International students: part of our emerging talent economy

Some of us on Vancouver Island think that we’re going to need a lot of talent to really grow our regional economy. Ironically, lacking economic opportunities, our home-grown talent (our kids, for example) often leave to find jobs and to create businesses elsewhere. While it’s important for our home-grown talent to explore other experiences, communities, and opportunities, we do need to attract and retain talent to fuel our businesses at home.

Importing talent, helping grow business

Enter international students. Vancouver Island colleges and universities are attracting lots of international students. At the 2015 Vancouver Island Economic Summit, economist Susan Mobray cited the “knowledge industry” as one of our growth areas – fuelled in large part by our attractiveness to students from abroad. The challenge, says Anita Budisa-Bonneau of North Island College, is retaining these students after they graduate.

That’s why Anita and colleagues, as well as a number of international students who’ve stayed on the Island, have put together a session at this year’s Vancouver Island Economic Summit. The purpose, as Anita explains, is to present businesses and prospective employers with the wealth of talent and energy that international students are bringing to our region – and then to ask these businesses what they need to grow. It’s the beginning of a bit of matchmaking that Anita hopes will help grow the Island’s economy. FMI about the session and the conference see the #VISummit site.

Enter Akhilaa Susheela. Akhilaa is one of those students who’s come from a large city and found our much smaller communities, not to mention our natural environment, “just right” for the future she envisions. She’s hoping her story will help inspire prospective employers to look to international students as a resource in their plans for growth.

Talent and the future of our economy

The LIFT Comox Valley initiative started with the premise that the talent we’ve grown, the talent we’ve attracted, and the talent we continue to attract is the future of the Comox Valley’s economy. We launched the #WeAreYQQ brand and tag as a tool for Comox Valley entrepreneurs and creatives to help bring attention, via social media tools, to our corner of the world.

But we’re more than the Comox Valley, and I’m very happy to see that the Vancouver Island Summit organizers are taking about talent at this year’s VISummit. Our communities are small. Our local markets are small. Our local talent pools, even one as developed as the Comox Valley, is relatively small compared to larger centres. It’s therefore very important for us to connect with other communities, other entrepreneurs, other creatives – to connect with the regional talent pool. Boris Mann, one of the mentors to LIFT put it well when he presented in 2015: working together, we can “punch above our weight.” Working together , we can make big shifts happen in our regional economy as well as our local economy.

Growing talent from the grassroots

The work we do with LIFT Comox Valley is a grassroots effort. We’re a business, working with individuals and their businesses, to pursue a mission of a healthier, more sustainable economy in our region.

Agencies are an important part of the “entrepreneurial eco-system.” They have expertise and resources far beyond what we can deliver, and we make referrals whenever we can. We’re working on a map of this eco-system and hope to launch it in early 2017. Because a map of resources to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses should make things easier for all of us.

But our real focus is on individuals because the passion for growing businesses and jobs is at the grassroots. Whether your business is in traditional sectors like fisheries (like Akhilaa) or forestry, whether you’re in the post-secondary  aspect of our emerging knowledge industry (like Anita) or involved in game development or VR, whether you’re creating new manufacturing opportunities or doing value-added with our local food resource it’s your talent and your passion that’s making shift happen.

We want to help individual entrepreneurs and creatives – individual talents – to grow business, grow jobs, to think BIGger! Check out what we’re up to via our events page. Apply the brand of Comox Valley talent to your goods and services – and especially to your social media posts. It’s a search term. It belongs to you as much as it belongs to anyone from the Comox Valley – including LIFT Comox Valley. Take a look at Instagram, for example, to see how people are applying it to help bring greater visibility to their creative and entrepreneurial efforts.

For our part, when you use the #WeAreYQQ tag it makes it super easy for us to help amplify your message. If your social media posts are promoting good things and good people in this region, we’ll do our best to amplify! Using the tag is an easy way to “punch above your weight.”

for LIFT Comox Valley
@LIFT_WeAreYQQ on Twitter

LIFT: Leading, Inspiring, and Fuelling Talent in business, the arts, and more – in the Comox Valley!