The landscape for employment is changing in Calgary. A downtown traditionally dominated by oil and gas is now seeing tech tenants moving in.
“I think we’re on the dawn of something that’s going to really transform our city,” said Mary Moran, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development. The agency is highlighting more than 2,000 tech-related jobs currently vacant in Calgary.
“What got us down to downtown partially was that it just became more affordable,” said Rob Park, the chief operating officer at fintech company Helcim. The payment processing company now occupies 20,000 square feet of prime real estate in Millennium Tower, near Eau Claire.
Helcim is one of an estimated 700 tech companies in Calgary — a number Calgary Economic Development suggests will double in the next decade.
“So we’re really excited about both the venture capital coming in here, the unicorns, the job growth in the tech ecosystem, which we just cannot keep pace with right now,” said Moran.
Unicorns, like Morgan Stanley, Genetic, Enervus and Benevity, all bringing billion-dollar deals to the city in the past two years.
It’s great news for a city where unemployment rates are topping ten per cent. And yet, some Calgary tech companies are having to look elsewhere to fill their empty seats.
“We just can’t keep pace with the senior level tech jobs that are required for some of these high growth companies.”
“We’re trying to retrain people, we’re trying to retain as many graduates coming out of the post-secondary [schools], and we’re trying to attract people here still, because they’re senior positions that we just can’t fill here in the tech ecosystem,” said Moran.
Alberta’s tech sector sees record growth
Helcim has grown from 17 employees in 2016 to more than 80 today. Both their trendy new location and their willingness to hire young are helping to make sure they can hire enough staff.
“We do really, really like juniors,” said Park. “People fresh out of school, you know, they’re coming to us for their first job. That’s a really exciting thing for us as well, because it gives us a chance to train [them] and kind of be their first experience in the tech industry.”
The provincial government announced a $136-million retraining program for Alberta workers in Budget 2021, but details haven’t yet been released. The province says they’re still sorting out the funding with the federal government and an announcement will be made sometime soon.
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