Coding event and job fair journey across Canada to promote Vancouver’s tech hub

The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) is launching a cross-country tour of Canada, hoping to entice tech workers from Toronto, Calgary, and London, Ont. to pull up roots and move to British Columbia’s largest city.

Home to large startups-turned-powerhouses like HootSuite, Vancouver has had its fair share of entrants to the tech scene in the past few years. As part of its efforts to further boost the industry, the VEC has decided to try to attract more skilled workers to its city by setting up a job fair. The fair is attached to the HTML500, an event that teaches people to code.

Run by Lighthouse Labs, a Vancouver-based coding bootcamp, the event paired well with the job fair – so it seemed like the perfect way to find new talent, says Ian McKay, the VEC’s CEO.

“If you’ve got a captive audience of 500 people who are interested, and you’ve got all these jobs in Vancouver that are going unfilled, why not make the most of the opportunity and introduce people to literally hundreds of jobs in a wide variety of tech firms in the city?” he says.

Right now, the province of British Columbia is home to more than 9,000 tech companies, with the majority of those clustered in Vancouver. The tech sector employs about 85,000 people, with more than 3,000 new jobs posted daily, McKay says, citing job sites as the sources of those postings.

The VEC’s job fair will include representatives from companies like, an office meal delivery service; Bitlit, a company helping users turn their physical books into e-books; Riipen, a matchmaking career service for students and businesses; and Fortinet, a network security company. However, the VEC is also representing “dozens” of other startups that couldn’t make the trek, and its staff is on-hand to help explain what jobs are on offer and how to apply.

These job postings are not limited to technical roles, like developers and engineers, McKay adds. Some of the roles being advertised are in human resources, management, finance, and sales.

While Toronto remains the tech industry’s biggest stronghold in Canada, McKay says he’s confident there are a lot of reasons to choose Vancouver. For example, while a lot of Canadian entrepreneurs bemoan the lack of venture capital in Canada, compared to Silicon Valley, Vancouver has worked hard to target sources of funding in not only the U.S., but also China and the Middle East, he says.

As a coastal city, Vancouver is also much closer to the San Francisco Bay Area, giving entrepreneurs greater access to networking in the Valley, but being on the west coast, it’s also closer to the Asia-Pacific region. That could make a difference for Chinese companies that may want to set up shop and hire local talent in Vancouver in the future.

“The startup ecosystem in Vancouver is widely recognized as being in the top 10 in the world,” McKay says, referring to a 2013 report by Startup Genome. It ranked Vancouver as ninth overall, with Toronto just slightly ahead in eighth place. Waterloo, Ont. was in 16th place.

“We’re trying to get that story out and make more people aware that if you are a creative genius, if you’ve got some ideas in the tech sector, in the creative economy, in the knowledge-based economy, there’s an ecosystem that’s thriving in Vancouver that is where people want to be.”

The HTML500 coding and job fair events have already landed in Vancouver and Calgary. Its next stop is London, Ont. on Feb. 7, and it will wrap up its tour in Toronto on Feb. 22.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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