University Canada West Interim President Sheldon Levy discussed the state of BC’s tech industry, and the role universities can play in fuelling the tech talent pipeline during a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade event on March 1.
President Levy was joined on the panel by leaders from several tech companies, including Amazon Web Services, Riipen and GeoComply.
Lead by moderator William Johnson, Managing Editor at Vancouver Tech Journal, the panel discussed BC’s booming tech ecosystem, the needs of the industry and what can be done to help fill the labour gaps that will benefit students, companies and the province as a whole.
BC’s tech ecosystem is exploding, and the province is quickly becoming a major player on the world stage. The sector created 15,000 new jobs in 2021 and set new records for venture capital investment.
“This has been quite a year for BC, it was phenomenal last year to see so many unicorns popping up within BC and across Canada, but with that is always some types of hurdles that we all have to overcome,” said Anna Sainsbury, CEO and Co-Founder of GeoComply.
She said Canada has a shortage of technology universities that are producing talent that wants to stay in Canada and work for newer companies that might be less known to students interesting in pursuing a career in tech.
All the panelists agreed that there needs to be a more coordinated approach between universities and industry to prepare the tech workforce of the future.
“I think now is the time to imagine the creation of a new kind of university. One that’s purpose-built not just to respond to industry needs, but to anticipate them and get out in front of them,” President Levy said.
“We would build the talent pipeline together and be accountable for outcomes, together… UCW welcomes this kind of thinking. We are ready to take up this challenge.”
He stressed that the issues facing BC’s tech industry are not new. There have been several reports written about it over the years.
“We’ve done a fine job of chasing the rabbit, but it’s time to stop running in circles,” President Levy said. “Now is the time for BC and for Canada to become the pace-setter for tech talent, and have industry chase us instead.”
While the panel discussed the challenges the industry is facing, and what can be done to address them, they also took time to focus on what’s exciting them about tech in BC right now.
“What’s been exciting for us is to see some of our customers really start to take off and get it and start building really innovative solutions,” said Hilary Foster, Education Programs Lead with Amazon Web Services. “We’ve just seen a lot of acceleration of a sense of innovation and understanding what’s possible and, of course, people starting to build.”
And Riipen CEO Dana Stephenson had encouraging news for any budding entrepreneurs.
“I’m incredibly excited about the support from the tech ecosystem, whether it’s in the form of advisors, mentors, accelerators, incubators,” he said. “It’s never been easier for a young entrepreneur to start a new company, to become the next category leader or unicorn, right here in British Columbia.”
To learn more about how universities and industry can work together to fuel BC’s tech talent pipeline, read UCW’s recent white paper, Fuelling BC’s Tech Talent Pipeline: The role of universities, which can be downloaded on UCW’s website at ucanwest.ca/tech-talent-pipeline.
Published on March 1, 2022.