New Careers & New Possibilities with BC Tech’s Reskilling Program

It’s no secret that tech is the wave of the future. In fact, the province expects the tech sector to create over 140,000 new jobs by 2031, according to the latest B.C. Labour Market Outlook report. And the BC Tech Association, a non-profit that helps tech startups grow and scale, says that the tech sector created 30,000 jobs during COVID and expects to continue to grow at an annual rate of 10% over the next decade.

But where will the workers come from?

“Talent supply in B.C. is a huge challenge. There just aren’t anywhere near enough university graduates or qualified candidates moving here from the rest of Canada or abroad to meet the demand. The good news is not every career in the field requires a four-year computer science degree, and a tremendous opportunity exists for individuals to retrain with a short course credential,” said Jill Tipping, President and CEO of BC Tech.

“The need for tech workers is clear. Approximately 160,000 people are employed here in the space including 100,000 in tech positions in non-tech companies, and both numbers are expected to double over the next decade. It is a ‘seller’s market’ for talent in B.C. and we see the impact of this in rising salaries and generous benefits. Therefore, a focus on the supply side is critical, ensuring investments in education and training keep pace with the demand in order to grow local talent.”

Enter the BC Tech Reskilling program, which is designed to help unemployed, underemployed and transitioning residents 18 years and older by providing rapid entry level knowledge necessary for high demand roles in the technology industry. Previous experience or schooling is not a prerequisite.

Liam Jensen is a former carpenter and tree planter seeking a less manually laborious career that also has the potential of remote work, allowing him to stay in his hometown of Nelson. The 23-year-old heard about reskilling from a friend who had been participated and decided to apply, though he initially had some reservations about eligibility never having completed any post-secondary studies.

“Leading up I had a lot of questions for them like, ‘is it actually going to be feasible for me to get a job with no background in a related field or a degree?’ But they reassured me saying it’s totally possible,” said Jensen, citing an interest in art and aptitude for creativity as other reasons for making the leap to user design.

Enrolling this past January, he said though the students in his diverse class came from a variety of academic and employment backgrounds all ended up on the same page quickly.

The intensive virtual learning and coursework has several offerings:

  • UX, teaching user experience design fundamentals, user/design research and strategy, user interface/responsive design and professional development in UX.
  • Web Development, teaching foundational HTML and CSS knowledge, programming fundamentals in JavaScript, front-end frameworks, automated testing, software architecture, and how to manage databases on a web server.
  • Digital marketing fundamentals including search engine optimization (SEO), digital ads, Google Analytics, social media and public relations.
  • Cloud computing foundations that cover cloud operations, site reliability, infrastructure support, and adjacent business support functions.

Christianna Bachman is another example in the current UX reskilling cohort referred by a friend and graduate. She was working as a housekeeper before finding herself unemployed due to the pandemic and wondering what to do next.

“What sounded attractive about reskilling is that a person who has no experience at all in this field, like me, could still be a part of it. The options of multiple time-frames and streams, such as user design and web design for example, provided a lot of reassurance to me,” said Bachman, 21.

“And the fact I could receive a grant and be supported the entire way, have learning advisors to lean on, people to talk to on the phone, teachers and courses helping move me forward in the world and build skills, portfolios, etc., and opportunities to present in front of hiring partners and companies. Pretty much everything about it seemed too good to be true.”

The question then becomes — once finished, can individuals holding these so-called microcredentials actually get hired?

Tipping says absolutely.

“BC Tech has been really active in this space since the beginning of the pandemic, helping workers displaced by COVID-19 find new jobs in tech. We have a 90 per cent employment rate within six months and both employees and employers express really high degrees of satisfaction with the experience,” said Tipping, adding while the stats are impressive it’s the enthusiasm, motivation and resilience shown by participants that is truly inspirational, and a great indicator of a bright future for the sector ahead.

One such recent UX graduate is Tyler Kennington, who found the program equally challenging and rewarding. Previously a chef on Vancouver Island, prior sport-related injuries meant standing on his feet for most of the day is no longer sustainable.

“I will admit it was one of the more stressful experiences of my life, as I was really embracing the ambiguity of not knowing what the future held for myself. The bootcamp was incredibly intensive as they were squeezing as much information and learning into the 12 weeks as possible. The pace was fast and at times it was difficult keeping up, however those of us that really gave it the maximum effort became quite close as we all supported each other, and continue to do so now that the course has finished.”

Another recent graduate is Laurie Villeton, who previously worked in the tourism industry and had been laid-off. After graduating from the Web Development bootcamp, she has found her career in tech.”I’m currently a junior web developer for a company in Kamloops that works in the healthcare industry. We are a full women dev team – which is really cool!”

Above are only a few stories from the many people choosing reskilling as a viable method of getting their foot in the door of B.C.’s tech sector. And with competitive compensation — a 2021 BIV survey noted annual base salary increases of as much as 12 per cent in certain key positions — as well as a majority of businesses open to the idea of working remotely, the province’s fastest growing industry has room for just about anyone starting out or wanting a career change.