Capital region tech sector expands reach for employees

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy

Victoria technology companies will now be fishing in a much bigger pond for technical talent thanks to a deal the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council signed with Western Canada’s largest job marketplace.

VIATEC has entered into a partnership with BCJobs.ca and BCtechjobs.ca to have its popular job board included among the listings on the 15-year-old Vancouver-based employment board.

“This is a great chance for us to take the 100 or so job postings we have at any time to make sure a broader audience nearby that is able to work in Canada, understands the Pacific Northwest and knows where the Island is and what Victoria has to offer might consider it,” said VIATEC executive director Dan Gunn.

Victoria tech companies have paid to list their jobs on the VIATEC job board, which has 96 postings for positions ranging from engineers to information officers.

But they won’t be paying anything extra to advertise openings to an audience across the Lower Mainland and beyond.

“They don’t pay more, but that posting goes a lot further,” said Gunn. He added there could be fertile ground in places such as Vancouver, where the cost of living is constantly increasing and it’s becoming difficult to retain talent.

“The reality is Victoria is growing fast as a tech community and, like any city, recruiting talent is our No. 1 challenge. But we have a lot of advantages over places like San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver — livability, lifestyle and affordability,” he said.

Gunn said they would be keeping an eye on the process, which starts this month, because the success of the VIATEC job board depends on the quality of applicants.

Gunn may have done some work attracting new talent and companies to the city during a recent speaking tour courtesy of Startup Canada.

The three-year-old organization, a network of entrepreneurs pushing the start-up culture, has been meeting with groups of entrepreneurs across the country. They’re looking for guidance and advice on how to grow their businesses.

During his sessions, Gunn has been talking about the tech-community model Victoria has established. “We think it’s quite effective in showing how you build community and support entrepreneurs,” he said.

“Not only do we get to show them what works here. We get to show how it’s worked in Victoria, they get to see how big and vibrant the tech sector has become in Victoria.”

An economic impact study commissioned by VIATEC and released last year showed the sector has 900 companies, directly employs 15,000, plus another 3,000 consultants and advisers. Another 5,000 people work in technology for companies outside the high-tech sphere.

Gunn said the aftermath of his talks have him fielding questions and talking with people who are either considering relocating to Victoria or wanting to enact the growth template in their own communities.

He suggested the secret to Victoria’s success is having learned to overlap the innovation and entrepreneurial culture with the arts and creative culture.

“The blending is the character of Victoria and it’s allowing us to excel beyond what you see in other cities,” he said. “Victoria works because of its combination of restaurants and beer and coffee and music and culture mixing with innovators, disruptors and creators. It is the magic formula.”