Anna Purcell

COLUMN: The tech sector and tofu prices

Want to know something that may surprise you? The tech sector in BC employs more people than oil, gas, mining, and forestry combined.

Want to know something that may surprise you? According to research published by Vancity (and elsewhere) the tech sector in BC employs more people than the oil, gas, mining, and forestry sectors combined. Combined!

Of course resource extraction continues to play a big part in our prosperity, and it’s certainly true that much of BC was built on it, yet the basis of our economy has overwhelmingly shifted to service-related industries.

Service-related industries include things like financial services, health care, education, information technology, hospitality, entertainment, retail, and consulting services. More than four-fifths of British Columbians work in services, and 76 per cent of our GDP comes from this sector.

Want to know something else I learned recently? Small business makes up 98 per cent of business in BC, more than any other province. Eighty-two per cent of those businesses have five employees or less, 55 per cent are self-employed businesses without any paid help. Small businesses ship more than $12 billion worth of merchandise around the world annually, which is 42 per cent of all goods shipped from BC.

What does this have to do with the price of tofu in Nelson, you ask? Well, we might first pat ourselves on our collective back as we already have a diverse, service-based economy, even if we don’t always see ourselves that way. We know that we are an exceptionally entrepreneurial city in an exceptionally entrepreneurial province. My recent survey on self-employed and home-based businesses, with almost 300 responses, only reflected how economically diverse we actually are.

It’s good to understand ourselves in light of these economic trends, and to think about them when we’re talking about job creation, education, training, or retaining and attracting young workers to Nelson. Jobs in British Columbia today are looking a lot less industrial and manual than they have in the past, and we need to prepare our young people for the economy they will be entering.

One way to begin doing that could be to have some creative fun by stopping by the Nelson Tech Club’s weekly makerspace at Selkirk’s 10th St. campus on Wednesday evenings. It’s all ages, so why not get your inter-generational tech play on? Find out more at tech-club.info.

Along with the Nelson Tech Club’s weekly gathering, we have an active, motivated local tech sector that meets regularly to network, learn and strategize. I know from attending a few of their meetings that they sometimes have a challenge finding locals with the skills they need, so they hire elsewhere.

We have a Chamber of Commerce that is keen to reach out to all businesses, in every sector. Drop by their new offices in the recently-opened former railway station at the foot of Baker St.

It’s also a good idea for us to work even further towards aligning our educational offerings with the work arising. In the meantime, if you, or someone you know is just entering the job market, or is in a transition, why not at least investigate the service sector, and our local tech needs in particular? Following your bliss is good and if you can swing it doing something reasonably interesting for good money, that’s pretty great too.

Happy holidays everyone!

Nelson city councillor Anna Purcell shares this space weekly with her council colleagues.