“Most people go to Vancouver and miss Victoria because it’s a cute government town, but this place has a very entrepreneurial attitude.” – Owen Matthews, Echosec Systems Ltd.
In today’s interconnected and increasingly digitised world, people strive for so much more than the mundane office position. Gone are the greyscale days of cubicle monotony, and in comes the age of creative innovation and high-tech entrepreneurial start-ups – something Victoria, British Columbia, happens to have in abundance.
According to the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC), there are 900 technology companies employing 15,000 people in the area of Greater Victoria, generating an economic impact of around CAD$4 billion, annually. Although this vibrant metropolis is yet to play host to a major tech industry giant, the region boasts enough small to medium-sized firms that the sector even beats government and tourism as the region’s top employer.
“If you talk to people who are veterans of tech sectors, the one thing they say they all notice when they came here was how well tech companies here have a sense of community,” said Dan Gunn, Executive Director at VIATEC. “Their willingness to share information, to share experiences, to share mistakes and to help each other grow, that’s something that you just don’t see in other cities.”
With the likes of IBM, Apple and Microsoft gracing Eastern Canada and Silicon Valley, the power of Victoria’s high-tech industry is often overlooked, but young companies in this region possess a unique ability that enables them to identify a particular micro-niche with very few global competitors, keeping business-to-business competition at an all-time low while profits hit an all-time high.
Though Victoria may not be in for the big-time money attached to fancy consumer gadgets, it has channelled its expertise into other successful markets, like aerospace, clean-tech and information technology, for example.
“Your typical Victoria tech company is going to be doing somewhere in the range of $5-15 million a year, but they’re going to be competing in a marketplace that’s maybe $100 million worldwide, and they’re probably going to be number one,” adds Gunn.
“Very few of the companies here are competing with each other and so helping a colleague or member of a peer group from another company is an easy thing to do because it won’t impact your day-to-day operations. The willingness of these companies to share their experiences, and their mistakes, and help each other along and give advice really makes Victoria special.”
The warm community feel that dominates Victoria’s tech industry makes it the perfect place for students to lay the foundations for a career in tech. Graduates of the one-year Information and Computer Systems Technician certificate program at Camosun College, for example, leave fully prepared for work in the region’s booming IT sector. These individuals can take advantage of a variety of career options, including programming, web development and customer service in all types of organizations.
“We have a high placement rate for our graduates,” says Saryta Schaerer, Chair of Computer Systems Technology at Camosun College. “You can find graduates in every ministry in Victoria, from contract companies like CGI and Sierra Systems to small shops and retail outlets.”
Those who decide to go even further with their studies can acquire the full diploma, where graduates have gone on to forge successful careers as technologists and technicians, preparing for rewarding work in database design and management, network software design, administration, and network operations, just to name a few.
Camosun’s qualified instructors boast years of industry-relevant experience, something that is extremely beneficial to students of all levels as they soak-up invaluable expertise. “Recently from industry held positions are Rob Thorndyke and Contract Instructor Russ Ovans. Both worked for Camosun and left for a time period to work in industry and have returned. When time permits, we all do some contract work for companies in BC.”
The School of Trades and Technology at Camosun has been providing industry-focused training to students from all walks of life for more than 40 years. Whether students are just getting started on the professional technology pathway, or are otherwise ready to advance an already thriving career, the school provides a wide variety of programs and courses specific to the technology sector. Graduates of its full-time courses are in strong demand by employers in many of the world’s most respected high-tech companies, and ongoing workforce training is available through Continuing Education.
“There has never been a better time to pursue a career in trades and technology,” said Eric Sehn, Dean of the School of Trades and Technology at Camosun.
“We live in unique times. The demographic reality of an ageing population and the subsequent wave of retirement of the Baby Boom generation mean significant opportunities for skilled people now and for many years to come in our country. The much discussed skills gap, which will be more acutely felt in Western Canada, is having its effect particularly in trades and technology occupations. When this phenomenon is coupled with a growing economy… the need for skilled people increases even further.
“The time is right to acquire the key skills required by industry. Launch your fulfilling, challenging, respected and well-paying career with one of [Camosun’s] many trades and technology programs.”
This article is sponsored by Camosun College, an institution renowned for all-round teaching excellence, located in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. Its two campuses serve approximately 18,000 learners a year across a wide range of program subjects and levels. Camosun’s education offerings include university transfer and applied degree programs; career and trades training; upgrading and preparatory programs; and continuing education. The College is proud of its faculty, staff and students, and the fact that it provides one of Canada’s best learning experiences. The college is large enough to provide great services and facilities in a vibrant campus environment on beautiful Vancouver Island, yet small enough to offer students the individual support, care and attention not found in most post-secondary institutions.