Work in Victoria: Part
One - The Market
First the good news. Most of the people I have met over the
years who have been looking for work in Victoria have found it.
Now the bad news. It wasn't as easy as they thought and they seldom
got the job they expected to.
This is still a small town. Population: about 300,000. Number
of businesses: about 17,000. To make matters worse, the employment
paradigms are only now beginning to change. Most employers in
Victoria don't yet appreciate the shift from the industrial age
to the information age, and the impact that shift has had on the
demand for employees. These days almost everyone must be computer
literate or have a specific computer skill. Due to the inability
or reluctance of the employers to see this shift, they still expect
to pay about two-thirds the pay rates an employee can get in other
Canadian cities, and about half of what you would get in the US.
The second shift they do not recognize is the demographic shift.
Most employers in Victoria grew up when there were a lot more
people in the labor market and qualification requirements were
There are a few reasons why these paradigms are slow to change
here. Firstly, everything is slow to change here! Somehow the
fact that we live on an island provides a buffer that slows down
the impact of the changes the 'outside' world experiences. Maybe
an economist or a statistician
could more readily explain why change is slow here. The net effect,
though, is that we are about five years behind in terms of real
economic changes in general. Often by the time changes do arrive
they have lost their power, rather like a giant wave that dissipates
by the time it hits the shore.
Secondly, for a century Victoria was a small English colonial
town with a small town's conservative values. As a result most
people here are still more bookish, less outgoing (on top of the
fact that we are already Canadian!), slower to make new friends,
and more reluctant to embrace change. Have you seen the movie
'Pleasantville'? Having lived here most of my life, I can tell
you that the last twenty years have been rather similar to the
process detailed in that fictional town.
Thirdly, of the top ten largest
employers in Victoria, nine of them are some form of government.
Most of the employees are union members. Neither of these cultures
are what you would call 'dynamic'.
Another reason wages are behind the times here is that for many
years employers were able to trade 'quality of life' for real
dollars. Lets use another movie example: 'Anne Of Green Gables'.
I can tell you without a moment's hesitation that scenes
from around Victoria are just as beautiful as the scenes from
that film. The town is quaint and life is not crowded. There are
many small village
neighborhoods. The climate
is mild, the land is rolling coastal hills, there are plenty of
lakes and rivers and beaches and parks. There is green space everywhere.
I live in a house on a busy urban intersection five minutes from
town. From my living room window I can see only one house. The
others are there, but I can't see them behind the trees.
The net result is a lot of 'settlers'; people who settle work
for which they are overqualified and underpaid. They are not thrilled
with their jobs, but they have decided they love it here and will
Many people do move here knowing full well what the employment
situation is. Since I know what they faced deciding to move here
or to stay, I always look forward to finding out the reason they
came. There are a lot of interesting people here.
Next week: Where are the jobs and how
do you find them?