The IT field is booming in Vancouver with more than 15,500 tech jobs expected to open between now and 2019. It’s no surprise as the startup market’s flourishing in British Columbia with successful companies like the dating website Plentyoffish.com and building supply portal BuildDirect.com all hailing from the area.
But as Vancouver competes for the title of Silicon Valley of the North, it creates a situation where competition becomes fierce for the best IT talent.
What’s the Situation on the Ground?
At the moment, all the major tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Sony Digital Works are already there. With the tech industry occupying almost 40% of the local real estate, Vancouver is ranked the 18th leading startup ecosystem in the world (and there’s competition from within the country with Montreal following close behind at 20). Further, there are approximately 9,000 tech companies in the area that only employ less than 10 people. But the industry as a whole employs about 86,800 people throughout the province (with only 12 companies employing 500 or more IT specialists).
To meet the demand, companies have also started to try and attract prospective employees from south of the border. But the problem is that a lot of IT talent in the area are looking to go in the opposite direction which creates a pretty odd situation. The brain drain, however, is very real and if the tech boom is to continue successfully, there needs to be an immediate solution.
At this juncture, you can think about bringing people in from Eastern Europe or Asia where there’s a large pool of IT talent. But immigration isn’t easy and it’s difficult for companies to actually bring people into the country.
Vancouver is also just starting to become a serious player in the industry, so there aren’t any major headquarters located in the area yet. As a result, there aren’t many people in senior leadership roles in the city that you can attract.
So How Do You Find Top IT Talent Locally?
Although Vancouver is a tech hub, there aren’t enough homegrown talent to meet the rising demand. So how do you attract and hire top tech talent in such an environment? With the current dynamics of the situation, you’ll have to get creative.
Trying to attract the best in the industry by holding out the carrot of a huge paycheck just won’t cut it anymore. Every company that can afford to do so can start throwing money at the limited talent in the city and only a fraction will be successful.
You can focus on the whole country and try to make sure that they all end up in British Columbia. Companies like Payfirma have got creative with their hiring process just to make that happen. They understand that the limited talent pool is quite young and eager to learn, so they’re attempting to reel them in that way. Their job fair even had quirky stops like a beer-tasting booth, ping pong, and a doughnut stall to communicate that they’re a fun-loving company to work at.
But again, the talent pool is limited, so this kind of strategy will only take you so far. Some of the best of the best will be snapped up easily whenever California calling with its warm weather. So it’s just not going to be enough.
I think the solution lies in building a healthy ecosystem that can be sustained. This would require more venture capital investment, support from the government to attract foreign talent and promotion of technological careers from middle school to high school.
Of course, there isn’t a quick fix here, it will require time and a lot of hard work to build something that can keep up with the demands of the market.
So How Do You Fill the Gap?
For the time being, outsourcing some of the work is probably the only option to keep up with the demands of the industry. At the same time, you can keep active within local tech communities and build relationships with the right individuals or IT staffing service providers.
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But for the Vancouver tech hub to survive, there’s a dire need for change in government policy. Further, more effort must be made to nurture young minds while they’re still in school.