New Collar Jobs for B.C.’s Future

VANCOUVER, BC, Aug. 25, 2022 /CNW/ – Jill Tipping, CEO of BC Tech Association (BC Tech), says she is amazed it remains a common misperception that entering a career in tech requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree, living in a major city and a high aptitude for math and/or science.

“Thanks to short-course credentialing, increased connectivity, and the embrace of remote working accelerated by Covid, it’s just no longer the case,” says Tipping.

In fact, many of today’s biggest players in the space never completed formal post-secondary education, from Steve Jobsand Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter fame. Closer to home, there’s a local example right here in B.C.: entrepreneur Josh Nilson, co-founder of East Side Games recently producing a chart-topping mobile game based on TV’s The Office, also took a different path to finding success.

“I’m from the north. I grew up in a small town outside of Prince George with a population of probably 150 or 200 called Willow River. Although I entered the industry over 20 years ago, even back then a bunch of technology jobs existed in the province, but the whole narrative was you had to go to UBC or UVic or SFU, get a degree, and then you could apply. I don’t think the narrative has changed much, though the amount of people that use tech has,” said Nilson, who joined BC Tech’s board of directors in 2021.

“I think the pandemic has done a couple things, and one of them is we now have mostly, or sometimes entirely, remote staff in tech. And there’s a talent shortage in B.C. So we have to start asking how do we get more people? How do we make this more accessible as a career choice — not just for young people, but those currently in other sectors. It’s especially important as companies strive towards diversity, equity, and inclusion, to have a varied team where employees can work from home.”

After a string of different service and hospitality jobs during his early days, Nilson enrolled into a one-year IT diploma program at Capilano University shortly before turning 30. He took a course at BCIT as well, both leading him into different opportunities such as becoming a project manager and a technician responsible for setting up ADSL internet on-site for customers. Landing a technical support position at Vancouver-based Relic Entertainment (formerly THQ Canada) served as an introduction into gaming.

Having been at the helm of East Side Games for the past 11 years, the 48-year-old makes the analogy of entering the industry similar to how a person would get into a blue-collar profession. He says in the culinary arts for instance, a restaurateur can endeavour towards Red Seal certification, or move up the ladder picking up knowledge and skills along the way.

“Tech is the same — you can go to UBC and get a four, six, eight-year degree. You can go to BCIT. And you can take courses, or you can take night courses and transition from a job you have now into a tech job and still be successful. It’s still hard, you still have to put in the work, you still have to have a lot of luck. But it’s possible. If I can do it, I think anyone could do it,” said Nilson, adding this would do wonders to address staffing issues as help could be sourced out of communities large and small, like his hometown.

He says many people in the trades are already learning and doing tasks far more complex, not to mention dangerous, than coding.

“I’m always blown away how we have this workforce all over B.C. where we can take somebody, we can show them how to run a feller buncher (log harvester machine) on a 35 per cent incline, how to do helicopter logging but it’s such a scary thought when we’re like, ‘Well, how can we train them to be a web developer? It can’t be done.'”

Nilson goes on to elaborate that it’s not just programmers who are in demand.

“The already workforce that we have that wants to work and stay in B.C., I want to continue to hire tech people all over. And I’ll leave you with one great example. I get the question all the time, ‘I don’t know games, but I’m a system administrator.’ I’m like, you’re hired. We need that. We need accounting people, we need people in all departments. We’re a business, just like anyone else.”

Darian Kovacs of Jelly Marketing, a digital marketing agency headquartered in Vancouver, shares Nilson’s sentiment. Beyond providing services including ads, SEO, social media curation and more, he helped launch Jelly Academy six years ago. The offshoot offers reskilling, upskilling and micro-credentialing.

“We realized there wasn’t enough workers in what we call the new-collar economy. So workers who understood and realized they could become full-time social media coordinators or digital ad managers, and no school systems then were producing any sort of certificates or degrees for that. So we created a school that partnered up with Google and Facebook and Hootsuite to get people, we like to use now the term tickets, or some call them micro-credentials, 11 tickets to get into the digital marketing trade industry,” said Kovacs.

The managing partner says as a member of the Métis Nation (to which Nilson also belongs), a special focus is placed on creating career pathways for Indigenous talent.

“We’ve been able to offer our courses for the Métis, First Nations and Inuit communities. And knowing that the course is led by and built with the lens of an Indigenous person, there’s an extra comfort level there,” said Kovacs.

“And then I’ve managed to get groups like Best Buy based in Burnaby to provide a new laptop and cell phone for any Indigenous students taking our course who need a hardware upgrade. The best thing is, about half of our classes every semester have Indigenous students in them. And so we’ve managed to put just over 100 Indigenous students into the digital marketing industry with top tier credentials and top tier hardware too, thanks to Best Buy.”

About the BC Tech Association

BC Tech is the largest member-led technology non-profit in British Columbia, and is dedicated to turning startups into scaleups. BC Tech accelerates tech company growth by helping members expand and diversify their talent pools, acquire new customers, and access capital. Tech is a key industry for B.C.’s future and builds resiliency in every sector. Today, every company is a tech company.

SOURCE BC Tech Association

For further information: Media Contact: Leann Yutuc, T: 778-895-5271, E: