Bruce Williams is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
I speak with many business leaders every day and I’m always impressed by the innovative initiatives they’re finding to address common challenges. As the voice of business in the region since 1863, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce stays current by listening and then amplifying what we hear to all levels of government. One of the most effective approaches has been our Business Leaders Luncheons, featuring high-level decision makers.
The Chamber’s events team is currently working overtime to prepare for a great series of guest speakers. We hosted B.C.’s Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon at our April Annual General Meeting and are preparing to welcome B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation in May. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a BC Black Business Association event with Minister Brenda Bailey, who is an up-and-comer in government. She’s an experienced business leader and an engaging speaker whose history as a tech entrepreneur helps her understand the types of innovations businesses are making to adapt and thrive in a shifting economy.
For those readers who might not be familiar with Minister Bailey, here are three reasons why you want to be there when she speaks with Chamber members on May 8 at the Union Club of B.C.
The first is to hear what initiatives her ministry has planned to address labour shortages. Greater Victoria employers have been saying for years that a lack of qualified workers is impacting their business. It’s an issue facing most Canadian cities and many regions across the planet. In Greater Victoria we recently saw the economy add 14,000 jobs. That squeezed our unemployment rate, making our labour market the second tightest in the country. We need to optimize the skills of people in our community, which means things like micro-credentials and faster recognition of certifications that have been earned in other provinces or countries. It’s one way government can help get foreign doctors out of driving a cab and into vital roles in our health care system — no disrespect to taxi drivers as we also need skilled drivers!
Another way the province can help B.C. employers grow our provincial economy is by wooing elite talent in the high-tech and creative industries. Greater Victoria is renowned for its quality of life. We need infrastructure like film and sound studios and smart transportation strategies to attract companies and their best people.
The third reason you’ll want to hear from Minister Bailey is to find out how government is promoting inclusive workplaces. Changing outdated language in legislation and documents isn’t simply about doing the right thing. It also shows potential employees that they are welcome in your workplace. The sad truth is too many people have been kept on the outside looking in. Even if bias is unintentional, there’s no longer any reason employers should be unaware of it, especially when it’s keeping them from untapped pools of labour. Becoming more diverse and inclusive is what smart leaders are doing, and what we all need to do to stay competitive in our modern economy.
If any of these topics interest you, I hope you can join us. It is going to be a dynamic afternoon and a great chance to connect with your peers and colleagues in Greater Victoria’s business community. and make sure to mark your calendar for our June 8 luncheon with the Bank of Canada’s Deputy Governor as he unveils the latest Economic Progress Report for the nation. And, on June 28, we’re hosting an electrifying event with Chris O’Riley, CEO of BC Hydro, as he talks about how B.C. will accommodate surging demand for electricity. See you there!
The column originally appeared in the April edition of the Business Examiner.