Capacity: A Pending Headwind For Vancouver Island

July 31, 2019
Chuck Chandler

Chuck Chandler is a partner at Grant Thornton LLP

The Vancouver Island/Coast’s economy expanded in 2018, which led to the addition of 10,000 full-time positions. Our region also added 9,000 new workers, which was not enough to keep pace with the increasing demand for labour. As a result, according to CPABC’s Regional Check-Up  report, the Vancouver Island/Coast’s unemployment rate fell to 4.7 per cent in 2018. Continuing into the first half of 2019, it fell further to 4.2 per cent at the end of June.

Not surprisingly, hiring and wanted signs continue to pop up as employers find it increasingly difficult to recruit workers amid high housing prices and relatively low wages when compared to other provinces and the rest of BC. While housing sales declined for the second consecutive year, average prices and the value of building permits increased. As of June 2019, the price of a single-family home in the Greater Victoria area was $898,500.

As for salaries, Statistics Canada notes the average hourly wage offered by employers in our region was $19.80 as of the end of the first quarter of 2019, lagging behind average wages across BC and Canada, which stood at $21.45 and $21.80 respectively.

At a recent CPABC economic roundtable discussion in Victoria, local CPA business leaders discussed how employers can access the skilled workforce they require. Given Vancouver Island, and Victoria in particular, is an educational hub for the province, one potential solution was creating greater work-integrated learning opportunities that encourage young people to stay. This would provide valuable training to students and give employers access to a talent pool that can meet the current and future needs of businesses.

Mia Maki, FCPA, FCMA, principal of Quimper Consulting and academic director, BCom at the University of Victoria, discussed an innovative MBA program the University of Victoria developed in collaboration with a national telecommunications company. In this program, students use real-life case studies in their learning and acquire workplace knowledge from other professionals in their company. With all the merits of a standard MBA degree, the program serves as an example of customized education designed to help students excel in a specific industry looking to develop executive and leadership talent.

This type of collaboration between post-secondary institutions and businesses is happening at various post-secondary institutions in our region. James Adams, CPA, CA, CFO of Destination Greater Victoria, noted how Camosun College has adjusted the schedules of co-op students in certain programs to allow students to continue working full-time into the fall. This benefits the local tourism industry, as it provides businesses with the labour needed to accommodate tourists outside of the traditional high season, while also continuing to provide students with industry experience.

The competition for the right talent is heating up across the province. However, there are resources and existing and potential collaborative relationships in our communities that we can leverage. In doing so, we can provide young workers with the skills they need to succeed in our workplaces, and to incentivize them to stay and grow their career here.

Chuck Chandler, FCPA, FCA, is a partner at Grant Thornton LLP in Victoria. The CPABC Regional Check-Up report is available online at:

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