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.”