In many provinces, non-essential businesses have been forced to close. Essential retailers are the exception; they’re staying open so Canadians have access to necessities like groceries, cleaning supplies, pet food, medication and other supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are stocking up on several weeks’ worth of essentials to reduce the time they spend outside their home. People are also cooking at home more often following the closure of local restaurants. These changes have led retailers in categories such as grocery and pharmacy to experience incredibly high sales volume during the pandemic. Discount retailers, such as dollar stores, that contain affordable essentials such as food, cleaning supplies and toiletries are also included in this category. You’ve probably heard on the news about people who are ‘panic buying’ and huge lineups at grocery stores. Essential retailers have responded to this increase in demand by hiring more cashiers, store clerks, shelf stockers, cleaners, and a variety of other roles.
Banking and Finance
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the economy into a tailspin. Thousands of businesses have been forced to close and millions of Canadians have been laid off. Financial markets have plummeted and rebounded in a vicious cycle as news and announcements about COVID-19 emerge daily. In response to this financial volatility, many Canadians are turning to financial experts to help them secure their financial future, protect their savings, and access financial support. From working with a bank to access financial support, like the mortgage deferrals promised by the federal government, to meeting with an investment specialist to discuss protecting retirement savings or assets such as RRSPs and TSFAs, to understanding how their credit will be affected by lost income, Canadians are turning to financial institutions for support during this time. Financial advisors and customer service professionals with experience in the banking sector are, particularly in demand.
Many service businesses have switched to a remote work model and requested that their employees work from home. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on telecommunications companies to provide high-speed residential internet. People who may have been fine with a mobile data plan prior to COVID-19 are setting up home internet to work more effectively. Instead of serving concentrated business networks, service providers must adapt to providing fast, stable, and secure internet service to millions of workers spread out over smaller home networks. Networks are also under strain because of social distancing. When everyone is confined to their home, more internet bandwidth is consumed watching videos, engaging on social media, and keeping in touch with friends and family. Some service providers, such as Bell, have announced unlimited internet bandwidth for all residential customers during the pandemic to ease the burden of overage fees. Mobile phone networks are also under strain. With in-person meetings no longer an option, phone calls and video calls are the main way people are staying in touch, so mobile networks are experiencing higher volumes than normal. Workers in customer and IT support, installation, maintenance, and repair ensure Canadians are able to access these critical services.
Businesses across Canada are shutting down or adopting new ways of operating, so it’s a given that their customers will have questions and need support. Customer service workers are in demand as companies in many sectors are responding to an influx of customer questions and concerns. Customers may have questions, need assistance canceling or suspending their services, placing orders, or otherwise accessing support. From canceling or rescheduling travel plans with airlines, hotels and other providers in the hospitality industry, to suspending ongoing subscriptions that won’t be needed during the lockdown, to clarifying questions about item availability, shipping, or other new policies that have been put into effect during the COVID-19 pandemic, customer service workers have their hands full. Call center agents and supervisors are particularly in demand at this time. Call center staff can often work remotely, allowing for social distancing. This makes hiring call center agents an attractive solution for organizations to respond to a surge in customer requests.
Public health and government
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into a sudden economic depression. According to current estimates, approximately 11% of Canadians are currently unemployed. That number is expected to climb if the pandemic drags on and more businesses scale back. In response, all levels of government have stepped in with policies to support Canadians experiencing hardship. The federal government announced a new expedited benefit to replace Employment Insurance (EI), the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). CERB received over 300,000 submissions within 24 hours of the application portal opening. Provincial governments, which are responsible for administering healthcare and education, are working around the clock to make adjustments and ensure Canadians have access to essential services. Public service workers are needed in areas such as benefits administration, social services, public health, education, and IT development, to ensure that Canadians are able to access critical services and connect with the support they need during this difficult time.
It goes without saying that in the midst of a health crisis, healthcare workers are absolutely critical. Nurses, doctors, and hospital support staff have been overwhelmed with the spike in patients admitted to hospitals. On a good day, Canada’s healthcare system is already under strain. With the added surge of COVID-19 patients over the past few weeks, many of whom require long-term intensive care, hospitals and healthcare facilities are being pushed to their limits. Also compounding the situation is the extended length of time COVID-19 patients stay in hospitals and require access to ventilators; hospitalized COVID-19 patients may require long stays spanning several months in severe cases. Nurses, who are responsible for the day-to-day care of patients, are particularly in demand during this time. Respiratory specialists, physicians, and paramedics are also in demand. Outside of direct patient care, healthcare administrators are also in demand. The huge influx of patients means the volume of administrative tasks such as enrolling patients, updating records, and coordinating with insurance companies has surged as well.
With Canadians stockpiling essential supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, many products are flying off the shelves and manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand. We’ve all heard about the toilet paper shortages that stemmed from early panic buying. Thankfully, government officials stepped in to assure Canadians that there’s plenty of toilet paper to go around and anyone who needs it should be able to find it in their local store soon enough. However, there have been plenty of other products that are difficult or impossible to find, such as soap or hand sanitizer. If you’ve been grocery shopping lately, you’ve probably noticed lots of bare shelves as people stock up in preparation for an extended lockdown.
Manufacturers in sectors like consumer goods and health supplies are ramping up production to respond to the increase in demand in consumer goods. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies for healthcare workers are also in short supply at this time. The shortages have been so acute that some manufacturers in other sectors are retooling their facilities to produce in demand products (for example: breweries or cosmetic companies retooling to manufacture hand sanitizer, or car parts manufacturers producing ventilators). The surge in demand for consumer goods and healthcare supplies has led to an increase in manufacturing jobs for line workers and supervisors, warehouse workers, manufacturing engineers, and quality control specialists, among others.
Engineering and Architecture
Construction has been deemed essential in some provinces, including Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. Building sites for projects related to critical infrastructure, healthcare, transit and residential housing remain active. In other provinces, such as Quebec, construction has been halted due to concerns about social distancing. However, for the time being, it’s full steam ahead for construction projects in some parts of the country. Shortages of affordable housing have been well-documented in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto. Those shortages show no signs of going away, especially as people shelter in their homes and the number of homes available for sale on the real estate market takes a dive. With more Canadians unemployed in the coming months, affordable housing may become an even more urgent concern. Governments don’t have the option to postpone building much-needed homes or infrastructure without causing a ripple effect that leads to greater problems in the future. As a result, a variety of construction, engineering and architecture jobs remain in demand in some areas.
Technology and IT
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians have been spending a lot of time indoors and on the internet, both for work and leisure. Social media, mobile apps, video conferencing, websites, online ordering systems and a variety of other digital channels are experiencing extremely high volumes as people turn to online channels to buy things and connect with others, while limiting in-person interactions. To operate smoothly, online tools and platforms require the skills and expertise of developers and other IT professionals, especially as user volumes surge. Many businesses are scrambling to ramp up their development teams to increase the capacity of their online ordering systems and troubleshoot issues that arise during the crisis. Having functional, user-friendly digital channels is especially critical right now as they offer retailers and other businesses a much-needed source of revenue while their physical locations are closed. Other IT specialties have also been in high demand due to remote work considerations. With a large portion of the Canadian workforce migrating to working from home, help desk, networking and data security professionals have been working around the clock to ensure everyone is able to access the tools they need and work from home securely.
News and Publishing
COVID-19 updates and news have dominated the newscycle for weeks now. There seems to be an endless stream of information and updates that the public needs to know about. Whether it’s updates on best practices for social distancing, new government programs to support unemployed workers, or updates on the world economy, news organizations play a critical role in distributing information to the public. Both traditional news and digital media are making sure that people have the information they need to stay safe during the pandemic. Traditional media such as television news and newspapers are critical to reach older generations, while digital publications and social media reach younger people. In most provinces, government officials at all levels of government have been giving daily press briefings, updating the public on the latest measures they’ve implemented to protect residents. News organizations and digital publishers must stay on top of this 24-hour newscycle. The constant turnover of information requires a variety of skill sets and creates opportunities for reporters, editors, fact checkers, video production staff, web and IT specialists, among many others.