All About Employment in Victoria, BC

Occupations in the natural and applied sciences and related occupations

As mentioned in the first part of this series the occupational sector comprised of jobs in the natural and applied sciences and related occupations is the city’s fifth biggest employment category. Approximately 16,000 of the 180,000 Victorians that were employed in 2014 work at jobs that fall within this categorization. But what is the outlook for this sector in terms of present opportunities, wages, future trends and the shape of its workforce?

Today’s Job Prospects in this Sector
An advanced search at WorkBC today shows that in the last two weeks (February 24 2015 to March 10 2015) within 10km of Victoria 263 jobs have been posted and of the 137 that specified which industry they were in nine were under the industry listing called ‘Engineers, Architects, IT, Natural Science’ (or ~6.6% of the jobs where an industry is identified or ~3.3% of all jobs posted). This seems in keeping with its place in the nationally derived ranking (on today’s search it is in 5th place behind other industry categories). As with other categories that I have reviewed earlier the number of job openings shown here may be unrepresentatively low since jobs that fall in this sector may be advertised elsewhere (for example forest biology jobs may be advertised through the federal government’s job board) and never make it to the WorkBC listings.

The nine jobs available range from a technician position at a local company that provides mobility aids (wheelchairs, scooters, walkers etc) to a software developer at Pareto Logic. Only a single job shows wages (grrrr!) and it comes in at the middle of the pack on the display (suggesting to me that other jobs pay lower and higher on either side of it) with a stated salary of $40,000 annually.

Pros and Cons of this Sector
Because of the discordance between the Labour Force Survey classifications and the National Occupational Classification system it is hard to know exactly which sectors to look at on the WorkBC site but I think that the Agricultural sector, Forestry and Logging , Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction and Information, Culture and Recreation cover most of the bases though of course there are some jobs (like those harvesting fruits and vegetables in the Agricultural sector) that have nothing to do with this mostly professional/technical and more highly educated workforce. The pros and cons of this sector are taken from a review of these four industry/sectors on the WorkBC website.

With the exception of Information, Culture and Recreation all the other sectors showed robust growth in the 2012-2013 period. Within the agricultural sector only those jobs that fall at the higher educated end of the spectrum have good wages – overall the sector has much lower than average hourly wages and relatively high unemployment compared to other sectors. A large proportion of the jobs are temporary and/or seasonal. Very few jobs in agriculture are unionized and working conditions can be physically taxing with longer hours than in other sectors.

Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction and Forestry and Logging all have higher than average wages when you work at the source on the actual extraction but these jobs are some of the most dangerous around with high rates of injuries (and even fatalities – indeed a very sobering read at the preceding link). There are very few women employed in either of these sectors (~20% in mining and ~15% in forestry). With the problems with pine beetle infestation in British Columbia and the plummeting price of oil globally both of these sectors have significant challenges both now and ahead of them.

The Information, Culture and Recreation sector has only average wages – no doubt if we were able to look only at the Information sector – which arguably is the only one that belongs in the national classification of ‘applied sciences’ – it would likely be higher.

The Future of this Sector
Despite strong growth in 2012-2013 for three of the four sectors the outlook for the decade from 2012-2022 is not promising according to the 2013 Labour Force Survey. Only Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction and Information, Culture and Recreation have positive projected job growth (4.1% and 0.9% respectively for 13,100 and 5,000 jobs). The other two have job losses of -0.2%/400 jobs (Agriculture) and -1.8%/2,900 jobs (Forestry) projected for 2012-2022.

In terms of what impacts these sectors as mentioned earlier there are specific challenges associated with climate change (pine beetle) as well as global economic trends (plummeting oil prices). The strength of the Canadian dollar has a powerful effect as well – if our dollar is strong our raw materials and produce (grain, vegetables, fruit) may be less attractive to international buyers.

Thursday I’ll examine this sector in more depth and look at some of Victoria’s biggest employers in this sector.

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