Today we’re tackling the question of talent management and maintenance in the tech industry. How do you grow and keep local talent? Where does foreign talent come in? How do you attract the best talent?
Bill Tam, CEO of BC Technology Industry Association (BCTIA), has some answers. BCTIA is a non-profit organization that supports that development, growth and advancement of BC’s technology companies. Tam says BC’s tech industry is in good shape but needs to look to the future if it wants to continue to enjoy the growth it’s seen in recent years.
BC’s tech industry by the numbers
According to Tam:
- Technology has been the second fastest growing industry in BC for the past decade;
- 84,000 British Columbians are currently employed in the tech sector; and
- The average salary for a tech worker in BC is $76,000 per year, 66% higher than the average provincial salary.
“There also has to be a certain passion involved. The soft skills as well as the technical skills are the blends that matter the most.”
As part of its continuing efforts to support BC’s tech industry, the BCTIA opened The Hub earlier this year. Tam describes Vancouver’s first innovation space as “a 21st century barn raising.”
“Think of it as a tech community centre, where we can bring the all resources, the coaches, volunteers and the people who actually matter in the growth of companies together to help these aspiring companies get where they need to go faster.”
According to Tam, The Hub will form a central point of delivery for customers, investors and partners from across the country and around the globe to see what BC tech companies have to offer.
“We’re hoping to get companies that are serious about expanding,” Tam says. “We want companies that can grow revenue by more than 50% a year.”
Room to Grow
Although the industry is currently healthy and growing, Tam says there’s always room for improvement.
“The top two issues for companies seeking to grow are access to venture capital and finding quality people to add to their organizations.”
Tam says the recent growth in the industry has depleted the local talent supply but education initiatives combined with incentives to get foreign talent to come to the province. Finding adequate talent can be a struggle, especially for highly specialized companies such as D-Wave, a quantum computing start-up.
“When you think about those sorts of companies, you need very specialized skills and oftentimes we don’t produce enough of those sorts of skill sets here in the country so we have to look at who are the best people to bring in for those sorts of situations.”
Tam says a blend of local and experienced foreign talent is needed to keep the tech industry viable; investment in post-secondary institutions that offer appropriate training will also be key.
Words for Young Techies
Tams says high school students who have set their sights on the tech industry should try to take a broad range of subjects. Developing solid communication skills and investing in creative pursuits are an important compliment to studies in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
“If you can have that balance, what we’re going to have is an outcropping of people who are not just technically oriented but who can design products that can actually meet the coming needs of the next generation.”