All post-secondary institutions in B.C. are and have been working to shift our educational offerings to meet this challenge.

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Both the recent federal and B.C. budgets included significant and meaningful investments for tech in this province.

The federal government announced a regional development agency for B.C., which will be critical to funding important initiatives such as the B.C. Tech Association’s ScaleUp project. The province announced $500 million for InBC, a fund that can also support new B.C.-based companies in starting up and scaling up. Both programs have the potential to support the continued growth of our booming tech sector.

But as we continue to compete with Silicon Valley and other tech hubs, where will all of the needed tech talent come from?

According to the 2020 CBRE North America Tech-30 report, Vancouver was already the number-one tech job growth market in the U.S. and Canada, adding 14,200 new high-tech jobs in just two years. While it will take time and investment to ensure this growth continues post pandemic, recruiters in Vancouver have already reported that demand for B.C.-based tech talent is surging.

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If we want this growth to continue, and to make sure that we are retaining and attracting talent who will want to live, work, pay taxes, and build their businesses here, we need to continue focusing on providing a diversity of educational opportunities to build the workforce our tech businesses need.

All post-secondary institutions in B.C. are and have been working to shift our educational offerings to meet this challenge. In our own ways we all strive to ensure business leaders and policymakers alike can rely on our insight and partnership to provide the learning opportunities that will ensure our province’s continued success.

But now, as we reimagine the post-COVID-19 economy, we believe a more coordinated approach is needed. There are three things we think we should be working toward together:

• We know that part of what tech companies are looking for is talent requiring less time for training, people who are adaptable and have some experience. They are also looking for talent with applied skills, specific technical knowledge/experience, less theory, more hands-on experience. Our sector as a whole needs to do a better job engaging with these companies to find out exactly what the applied and soft skills are and incorporate them. We believe strongly that both post-secondary institutions and industry would benefit from a more coordinated approach to ensure that we can meet these gaps in the labour force efficiently.

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• We also believe in increasing spaces for co-op experiences or learning projects with real businesses and organizations. Experiences embedded directly into the course curriculum or completed as remote internships should be expanded and more widely adopted, particularly as many textbook case studies typically used in business courses are outdated.

• Finally, we believe post-secondary institutions need to commit to government and industry to continue investing in the ongoing learning needs of their faculty and staff. We know the tech sector is fast-paced, and needs a strong commitment from institutions to ensure their staff and faculty stay relevant.

There are many reasons companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google and others are expanding their operations in B.C. And there are many reasons we are seeing a continuing burst of start-up investment and entrepreneurs setting up shop.

It’s our responsibility to keep our eyes on the education and training needed to make sure we meet their workforce needs, to continue ensuring both their and our economic success. We hope to continue to work closely with both tech businesses and other post-secondary institutions to reach these goals.

Brock Dykeman is the president of University Canada West.


Letters to the editor should be sent to provletters@theprovince.com.The editorial pages editor is Hardip Johal, who can be reached at hjohal@postmedia.com.

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