The average small or medium-sized Canadian business will likely have an owner or president, one or more sales people, someone in charge of marketing, but not always a full-time IT person. That may soon change.

According to a report published in March by the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada (ICTC), the rise of cloud computing, mobile devices, analytics and apps has forced many companies to rethink the talent they need to succeed. In fact, the report projects that within just four years, businesses across the country will be struggling to fill a collective 18,000 jobs or more.

Unfortunately, not all firms have human resources departments who can make these hires a priority.

“While building a healthy talent supply through education and training is a key focus in Canada, the lead-time to staff and train critical positions is a challenge for many industries, especially SMEs (small and medium enterprises),” the ICTC report says.

Of course, having this kind of data is a helpful first step towards preparing for the future, as are the growing number of educational programs at Canadian post-secondary schools to develop the next-generation workforce. However there is a lot more small and medium-sized businesses in Canada can do today to make sure they’ll be able to attract the kind of skills they will require tomorrow:

Think of every job as an ‘IT’ job: While the ICTC report highlights programmers, computer technicians and database analysts as the most in-demand jobs of the near future, a lot of other roles in companies today rely on technology, from sales reps to marketers. The more familiar they are with the use of mobile apps, cloud-based services and how to analyze data, the better they’ll be able to work with technology professionals and explain their specific needs.

Think beyond traditional assumptions about gender and technology: Like many professions, women have historically been under-represented in technology careers, and the looming worker shortage may only make matters worse. The solution starts with recognizing that not all technology professionals are going to be former video game-playing teenage boys but an increasing number of young women who blend an understanding or interest in solving business problems and a comfort level with smartphones, apps and other digital tools.

Think young - but also international: As best-selling Canadian author Don Tapscott first observed, today’s Millennials have “grown up digital.” That means creating internships or co-op roles for younger workers could be the first step in gaining IT expertise while also providing valuable business experience to new recruits. There are also a number of new Canadians who bring technology skills from overseas who haven’t found a place to apply them. Explore mentoring or “bridging” programs that give this talent a way to prove themselves in a competitive market while easing future hiring woes.

If the value of technology talent isn’t immediately obvious, Canadian SMBs should explore how technology can make them more competitive with even the largest firms in their industry or sector. To find out more, download Salesforce’s free eBook, Best Practices To Grow Your Business