Illustration: Todd Detwiler Illustration: Todd Detwiler

Matching Talent with specialized industry needs is a natural opportunity for nimble entrepreneurs— which is why, year after year, HR agencies are plentiful among Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies. With many employers struggling to fill openings despite a 7.4% national unemployment rate, the market clearly needs some match-making help. Here are the four most promising specialties:

Foreign workers

Canadians are often reluctant to move to other regions for jobs, so employers—especially in Alberta (with 4.5% unemployment) and Saskatchewan (4.7%)— are increasingly recruiting outside our borders. StatsCan reports that the number of temporary foreign workers soared right through the recession, reaching 447,000 in 2011, up by 75% since 2006. But companies need help navigating the complexities of foreign recruitment, says Bryan Toffey, president of the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services. “It doesn’t seem like anybody is doing a great job at that,” he says. “Could you do all right with that specialty? Absolutely!”

Youth

The unemployment rate for Canadians aged 15 to 24 spiked during the recession, and remains very high, at 14.7%. This worrying reality is an opening for services that connect employers with young talent. “If a firm can become the placement agency for the top students, either through university connections or internships, that agency will always be in demand,” says Dave Ulrich of RBL Group, a Utah-based HR agency.

Narrow niches

Another route to big results may be to think small. “Drill down into explosively growing employment sectors and start a niche firm in one of those sectors,” advises Toffey. There’s a need for agencies that locate people with specialized skills in, say, video-game development or oil and gas. The IT sector, for one, is perennially hungry for distinct skill sets. Mississauga, Ont.-based Copperstone Connect, for example, became one of Canada’s fastest-growing startups by focusing exclusively on one specialty: data-related jobs in business intelligence and data warehousing.

The laid-off

A sector with declining employment can be a rich hunting ground for employers in expanding industries. In the U.S., some agencies had great success helping highly trained officers switch sectors after the U.S. Army slimmed its ranks, says Ulrich. The key is knowing which sectors require which skills, such as matching tradespeople affected by the manufacturing downturn with jobs in construction. And as Ottawa moves to lay off 19,000 employees by 2015, HR agencies could help the private sector land some of the civil service’s best talent.

Read more from PROFIT’s 2013 Opportunity Guide

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