B.C. tech sector struggles after rules for foreign workers toughened

September 24, 2015

By Gillian Shaw, Vancouver Sun |

Changes to Canada’s temporary foreign workers rules are worsening the shortage of technology talent in B.C., delegates to a conference in Vancouver heard Thursday.

“We have a bit of a crisis here. We need more talent to be moving to Vancouver to soak up those jobs that are available,” Brian Buggey, director of strategic initiatives and sector development at the Vancouver Economic Council, told a session at the conference organized by HR Tech Group, an organization representing more than 90 mid-sized and large companies in all areas of technology.

Camila Louzada, a manager at the B.C. Technology Industries Association, said a survey by her association and the HR Tech Group found the federal foreign-worker rules are making it more difficult for companies to fill jobs.

“It takes longer now, it’s more expensive and there is a lot more administrative work involved,” she said. “With the technology industry they always need to hire for yesterday. They don’t have the time and effort to wait months and months for a work visa to be processed. … A lot of tech companies in Vancouver are giving up on getting foreign workers.”

Louzada said as a result of the talent squeeze, some companies are having to curtail their growth.

“We have many companies that are moving elsewhere or they are losing revenue because they don’t have enough capacity to built at the speed they need to.”

A conference session on immigration recruiting issues heard that the province is trying to bring together employers and industry organizations to help identify needs and strategies for long-term workforce development. One group will focus on the apparel sector, with such companies as Lululemon, Arc’teryx and Mountain Equipment Co-op, while a second group will focus on technology, including clean tech, animation, life sciences and other sectors.

Ryan St. Germaine, founder and CEO of BCTechJobs.ca, said it is particularly difficult for small- and mid-sized companies to recruit software developers.

“The problem is there aren’t enough people,” he said. “Immigration needs to change. There are shortages in key roles in software and it’s creating a barrier to growth.”

Read more