A Guide to the BC Economy and Labour Market
Home About the Guide BC's Economy Major Industries New Economy For More Information Appendices
  About The Guide - Introduction  

What Information is Available?

Why Read this Guide?
Learn why A Guide to the BC Economy and Labour Market is a valuable source for learning about the BC economy and planning your career.

BC's Economy
Get an introduction to BC's economy, find definitions of some of the economic terms used, and learn about the regional characteristics of the province's economy.

Major Industries
Find information on a specific industry by accessing profiles for the goods and services sectors.

New Economy
Discover emerging trends and learn about the new economy.

For More Information
Access additional information about the BC economy and labour market.

Appendices
Find key occupation and industry definitions and learn about the data sources used in developing A Guide to the BC Economy and Labour Market.


Why Read This Guide?

We live in a world where change is constant and rapid

About The Guide iPhones. BlackBerries. Wikipedia®. Facebook®. Twitter™. Texting. YouTube®. Digital cameras. Hybrid cars. GPS systems. PDF files. Flat screen TVs. DNA testing. Internet banking. Online surveys.

We're all familiar with the items in this list. In fact, many people would be lost without some of them. But they haven't been around very long; just 25 years ago, none of these products or services were readily available. Most had not yet been developed.

Technology then…

Most people didn't have a personal computer in the mid-1980s. Students used calculators to do their homework and manual or electric typewriters to write papers.

At that time, there was not instantaneous access to information. Researchers had to rely on printed information available at local libraries. Faxing was a new way of sharing documents quickly. Fax machines used special "thermal" paper to record the electronic information coming over the phone line.

SMost people didn't have access to email either. For those who did, data transfer rates were very slow-a computer with a 40 megabyte hard drive and an external 28 kilobyte dial-up modem was considered state of the art.

About The Guide Large data files were usually stored on magnetic tapes that had to be decoded using a special tape reader. Some records were kept on "microfiches" or "microfilms" that could only be viewed using a piece of equipment that was the size of a large cathode-ray television.

In the mid-1980s, microwave ovens were a relatively new invention. Most households didn't have a VCR. CDs were just starting to replace cassette tapes as the preferred medium for sound recordings, but vinyl records were still available at music stores. If you needed to make a phone call when you were away from home, you used a pay phone.

…and now

A quarter of a century is a relatively short period of time, but there have been many changes in technology since the mid-1980s. Today, cell phones, DVDs, Blu-Ray® players, digital cameras, flat screen TVs, iPods, and high-speed Internet connections are commonplace. People drive hybrid cars and many cars have GPS systems. DNA testing has also become common.

Information is easily accessible via the Internet. Large data files can be shared as simple email attachments. In fact, you can carry an entire library of books, music, or movies with you on a device that easily fits into your pocket. You don't need a shortwave radio to hear programming from all over the world; it's accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. Photos or videos of events anywhere in the world can be viewed online as they occur.

Why does change matter?

New products and technologies have changed the way the economy works

Some new products and technologies have profoundly affected not only the way we interact with each other and share information, but also the way the economy works. Computer-based technologies and electronic communications have caused many businesses to change the way they make or market their products and how they communicate with clients and suppliers. An entire new industry that provides access and support to users of these technologies has emerged. Even the language has changed. We talk about tweeting or texting, and use acronyms like GPS or DVD without even pausing to think about what they mean.

Telecommuting or relying on offshore suppliers of services has also become much more common than it used to be. With the Internet and better means of communications, it is no longer necessary for workers to live in the same community, in the same province, or even in the same country as their employer, co-workers, or those who are competing with them in the job market. When you pick up the phone and dial a corporation's 800-number to make a reservation or report a problem with a product or service, the person on the other end of the line might be located in BC, but you may find yourself speaking to someone in New Brunswick, or Missouri, or even as far away as India or the Philippines.

Businesses are adapting to changes in consumer preferences and expectations

People's tastes, ideas and expectations are evolving, and so is the way that goods and services are marketed. Bookstores are a good example of this. Twenty-five years ago, most of them only sold books, magazines and other printed materials. Customers were not encouraged to eat or drink in the store, and they were expected to pay for their items before browsing through them. Now, some bookstores have become neighbourhood gathering places, where friends meet at specialty coffee bars located inside the store. Customers are provided with comfortable chairs to relax in while browsing through books or magazines that are for sale.

Why have these changes occurred? One of the reasons is that it's no longer necessary to go to a bookstore to pick up something to read. Consumers now have the option of ordering books online and having them delivered directly to their homes. Or, they can download electronic copies and read (or listen to) them on their laptop, iPod, or other electronic devices. In order to keep customers coming to their stores, many booksellers now offer a broader range of goods and services to their customers.

There have been other changes as well. Consumers have become much more brand conscious. Retailers used to market their products, not their brand names. Today, image-conscious consumers wear clothing and accessories on which the logos and brand names of popular retailers are prominently displayed.

Environmental, humanitarian, health and social concerns are becoming increasingly important factors in the decisions made by individuals, businesses and governments. Stores are now advertising products that are "organic", "fairly traded", "green" or "sustainably produced". Some have started charging customers for bags in an effort to reduce waste. One BC grocery chain recently stopped supplying plastic bags altogether, after an online survey suggested that this would be popular with its customers. Where a product came from, how it was produced, and how it is disposed of, matters a lot more to consumers than was the case in the past.

What does all this have to do with you? How might it affect your future?

Today's job-seekers have to navigate in a labour market that's radically different from what it used to be. Workers need to be able to adapt to rapidly changing technologies, and changes in the way businesses operate.

Not so long ago, you could find a stable, well-paid job even if you didn't have a high school education. Specialized training was usually only necessary if you wanted to pursue a professional career. Now, workers are expected to have different skills and more education or training than in the past.

In the past, it was common to work at the same job until retirement. Planning for the future by researching the job market and the economy wasn't as important as it is today.

It has become common for workers to change careers about once every five years. This means that individuals have to be able to market themselves, and they need skills that will be useful to a variety of different employers. Getting a job that suits your skills and abilities will probably require some research on your part. If you've done your research, you will be in a much better position to find the job that's right for you.

So, what do you need to know?

Making sound decisions about your career involves first defining your goals, understanding your strengths and evaluating your skills, and then combining that knowledge with information about how the economy works.

How is BC's economy and labour market structured?

About The Guide If you're planning to work in BC, you need to know what kinds of jobs are available in the province, which industries are hiring new workers, and where you're likely to find an employer who needs someone with your skills and abilities.

One aspect of this research involves knowing more about how BC's economy is structured, which industries employ the most people, how the economy has been changing, and how it's expected to change in the future.

Ultimately, your decision about the right career for you will be influenced by a lot of factors that can't be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Most people spend more time on the job than in any other activity, so it's important to take time to think about what sort of job might suit you.

What kind of job is right for you?

Here are some of the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself when you're considering different career options:

  • What sort of work are you most likely to enjoy?
  • Can you sit at a desk all day or do you like to do physical work?
  • Do you like to make or build things?
  • Would you rather work indoors or outdoors?
  • Is your salary the most important consideration or are other aspects of the job more important to you?
  • Are you willing to accept risks or do you want a secure job in a safe environment?
  • What sort of lifestyle do you prefer?
  • Are you prepared to work the long hours required in some occupations?
  • Do you enjoy interacting with other people or would you rather work independently?
  • If you're considering a professional career, do you want a job that will use your creative abilities or your analytical skills?

These are just some of the kinds of questions that you need to ask yourself when you're looking at career options. Making sound decisions about your career involves first defining your goals, understanding your strengths and evaluating your skills, and then combining that knowledge with information about how the economy works.

That's where this guide fits in. It contains a lot of the information you need in order to understand how BC's economy and labour market are structured.

A Guide to the BC Economy and Labour MarketA Guide to the BC Economy and Labour Market