B.C. posted a 4.7-percent unemployment rate in January, which is close to a 40-year low.
According to a September report by the Business Development Bank of Canada, 45 percent of B.C. businesses had trouble hiring new workers over the previous 12 months.
Entire industries are feeling the pinch of B.C.’s labour shortage, but they will have a chance to address the problem if they participate in the next round of Education & Career Fairs, which are put on in late November and early December by International Conference Services.
These fairs, which connect job seekers and employers, have been offered for more than two decades as a one-stop shop for local employers, industry associations, governments, private training institutions, colleges, and universities.
They gather at these trade shows to offer career advice to secondary-school students and others who are considering different career options. Last year, they took place in five cities: Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, Nanaimo, and Kelowna.
“Our main goal is to give a holistic view of a career,” trade-show manager Kate Phifer told the Straight by phone.
Participants in the past have included B.C. Emergency Services, the Vancouver Police Department, the City of Vancouver, the City of Surrey, and Metro Vancouver from the public sector. Phifer said that the B.C. Agriculture Council was also an exhibitor last year because there are so many opportunities in this industry.
“We’ve worked in the past with the B.C. Manufacturing Council and the B.C. Landscape Association,” she added. “It’s interesting because you’ll hear students walk away saying, ‘I didn’t even know I could get a career in landscaping.’ We really want to bring in more exhibitors and showcase different types of opportunities.”
One company that has participated, Brinkman & Associates Reforestation, has brought trees to fairs so students can actually touch and interact with things.
“That’s another really strong focus for us,” Phifer said.
Exhibitors are encouraged to focus on careers rather than simply promote themselves.
To that end, she said that the University of British Columbia focused its presentations on the field of engineering rather than simply promoting its own engineering school. This enabled young people to learn about different types of opportunities in this profession.
Other educational institutions that have been involved include Langara College, the Centre for Arts and Technology, the University of Victoria, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Capilano University, Vancouver Film School, LaSalle College Vancouver, and Trinity Western University.
“We do see 12,000 attendees across all five fairs,” Phifer noted. “If anyone wants to get in front of a large audience, we’re the event to be at because we see such high traffic.”
Phifer herself wishes that she'd known about these events when she was young.
“I was 26 when I went back to university because when I graduated from high school I had no idea what I wanted to do,” she revealed.
Sponsorship opportunities are available on the Education & Career Fairs website at www.educationcareerfairs.com/. Title sponsors will be able to give information presentations in the Learning Lounge in front of audiences of 60 to 100 attendees.