry spokesperson Wayne Hendry says while there are thousands of IT jobs available in Mississauga and Brampton, he suggested many may be industry specific and not right for the skillset of grocery chain workers.

Loblaws employs nearly 140,000 people and operates numerous retail banners, from Loblaws, Zehrs and no-frills to Real Canadian Super Store and Fortinos.

At the head office, IT workers handle everything from email, the company website and financial accounting systems to helping the company automate and revamp its supply chain and warehousing network, one of its biggest headaches over the last five years.

“It’s really hard to say yes they’ll find a job relatively quickly or no they won’t,” Hendry told YourMississaugaBiz.com on Thursday. “It’s very difficult to say.”

However Hendry, with the Information Technology Association of Canada, said small and big businesses in the GTA and across Canada are finding it hard to locate and hire enough talented and skilled people.

A recent report from the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada backed up Hendry’s statement. The March 2011 report said that entry-level IT jobs requiring five years of experience or less were the easiest to fill, but candidates with leading edge skills were the most difficult to recruit.

Hendry also said a recent search on job site indeed for IT jobs in Mississauga and Brampton garnered more than 9,000 results.

University of Toronto Mississauga career expert Anne Gaiger said while the Loblaws layoffs were frustrating for many of the school’s computer science grads, the ups and downs of the economy made them realistic about their job prospects.

“Students are fairly aware of the challenges in looking for work,” said Gaiger, assistant director for the UTM Career Centre.

Gaiger said Loblaws — known as one of Canada’s top employers for young people — recruited some of the school’s computer science grads as part of their 18-month grad@loblaw management program.

“They did in fact hire 100 students every year from a number of universities,” she said. “That’s not something they would keep doing years and years on end.”

Gaiger did say that it was a good opportunity for small or mid-size companies to recruit students and grads that would otherwise have gone to work for Loblaws.

She also said despite the extra competition, job prospects for computer science and IT grads were still pretty good. “But it’s still an employer’s market,” she said.

While a lot of students were still looking to many large companies, Gaiger said she’s trying to educate more students about the many small to mid-size local businesses in Mississauga.

“Those can really be great entry-level positions and lead to great jobs or may lead you to a large company later in your career,” she said. “If you do look at some numbers it’s really the small to medium businesses that tend to hire.”

Loblaws spokesperson Julija Hunter said in an email that the 700 laid off  head office staff would get severance, outplacement services, job hunting help and other support.

Loblaws head office currently employs 1,700 people. Its office on President’s Choice Circle in Brampton is the city’s third-largest employer. The company announced layoffs of 700 administrative and IT positions last week as part of an ongoing restructuring effort.

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