British Columbia

Trained immigrants needed for B.C.'s tech industry, CEO says

B.C. Tech Association CEO Bill Tam says Vancouver needs to attract more trained workers in order to grow the city's booming tech sector.

B.C. Tech Association says Vancouver needs to be attractive to foreign workers

CEO says tax exemptions and high wages in the tech sector are needed for continued growth in one of B.C.'s biggest industries. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The B.C. Tech summit is in full swing at the Vancouver Convention Centre, and a lot of discussion this year has been around the demand for trained workers 

This is the second year the provincial government has funded the summit, and Premier Clark has delivered a keynote speech both years. During this year's speech the Premier called on Ottawa to lower barriers for tech savvy immigrants trying to move to B.C.

"While other countries are looking in, let's be a country and a province that is looking out ... that is building bridges to the
world, that is welcoming people in, the best and the brightest from every corner around the globe," Clark said in her address to 5,000 delegates.

 "That's how we will be different."

Speaking with guest host Gloria Macarenko on On The Coast, B.C. Tech Association CEO Bill Tam said a major challenge facing companies in B.C. is a lack of trained workers.

"It's been very tight," said Tam. "The number one issue for all the companies that we work with has been being able to attract the talent that they need to be able to grow their businesses."

He said bringing trained workers from outside of the country and increasing the capacity of post-secondary institutions is essential for economic growth.

Affordability an obstacle

Tam said as Vancouver grows as a global tech market place it will attract people looking for work in the area, and an obstacle they will face is affordability. 

He said the average wage of a tech worker is substantially more than other industries, and the increased pay should be an incentive despite the expense of living in the Lower Mainland. 

"That's where a lot of the opportunities for the next generation lie, and hopefully it will start to ebb some of the issues around affordability," he said.

Tam also said an important aspect of attracting workers is allowing exemptions from B.C.'s foreign buyer tax on real estate for those who have work permits and pay taxes in B.C.

"To the extent that people are prepared to come work here, live here, pay taxes here, there should be relief for them in terms of purchasing a home," he said

Tam added Vancouver stands apart from other tech industries for its capability in virtual and augmented reality development.

The conference runs until March 15.

With files from On The Coast and The Canadian Press

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Tech CEO Bill Tam says foreign workers needed to grow tech industry