Brenda Bailey is the new Minister of Jobs, Economic Development, and Innovation
The Vancouver-False Creek MLA is a tech founder and formerly served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Technology and Innovation.
British Columbia Premier David Eby announced a cabinet of 23 ministers this afternoon, and tapped Brenda Bailey as the new Minister of Jobs, Innovation, and Economic Development.
Bailey is no stranger to the local tech industry. Earlier in her career, she co-founded Silicon Sisters, Canada's first women-owned and operated video game studio. After leaving the organization, she took on the role of executive director at DigiBC – the Interactive and Digital Media Industry Association of British Columbia – where she worked to strengthen the province's growing creative tech industry. Immediately prior to her new cabinet appointment, Bailey served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Technology and Innovation. Her work brought her on the ground to address local industry issues, such as the shortage of talent and increasing diversity in the sector.
Over the past two years, Bailey spoke with the Vancouver Tech Journal about what she’s learned, what changes the government hoped to make, and where tech in the province is headed. Here are some of the initiatives she’s worked on during her government tenure so far, and what she had to say about them.
Addressing the shortage of tech talent
At the opening of Unilogik Systems’ office in Bailey’s riding this past October, the then-parliamentary secretary spoke to what she had seen in the sector. “We understand your huge challenges in finding enough talent. We're working on that all the time,” Bailey reported on the government’s measures to help address the shortage of talent.
In her remarks, she referred specifically to B.C.’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), and its allocation of tech-focused seats in post-secondary institutions. The PNP provides employers with the ability to recruit and retain international talent to address the province’s labour needs: a program that was made permanent during Bailey’s tenure. “We have a concierge to help people find folks,” she said.
Equally, B.C.’s economic plan, StrongerBC, was released in February of this year and addressed a number of infrastructure and policy changes in tech. Bailey spoke to the new tech-relevant spaces highlighted in the report in response to the shortage of talent. “We've got 2,000 more tech seats that we're putting in right now in our universities, to support the growth of the sector, and to support your growth.”
Increasing diversity in tech
TAP Network’s 2022 Diversity in Tech report found that representation of those identifying as a woman, Indigenous, and a person with disabilities in Canada’s tech sector remains significantly lower than Canada’s population. Last year, Bailey spoke with the Vancouver Tech Journal about her work to increase diversity in tech. “I've worked in the sector for almost 20 years. It’s vibrant and exciting and creative,” she said. “It's important that those jobs are accessible for everyone, not just people who look a certain way or have unique training.”
Bailey worked on the Innovator Skills Initiative (ISI), which offers $5,000 for up to 3,000 paid placements at businesses in B.C. that are hiring for tech or tech-related roles. She led stakeholder engagement with people and organizations from under-represented communities — women and gender-diverse communities, as well as BIPOC — to learn how the ISI could prioritize inclusion in its programming.
“Most heartening to me is how much great work we're hearing about in the sector, in regards to diversity and inclusion,” she said of her engagement sessions, which took place from May to June of this year. “It hasn’t always been the case. I think there have been tremendous strides made.”
The future of tech in Vancouver
Bailey also highlighted the local agtech and biotech sectors this past October at the Unilogik Systems’ office opening. “We're seeing the agtech sector really take off,” she said. “The province is supporting that growth by changing our agricultural land reserve rules, so that we can see vertical growth happen and support that type of technology and food security for our province.” Prior to her comments, the provincial government launched a Centre for Agritech Innovation at SFU’s Surrey campus.
Bailey was also present at AbCellera’s commencement of phase-two construction of the biotech juggernaut’s 380,000-square-foot global headquarters in East Vancouver. “We're seeing amazing growth in biotech, a lot of that happening really close by here in Lower Mount Pleasant, she said.”
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