Campus Life  

Provincial funds support growing demand for tech-related education

Interior universities aim to remedy shortfall of skilled post-secondary graduates

Students in BC’s interior looking for a career in tech-related programs have many more opportunities, thanks to new provincial funding announced this week.

UBC’s Okanagan campus, Thompson Rivers University (TRU) and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) each received provincial funding Tuesday to increase student access for several in-demand technology fields. This week’s announcement gave start-up funds—$600,000 going to UBC, $400,000 to TRU and a further $400,000 to UNBC—to support the eventual creation of 516 new seats in tech-related educational programs.

Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark announced the funding for tech program expansions at colleges and universities across the province.

The tech sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors in BC, generating $29 billion in revenue and employing more than 106,000 skilled workers, says Mark.

“We’re helping students in British Columbia by improving access to education with thousands more tech spaces that include degree, diploma and certificate programs,” says Mark. “Our vibrant tech sector supports good-paying jobs, like computer programmers, engineers and information system analysts.”

Just last month the three interior universities signed a memorandum of understanding creating the Interior University Research Coalition (IURC)—a partnership to develop new possibilities for student development, facilitate research collaboration and coordinate joint funding proposals. The agreement also allows students to transfer between institutions to the various engineering related programs.

At UBC’s Okanagan campus, the funding will support an expansion of its computer-science degree program and a brand-new first-of-its-kind undergraduate program in manufacturing engineering. Research taking place at the advanced manufacturing cluster at both UBC campuses is revitalizing Canada’s manufacturing sector and has the potential to transform the aerospace, automotive, energy, machinery and medical device industries, explains Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus.

“The new tech-related student spaces announced by the province mean a great deal to students, industry, and communities in the interior region,” says Buszard. “We look forward to working with our colleagues across the region to further enhance student access and create new academic opportunities thanks to the investments announced by Minister Mark.”

TRU is moving forward with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, creating 140 new spaces for students in a four-year undergraduate program plus a universal co-op year leading to 35 graduates annually. The university will receive start-up funding of $400,000.

“This investment in technology and engineering at each of our institutions highlights the relevance of the new IURC. While we are distinct institutions and communities, we share a collective goal to support our students and our growing tech sectors, for the benefit of the people of the interior. The new faculty and students that will come with these programs will find fertile ground for their research and ideas in the interior innovation corridor,” says TRU President Alan Shaver.

UNBC President Daniel Weeks says the funding will support the growing need for civil and environmental engineering degrees. This funding will ramp up to support some 280 spaces by 2022/23, with 70 graduates each year.

“This announcement further strengthens the post-secondary sector across British Columbia, and by extension the interior and northern regions our institutions are proud to serve,” says Weeks. “Collaboration between partners, such as the Interior University Research Coalition, will provide research strengths and thought leadership opportunities for a whole new generation of students and researchers, something of which our collective communities can be very proud.”

About UNBC

Located in the spectacular landscape of Northern BC, UNBC is one of Canada’s best small universities, with a learning environment that is friendly, inclusive and supportive. It provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate learning opportunities that explore cultures, science, health, economies and the environment. As one of BC’s research-intensive universities, it brings the excitement of new knowledge to its students and the outcomes of its teaching and research to the world.

About TRU

Thompson Rivers University serves nearly 26,000 students on its campuses in Kamloops and Williams Lake, and in distance or online courses and programs through TRU Open Learning. At TRU, student success is a top priority. TRU empowers students to reach their goals with flexible learning options, hands-on learning opportunities and a supportive, inclusive environment. TRU offers open access, an exceptional range of programs and on-campus, online, distance and blended learning options.

About UBC Okanagan

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

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