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CBRE: Scoring Tech Talent in Canada

Every year, CBRE ranks the top-50 tech talent markets in North America. We analyzed just the Canadian cities data in this exclusive report.

Without tech talent, the technologies we use every day wouldn’t exist. Whether it’s a revolutionary AI tool or a pioneering process automation, there are people behind the product, many of whom are proud to call Canada home.

This year’s Scoring Tech Talent report from CBRE lists the top-50 markets for tech talent in North America. According to the report, the San Francisco Bay Area ranks #1 among large markets, while Waterloo ranks #1 for small markets.

It’s clear from this year’s report that Canada is emerging as a hotspot for top talent, with five of its metropolitan areas landing in the top-20 cities overall. But which Canadian cities are producing the most talent?

In the past, CBRE produced a Canada-focused report that provided similar comparative information about Canadian markets. How does Toronto compare with Calgary? Which community has the best cost advantages? In this article, we’ve isolated the Canadian data from the North American CBRE report to compare the attractiveness of each community for businesses looking to expand in Canada.

While, of course, we hold Waterloo in high regard, our goal is to present a compelling case for conducting business in Canada as a whole. We’ll do this by exploring workforce growth, cost comparisons, tech talent density and other factors that play into expansion decisions.

In our focused analysis of Canadian cities from the CBRE Scoring Tech Talent report, several key findings emerged:

  • Tech Talent Concentration: Canadian cities exhibit an impressive concentration of tech talent, with Ottawa, Waterloo and Toronto standing out amongst the rest.
  • Competitive Workforce Growth: The Canadian tech workforce shows consistent growth. Markets such as Vancouver, Calgary and Waterloo saw the highest increases in their tech workforces.
  • Cost Efficiency: Compared to their US counterparts, Canadian cities offer a competitive advantage for businesses looking to establish or expand their tech operations.
  • Future Workforce: The strong presence of individuals in their 20s and 30s highlights an ecosystem’s strength and attractiveness. Gen Z population growth was most notable in Waterloo, Toronto and Ottawa, while millennial growth was highest in Waterloo, Vancouver and Toronto.

Beyond individual cities, our analysis underscores the strength of Canada’s innovation ecosystem. The collaborative environment, supportive infrastructure and vibrant startup culture all contribute to the nation’s growing power in shaping the future of tech.

Let’s dive deeper into the results of our analysis.

Identifying the leaders

The report’s overall rankings shed light on the top-performing Canadian cities in terms of their tech talent ecosystems. Let’s see how these cities stack up against each other in the overall North American rankings.

Large tech talent markets in Canada  Small tech talent markets in Canada

The data presents compelling facts about Canadian cities:

Additionally, Calgary and Waterloo were spotlighted in the report as two of the three markets making the biggest leaps in the North American rankings, rising seven and six spots, respectively.

Unleashing the potential

One critical driver of any tech ecosystem’s success is the availability of a skilled and expanding workforce. A growing labour force indicates not only economic health but also opportunities for businesses to tap into a diverse talent pool.

In terms of number of jobs added, large markets such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have experienced notable workforce growth over the last five years. We’ve seen comparable workforce growth across the three smaller markets.

However, when we examine the growth rate over those past five years, the data tells a slightly different story. Vancouver, Calgary and Waterloo have experienced the highest growth rates, respectively, showing a wider spread of talent across different-sized cities.

Tech talent growth by percent change

The future of innovation

The future of innovation will lean on the younger generations. Cities that can attract and retain Gen-Z and millennial populations are poised to thrive in today’s – and tomorrow’s – tech-driven economy.

The report points out that workforce growth and innovation in markets are closely tied to the concentration of those in their 20s and 30s, deemed Gen-Zs and millennials, respectively.

Let’s explore how Canadian cities fare in their growing populations of young, emerging talent.

Here we can see that Waterloo stands out as the leader in attracting young talent.

Looking at growth of residents in their 20s, Waterloo experienced a 21.3% increase, followed distantly by Toronto and Ottawa, with Calgary, Quebec City and Edmonton all experiencing declines.

As for growth of residents in their 30s, Waterloo again leads the pack, with 17.2% growth, followed closely by Vancouver (16.4%) and Toronto (14.7%).

Canadian cities continue to attract young talent seeking a fulfilling lifestyle to balance their careers, thanks to the excellent quality of life and lower cost of living compared to many US tech hubs.

Plus, post-secondary educational institutions like the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia – routinely ranked as the country’s best computer science and engineering schools – continue to feed the workforce.

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Finding value in Canadian markets

While access to a robust tech talent pool is vital, the cost of doing business cannot be overlooked. Comparing the cost of living and operating in different Canadian cities reveals strategic advantages for businesses seeking a balance between talent and affordability.

The report examined the overall costs of a company for one year, using an average business size of 500 employees in a 60,000 square-foot space.

Quebec City, Montreal and Edmonton were found to have the lowest overall one-year company costs. Waterloo is nestled in the middle, and Calgary revealed itself to be the costliest Canadian city for overall business costs, followed closely by Toronto.

Estimated One-Year Company Costs By Market

Labour cost vs. quality of talent

When examining potential business costs, it’s not always prudent to pick the location that will provide the lowest expense. A strategic location where a company can thrive without compromising on talent can yield much greater return in the long run.

In fact, the report notes that “Waterloo, Vancouver and Edmonton in Canada provide the best value when it comes to cost and quality.” In other words, these cities are where you’ll find the highest-quality talent with the most affordable salaries.

Labour Cost and Quality Chart for Canada

" Waterloo, Vancouver and Edmonton in Canada provide the best value when it comes to cost and quality. "

CBRE Scoring Tech Talent Report 2023

Tech talent density and innovation

Beyond individual city rankings, the density of tech talent in a region reflects the collective innovation potential of that area.

For example, in Waterloo, one out of every ten workers is a tech worker, creating a favourable environment for tech companies and startups to thrive and tap into a readily available, skilled workforce.

Let’s take a look at the tech talent density across the most sought-after Canadian tech markets.

Tech Talent Density

The report shows Ottawa, Waterloo and Toronto as the top three Canadian markets with the highest tech talent concentration, Waterloo being the densest small market (with a total population of 617,000).

Cities with high tech talent density often signal strong, local post-secondary institutions and flourishing ecosystems. This, in turn, attracts businesses seeking a dynamic community with a healthy talent pool.

Conducting business in Canada: The ultimate choice

As the fastest-growing country in the G7, Canada is a prime destination for innovation and growth.

If you’ve already been exploring an expansion here, you’ve likely noticed Canada has brought its A-game to the tech world with competitive incentives, innovative immigration policies and strategic investments into infrastructure, research and more.

So, the only question left is, what are you waiting for?

Businesses looking to expand can use the CBRE Scoring Tech Talent report as an insightful tool when developing their location shortlists, but a lot more goes into choosing the right location for growth and success.

Download the report to explore all the details.

Join the tech revolution in Canada

Want to join North America’s #1 small tech talent market? International business expansion is our specialty. Contact the Waterloo EDC team today to get started.