Exploring the Impact of the Pending Skills Shortage in B.C.


By Magdalena Mot.

Summer is busy on the West Coast and many career development practitioners made time to attend the 2015 Summer Labour Market Conference, “Employers and the Emerging Labour Market”. This remarkable two-day information marathon took place at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre location in downtown Vancouver, with over 150 participants in attendance.


LMI Conference Vancouver, July 31st, 2015 – Christian Saint Cyr and Magdalena Mot

Most of us have heard about the pending skills shortage, but the conference facilitated a visual and dynamic understanding of how fast this deficiency is actually approaching.

At this time, nearly every profession maintains up to a five percent oversupply of job applicants, which can amount to dozens if not hundreds of competitors in the hiring process. However, as Keynote Speaker Christian Saint Cyr mentioned, we currently have about 60,000 baby-boomers retiring every year. New graduates entering the labour market are barely a fraction of this number, and employers are looking more and more to immigrants and Canadians from other provinces to help bridge this gap.

The  British Columbia 2022 Labour Market Outlook suggests we will have a million job openings over the next ten years, but only three workers for every five new jobs.

Just to visualize this a little bit better – according to the Labour Market Outlook, certain occupations will likely reach 100% employment soon. This means that those people who are qualified for these positions will already have them. Employers who need to fill these positions, will have a difficult time finding new qualified applicants.

The projection is that:

  • Pilots and healthcare aides will reach full employment by 2017.
  • Electricians, truck drivers, and social workers will reach full employment by 2018.
  • Occupations in accounting will reach 100% employment by 2019.

For career practitioners and their clients, it is imperative to note that the most remarkable factor in British Columbia’s labour market change is represented by this shift from the needs of the employer to the needs of the skilled worker.  While organizations and institutions will have to deal with this skills shortage, there will be opportunities for those job seekers who prepare themselves well for the market.

Naturally, this skills shortage will benefit some and detriment others. If we delve deeper into the labour market on the west coast, we see a large number of people unable to find work. Largely aboriginals, immigrants, people with disabilities, and youth make up the groups who are struggling to find meaningful employment.

There is a four-year window, where each passing year will show a stronger demand for skilled workers. Most of the trades require that exact amount of time to obtain a red seal and specialize on a certain niche. Those who recognize the opportunity and develop strong skills, a networking capacity, and have a vision for their career, will enjoy amazing financial and personal rewards. However, those who fail to plan ahead and continue to apply for entry-level positions with minimal training expectations will face intense competition, low-income, and a continuous cycle of unemployment.

The conference covered a great amount of information by bringing together representatives from different industries and sectors, who have shared their best practices and valuable inside statistics. Participants were able to take a closer look at applied science and technology, tourism, energy, natural resources, construction, professional occupations, and healthcare. A few panel discussions tackled issues related to education and training, as well as the role of immigrants in our changing economy.

Career practitioners learned details about the hiring process and took a close look at different strategies hiring managers employ. Across sectors, employers search for candidates with the right attitude, along with specific soft skills and personality traits.

  • Darin Hughes spoke about the co-op and practicum opportunities that Scott Construction Group provides to students interested in joining their company and how this opens doors for those who want to learn more about the company’s culture.
  • Deb Blaney of Vancouver Coastal Health revealed how innovation is a valuable aspect when it comes to new hires in her sector and how advanced computer skills have become paramount for the healthcare industry.
  • At VCH, people come first. Their catchphrase is “Come for the Job. Stay for the Team”.

This conference was truly a great opportunity for career development practitioners and educators to learn about the growing concerns in British Columbia’s labour market. I am thankful to the BC Labour Market Report for organizing this event and to those who made it possible through generous sponsoring: GT Hiring Solutions, ASPECT, Avia Employment Services, Mosaic, Open Door Group, PCRS, Royal Road University, and Training Innovations. Hopefully we will see similar professional development initiatives next year.

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