The event draws from a budding community

Dene Grigar
Dene Grigar

Helping businesses and their employees fire up their digital technology skills is the challenge that Chandra Chase, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce’s programs and communications director, and a large contingent of local technology professionals hope to address at Vancouver’s first Digital Technology Expo on Thursday. It’s a mostly free event that showcases local resources as well as companies that are building the foundation for a growing digital technology job sector.

The daylong expo is one of those Clark County collaborative efforts that combines the resources of government, educational institutions, business, and business support groups.

Chase says that one of the motivators for launching the Digital Technology Expo was her own informal survey of chamber members about what kind of training they could use to help them compete. Time and again chamber members told her that they needed help in understanding how to use the vast tools of digital and mobile technology to help manage and build their businesses.

One thing those companies need, of course, are skilled employees. Dene Grigar, director of Washington State University Vancouver’s Creative Media & Digital Culture Program, said her program can’t produce enough graduates to meet local businesses’ demand for workers trained in the latest digital technology.

“We have jobs just coming out of the kazoo,” she said. “We are placing students before they graduate.”

The program now has 250 students, up from 44 a decade ago, she said. They find jobs not only in technology-focused companies but also in long-established firms that are hiring people who can help them tap into the digital communication and marketing worlds. Vancouver-based Dick Hannah Dealerships, for example, has hired five program graduates, she said.

Because WSUV is largely a commuter college, those students who’ve chosen to stay or move to Vancouver are likely to remain in the local workforce for their full careers, Grigar said.

“We’re mindfully building a community of high-tech, digitally creative people,” she said.

Clark County’s technology industry is well-entrenched on Vancouver’s east side and in Camas, where companies like Hewlett-Packard, SEH America, Linear Technology, Integra, and Kyocera are among east county’s manufacturers and software developers.

The creative digital technology scene in downtown Vancouver — of firms working on educational software, games, data collection and other innovations — is more embryonic. Grigar credits the work of the Innovation Partnership Zone, of which WSUV is a part, with bringing them together.

“Five years ago we had all these companies in downtown but they didn’t know each other,” she said.

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