A new study suggests the Okanagan’s economy is going through a transition.
The Growing in the Okanagan 2020 Labour Market Outlook says that employers expect the region’s labour force will grow by about 18.5 per cent in the next six years, and total new hires for the region are estimated to be more than 75,000 workers by 2020.
“The project was motivated by changing economic climates in B.C. and the unique opportunities and challenges faced by the Okanagan region,” said Corie Griffiths, business development officer for the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, which led the process.
“The outlook provides comprehensive data from multiple primary and secondary sources which provides detailed information about the future workforce needs throughout the region. This information can be used by various industry, training and policy stakeholders to ensure the Okanagan is poised for growth.”
The research includes a detailed assessment of the North Okanagan, Central Okanagan and Okanagan-Similkameen regional districts aimed at providing a full understanding of labour market trends, the post-secondary education needs and specific program gaps, and anticipated labour market needs within the next five years.
A key finding of the report indicates that over the next six years, more than two-thirds of new hires will require some form of post-secondary education.
“Given the current education profile of residents in the Okanagan region, it would appear that employers may experience difficulty in hiring individuals who have the appropriate level of education as almost one-half of current Okanagan residents do not have any education or training beyond high school,” states the report.
Population growth and current migration levels appear sufficient to cover between 52.3 and 69.4 per cent of all new hires needed in the region.
Current net migration to the region is required to double or triple to meet labour market demands.
“Employers only rated the local labour workforce as being an important source of labour, viewing workforces from other provinces and other countries as of lesser importance,” states the report.
“Migration is an important labour source for the area, where on average, more than 18,000 individuals relocated to the Okanagan each year. The majority (52 per cent) of migrants to the Okanagan are predominantly from other regions of B.C. However, more than 36 per cent of all migrants come from other provinces.”
Kevin Poole, Vernon’s economic development manager, has reviewed the findings of the report.
“The Okanagan has to identify additional ways to attract workers to the area to ensure our companies can continue to grow,” he said.
“The top five identified employment gaps by sector are in retail trade, manufacturing, finance and insurance, accommodation and food, and professional, scientific and technical trades.”