Dustyn Baulkham

Dustyn Baulkham, 30, the workforce development officer with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, is the latest Kelowna Top Forty Under 40 nominee.

Being gay has helped, not hindered, Dustyn Baulkham’s career.

“When I was working at Bank of Montreal, TD Bank actually headhunted me for my background with Okanagan Pride and Fierte Canada Pride (the national organization for pride groups),” said Baulkham, 30. “TD is big on diversity.”

When he applied for his most recent job as a workforce development officer with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, his sexual orientation wasn’t a factor.

“It came up in the interview,” Baulkham said. “Me being on the board of Okanagan Pride and Fierte Canada is right there on my resume. It was not a stitch of an issue for the commission.”

In fact, Baulkham says that he doesn’t find Kelowna homophobic.

“I’d say 99 per cent of the people are accepting,” he said. “A lot of times the issues comes from within the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) community. A lot of the community expects the worst when usually it’s pretty good.”

When I asked Baulkham if he minded his sexual orientation being included in this article, he responded: “Not at all. I’m loud and proud.”

“I’m comfortable with Kelowna and myself,” he added.

“I moved here from Saskatchewan to take management at UBC Okanagan and I came out at school and was accepted, so Kelowna feels so much like home to me.”

After working almost 10 years in banking and moving across Canada from Vancouver to London, Ont., with jobs in the field, he wanted to return to Kelowna and make a difference.

“I was done with the corporate gigs,” said Baulkham. “I’d returned to Kelowna and didn’t really have a job for six months. And then it all came about by networking.”

A friend invited Baulkham to The Train Station Pub for its Friday afternoon casual networking session called The Boardroom. There, he heard Donnie Ungaro, the Okanagan Young Professionals Collective coordinator with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, was leaving the job.

Baulkham thought it would be a good fit, even more so after he bumped into former commission manager Robert Fine, who now works for the City of Kelowna and who urged him to go for it.

However, fate stepped in.

Drew Vincent was already in line for the job, but the new workforce development officer job was open. He applied for and landed the position.

“It gives me the chance to work in a job that will have a positive impact on businesses and help people seeking work,” said Baulkham.

“The growing Okanagan economy will need 75,000 more workers by 2020, and, at the current pace, only about half of those positions will be filled. We need workforce development.”

It’s a multi-pronged approach that’s started with the rollout of OkanaganJobMatch.com, a one-stop shop for Valley employers to post job openings and job seekers to not only apply, but get job search tips and labour market information.

“There are lots of jobs out there, but it’s hard to find work because there are so many websites and a lot of jobs aren’t posted in the hidden labour market,” said Baulkham.

“We want to help you uncover the hidden job market and have success.”

Two-thirds of the workers needed over the next four years will need some sort of post-secondary education, whether it be a quickie certificate or a masters degree.

The commission is urging people to acquire the education and skills that will land them good jobs. It’s also recruiting from outside the Okanagan and the province to lure workers here.

The commission and employers tout Kelowna’s nice weather, recreational lifestyle and beautiful setting, but also the city’s status as a vibrant technology, forestry, transportation, medical, government, construction and retail-service-trade hub.

Both students from the Okanagan and outside the Valley who graduate from college and university here are encouraged to stay and put their ideas and expertise to work in local economy.