Kitchener-Waterloo innovation hub Communitech has re-launched The Help List in response to the series of tech layoffs currently sweeping the country.
Rising inflation, interest rates, and geopolitical tensions have contributed to a broader market downturn that has led many high-growth Canadian tech startups to lay off staff in the face of a tough fundraising environment and prospective recession.
Since Communitech re-launched The Help List a couple of weeks ago, about 130 people have added their names.
The list of Canadian tech companies that have laid off staff in recent weeks includes Hootsuite, Dooly, Article, Mejuri, Uberflip, RenoRun, Shopify, Wealthsimple, Clearco, Unbounce, Coinsquare, Introhive, Ritual, and Bonsai. These challenging economic conditions are being felt around the globe. According to layoff tracking website Layoffs.fyi, 517 tech startups from across the world have cut a combined 69,857 employees so far this year.
With The Help List, Communitech hopes to help laid off tech workers from across the country find new opportunities with Canadian tech companies. Since Communitech re-launched The Help List a couple of weeks ago, about 130 people have added their names. In 2022 overall, a total of 214 laid off employees have joined The Help List.
“One of our big focuses is making sure that we maintain the health of our ecosystem and a big part of that is talent,” Kyra Jones, Communitech’s VP of organization development and culture, told BetaKit in an interview. “We don’t want that talent to be scooped up by other global [organizations] or American companies.”
The Help List was first created as a grassroots response to COVID-19 pandemic tech layoffs in early 2020 by a group that included former Prospect founder and CEO Marianne Bulger. The list served as a centralized database designed to connect affected workers to new startup job opportunities. According to Bulger’s LinkedIn page, the open source resource benefitted over 4,000 individuals and hundreds of companies across Canada.
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But what was initially a tough time for tech workers soon gave way to a tight labour market for tech talent as the country experienced a record 2021 for venture investment. As Canadian tech rebounded, the need for The Help List decreased.
Communitech acquired The Help List last summer when it took over Prospect, a national startup job board that connects tech talent with Canadian companies. No cash was exchanged as part of this transition, which saw Prospect dissolved and rebranded. Jones said that The Help List was technically functional and people were still being added to the list at the time.
Since then, in light of the growing need for resources like The Help List amid present market conditions, Communitech has taken steps to ensure the list remains updated and features talent currently seeking new job opportunities.
For Communitech, The Help List and its job board help address the issue of talent—a key pillar of the organization’s True North Strategy, which also involves a $200 million venture fund. Both The Help List and Communitech’s job board remain free to use for startups and job seekers.
Now, when Communitech learns of layoffs, Jones says the hub shares a toolkit with organizations focused on helping impacted employees seeking new opportunities add themselves to the list.
Some of these larger rounds of layoffs in particular have led Canadian tech employees to assemble their own lists of affected people. Jones hailed these efforts as a net positive: “I think one of the amazing things about our ecosystem is that it’s a very strong community, and that community cares deeply about one another.”
“We would like [The Help List] to become a list that is a go-to list that people put their names on when they’re seeking employment so that we can ensure we’re connecting top talent with jobs in our ecosystem,” Jones added. “But I wouldn’t discourage anyone from helping if they feel like they can help.”
At the same time, many of these company-specific lists are run by volunteers, unlike The Help List, which is managed by a dedicated Communitech team.
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“We’ve been very intentional with finding as many of those lists as possible and connecting with the volunteers to ensure that they’re sharing both the Help List and our national job board with the folks that they’re in communication with,” Candace Beres, Communitech’s senior manager of strategic communications, told BetaKit.
According to Jones, despite current market conditions, “there are still a lot of [Canadian tech] organizations that are hiring.”
“It may not be as hot as it was a couple of months ago or even a few months ago, but there are a lot of organizations that are actively seeking top talent,” said Jones. “We have a lot of open roles—we have over 14,000 job postings on our national job board.”
Jones emphasized that this need extends beyond just technical talent. “There’s a lot of roles that make tech companies successful,” she said. “We see postings on our national job board that go across the breadth of needs a tech company would have.”
Feature image by Markus Winkler via Unsplash.
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