When it comes to global tech hotspots, few can match the supersonic growth of Vancouver.
In recent years, B.C.’s biggest city has emerged as one of the world’s most sizzling hotbeds for the tech industry, and with the news that Amazon is looking to bring 3,000 jobs to Vancouver by 2022, the wave of tech giants rushing to Canada’s West Coast shows no signs of slowing.
In addition to Amazon, Facebook is poised to open a major downtown office on Burrard Street, Samsung is planning a 20,000-square-foot office in the False Creek Flats (in the same sprawling new building that gaming studio BlackBird Interactive will open a nearly 30,000-square-foot space), Microsoft is pledging to invest in a high-speed transportation system between Vancouver and Seattle, while local companies Electronic Arts, Eventbase, and Article continue to grow and expand. Meanwhile, the recently announced Digital Technology Supercluster, with more than 350 member organizations, is expected to create 50,000 new jobs and pump $15 billion in GDP into B.C.’s economy over the next decade.
With this tech business boom, a unique and unavoidable growing pain has emerged: Vancouver suddenly has too many great opportunities in tech, and a shortage of skilled workers to fill those jobs.
“I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a war for talent the way I’m seeing now,” said Shaun Lemmer, a Partner/Recruitment Consultant at Benchmark Tech Recruitment with more than 11 years of experience in the Vancouver market.
“Especially in the development space – web developers, UI developers, back-end developers – there’s a severe lack of talent and a definite shortage for sure.”
The 2016 TechTalentBC Report, conducted by the B.C. Tech Association, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and the Vancouver Economic Commission, forecasted a demand for 47,000 tech workers by 2021, while predicting that the available supply would total only 16,500. That’s a gap of more than 30,000 positions.
Already, B.C.-based companies are facing a challenge finding qualified candidates in tech. According to a March 2018 report from Indeed.com, 33 percent of tech jobs in Vancouver are “hard to fill,” meaning they stay open for longer than 60 days.
With the Vancouver tech industry appearing poised for continued rapid growth, some experts indicate that the predicted job shortage might actually wind up even more dramatic than projected.
“In terms of what the future looks like for B.C., chances are, we will never be in a position where we will have enough supply to meet demand,” said Alexandra Cutean, director of research and policy for the ICTC. “Tech is scaling so quickly that 47,000 may now be possibly a conservative estimate.”
So, whether you’re already in tech or looking to break in, opportunity clearly abounds. The question is, how can you take advantage?
What jobs are in highest demand?
The aforementioned TechTalentBC Report found that technical roles will be the hardest to fill by 2021.
Specifically, web developers, software developers, and programmers were expected to be the most sought-after specialists in the tech realm by 2021. That’s partly because developers are essential for a wide variety of companies inside and out of the typical tech realm, from startups to small businesses to major companies across all industries.
“Web dev is a service that all companies seem to need,” Cutean said. “Our research often suggests that programmers, software developers and web devs are ‘in-demand’ across a variety of sectors and size categories of companies.”
In Vancouver, the average salary for a Front End Developer is $78,552. However, the recent race for talent seems to be gradually nudging salaries up.
“Wages are dramatically higher than they were even two years ago,” Lemmer said.
The skills gap
The Vancouver tech job market isn’t as competitive as it is because companies are struggling to hire people – it’s because they’re struggling to find the right people.
Technology changes at a breakneck pace, and increasingly, companies in the tech sector are placing a priority not only on education, but recent, ongoing education.
“Recently, many employers we’ve spoken to have noted the importance of continuous learning for workers to stay up-to-date with skills and competencies needed in their roles,” Cutean said. “Given that tech development is moving so quickly, the need to be continuously learning and reskilling is a common reality today across many occupations, and in particular digital ones.”
Education over experience
Although a hefty resume can’t hurt, it’s crucial in web development and tech to stay consistently ahead of the curve. So your decades of experience won’t help if you’re unfamiliar with the latest trends in tech.
“In technology, education really has become an ongoing, lifelong process,” said Bryan Buggey, Acting CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission. “Whatever we learned in 1995 is obsolete. We need to grow.”
Veterans of the tech industry might think they have all the tools they need, but Lemmer has found that companies are increasingly hiring developers and other tech talent straight out of schools, educational programs and other “bootcamps,” putting more value in expertise in recent technology than a breadth of past experience.
“I hate to use the word ‘mature,’ but there are people who have been in this for 15-20 years and maybe they haven’t evolved with the technology,” Lemmer said.
“We definitely encourage those people to seek out institutions to brush up their skills and make themselves seem more relevant.”
Getting up to speed
If your skills are lagging behind the demands of this fast-moving industry, don’t despair. You can master new tech skills, and it won’t require years of your life.
According to Cutean, this kind of immersive digital skills training is quickly becoming the new norm.
“We are seeing the increased popularity and employer acceptance/consideration of ‘nano-degrees,’ or short-duration training ‘bootcamps.”