Digital Skills Most In Demand in Job Postings in Canada – Not highly technical programming languages, but everyday digital skills

To illuminate the different combinations of skills that Canadians need to be competitive in the labour market, we have partnered with Burning Glass Technologies (Burning Glass) to examine job posting data from January 2012 to December 2018. This data covers all of the English- language online job postings in Canada, and reflects the combination of skills that employers believe a candidate needs, providing a proxy for current skill demands in the labour market.

Using this data, we first sought to uncover the demand for digital skills in Canada. We propose a new robust measure of digital skills, allowing us to place digital skills on a continuum based on their relative digital intensity. Second, we identified a number of distinct clusters of digital skills, then examined how these clusters interact and appear together with similarly clustered non-digital skills. Finally, using these insights, we uncovered trends where employers are looking for distinct combinations of digital and non-digital skills — resulting in what we are calling hybrid jobs.

The purpose of this report is to analyze which skills are most in-demand, and how skills from di erent domains go together, so job seekers can understand how to build on their existing skill sets to enhance their competitiveness in the labour market.

From previous Brookfield Institute studies, we know that digital skills vary and exist on a continuum. However, there is a lack of clarity around where specific skills are placed in that continuum, how they interact, and what combinations of digital skills Canadian employers are looking for in specific areas of the economy.

In this report, we place all 13,000 skills in the dataset along a continuum based on their digital intensity, defined by the frequency with which a skill appears in digitally-intensive occupations. For this report, we use “skills” as a catch-all for skills, abilities, knowledge, and other elements required for workers to be successful in a job. Within the broad category of skills that we define as digital, there is substantial variation in each skill’s digital intensity, the application of these skills, and the knowledge, expertise, and training required.

At one end of the spectrum are the skills that show up frequently in job postings attached to the most digitally-intensive occupations. These include highly technical digital skills and knowledge such as data vault modeling, knowledge of clustering algorithms, and programming languages such as Python. The digital skills attached to less digitally-intensive occupations include, for example, the ability to use web-based project management software, Microsoft Office, and accounting software.

The most in-demand digital skills across the Canadian economy are not highly technical programming languages, but everyday digital
skills, in particular those associated with using the Microsoft Office Suite. However, employers are also looking for much more digitally-intensive skills that relate to data, including SQL and SAP, indicating the importance of data analysis skills in today’s economy. Canada’s growing tech and digital economy is also reflected in the number of times employers ask for general software skills, as well as specific programming languages such as Java.

Table A: Top 10 Digital Skills by Number of Job Postings That Mention Them

In our definition of digital skills, four distinct clusters of skills have emerged. First are the less digitally-intensive, general workforce digital skills, which are the most requested and most pervasive across the economy. Second are data skills that also appear across a variety of occupational and industrial contexts. These skills vary from baseline data skills applicable across the economy to more specialized, digitally-intensive data skills, such as the skills associated with machine learning and other data science techniques. The last two clusters are the most digitally-intensive: system infrastructure, which includes skills ranging from setting up and managing cloud computing services to more general IT support, and so ware and product development, which includes skills pertaining to the generation of new digital products, both web- and so ware-based.


Four major hybrid job trends emerged in the data, where employers are looking for distinct combinations of digital and non-digital skills.
Canadians across the economy require a 21st-century toolkit that includes general workforce digital skills and a suite of soft skills
Despite a growing narrative around the importance of learning to code, for most Canadians, foundational digital skills alongside a suite of non-digital skills — in particular, interpersonal skills — are critical foundations to be competitive in the labour market.

General workforce digital skills, while less digitally-intensive, show up in roughly one third of all job postings in Canada. This includes the baseline digital skills that most Canadian workers need, the most predominant of which are those found in the Microsoft Office Suite. It also includes occupation- specific software, such as business intelligence software and SAS.

The most common skills appearing alongside workforce digital skills are communication and organizational skills. Other soft skills likely
to appear alongside workforce digital skills include interpersonal skills, such as ‘teamwork’, ‘collaboration’, and ‘customer service’; project management skills, such as ‘budgeting’ and ‘planning’; and more general skills and aptitudes, such as ‘problem-solving’ and ‘detail- orientedness’.

For highly technical workers, digital skills are necessary, but must be augmented by non-digital skills

Roles requiring a high proportion of skills from the Software/Product Development and Systems Infrastructure skills clusters are not only the most digitally-intensive, but also the most hybrid. This means that in addition to digital skills, employers ask for non-digital skills from different domains at a higher intensity compared to other roles.

For these highly-digital roles, employers are looking for particularly dynamic candidates, with technical domain knowledge augmented by many non-digital skills; The most frequently requested of which are communications, teamwork, problem solving, and project management, re ecting the creative and collaborative nature of these roles. For current and prospective workers in these elds, strong digital skills are necessary, but insufficient. It is perhaps just as critical to enhance one’s interpersonal, creative, and problem-solving skills and abilities.

For many creative professionals, design-oriented digital skills are essential

In many core creative roles, from advertising professionals to video game designers, employers are looking for candidates with a strong overlap in non-digital communications, marketing, and/ or design skills, as well as design-oriented digital tools, such as Adobe Photoshop and CSS.

The digital skills that are in-demand for these creative professionals pertain to graphic design, web development, and marketing/ communications. For these workers, the tools from the Adobe Creative Suite are requested most o en. Many of these jobs also require digital skills that relate to marketing and communications — the ability to use social media platforms were among the most commonly requested. Digital marketing management tools and general web development skills are also in high demand. From an employer perspective, the core creative practices, which include non-digital communications, marketing, and design skills, remain the most important elements of the job; but, in many cases, these must be augmented by speci c digital skills and abilities.

Data skills are highly in-demand and act as connectors between less and more digitally-intensive occupations

Data is becoming an indispensable component of our economy. For workers, data skills are not only some of the most in-demand digital skills, but can also serve as a link between less and more digitally-intensive roles.

One area of upgrading that offers promise is advancement from Microsoft Excel to SQL. Microsoft Excel is the single most in-demand
digital skill in Canada, and as a spreadsheet program is applicable across the economy. SQL, a database querying software, is much more digitally-intensive, but is also the fifth most requested digital skill in Canada. While these skills sit within two distinct clusters, with different levels of digital intensity, they also form a strong connection with one another. There are many instances in which an employer asks for both Excel and SQL in the same job posting. An individual who is pro cient at Excel and seeking to become more competitive in digitally-intensive roles may consider learning SQL. However, these kinds of job transitions will also likely require skill and credential upgrading in other areas.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at I, Human: Digital and so skills in a new economy



  1. Pingback: Digital Skills in Australia – Amongst the fastest growing | Job Market Monitor - March 18, 2022

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