MONTREAL -- Tech giants like Google (GOOGL.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) say a historically low unemployment rate in Quebec will not stop Montreal from attracting the world's top talent to work for the city's growing artificial intelligence sector.
Microsoft data innovation strategist Charles Verdon says the city's burgeoning status as a global centre of deep learning has become a calling card for highly skilled researchers who want to work with fellow experts and large multinational companies.
These people can obtain lucrative employment packages, but the desire to work on specific projects often drives their decision.
Verdon said during an interview at a Montreal Board of Trade-sponsored AI conference Monday that offering the right environment is key to attracting key talent in a field with essentially no unemployment.
Statistics Canada reported meanwhile that Quebec added the most jobs in Canada in December, pushing the unemployment rate down to 4.9 per cent. Montreal's rate fell to 6.1 per cent while Quebec City was 3.9 per cent.
David Beauchemin, leader of Google's cloud division in Montreal, told the conference that finding specialized talent is always a challenge but Montreal's developing AI hub has made it easier to lure workers from abroad.
In addition to working for global companies, these people love Montreal's quality of life, he said.
The growing immigration roadblocks forming in the United States have also contributed to some people instead choosing to work in Canada, he added.
Montreal's economic development agency for foreign investment says the city's AI talent is helpful in attracting specialized workers.
The group expects about 250 foreigners, including some 200 from France, have elected to emigrate to Montreal after it conducted seven hiring missions last year, including one near Silicon Valley and two in Paris.
Montreal International CEO Hubert Bolduc says more companies are joining these missions because of the challenges in filling vacant spots.
In addition to convincing workers to relocate, the group is working to convince more foreign students to remain in the city after they graduate.