Workforce gets technical

NANAIMO: British Columbia has a ready source of jobs and careers in technology.

British Columbia has a ready source of jobs and careers in technology and it’s up to the education programs to keep up with that demand.

“Every system we rely on – water, roads and transportation, telecommunications and Internet, hydro and natural gas, environment, health, forestry, and many more – utilizes engineering and applied science technology professionals working in the background,” said John Leech, executive director of the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C. “B.C.’s telecom and IT, animation and many other sectors produce new careers every month.”

Leech calls on government for renewed efforts to build student skills and confidence in math and science programming.

“We especially need to interest young students in science and how things work,” he said. “Young students use technology every day – smart phones, iPads and computers.”

Paris Gaudet, executive director of the Mid-Island Science, Technology and Innovation Council, said MISTIC’s goal is simple –  support entrepreneurs to start and grow successful technology companies by providing them with the resources, connections and opportunities they need to accelerate their growth.

“Job creation is one measurement of economic strength, yet we also need to recognize that in order to create a knowledge-based economy, narrowing our focus on the tail end of the process may not be effective,” she said. “Engagement at all levels from grade school to post-secondary is critical. It is critical that we develop entrepreneurial skills and encourage creativity.”

Leech sees technology as the answer for today’s young people.

“We need to get capable students involved and engaged in applied sciences and head off workforce shortages,” he said.

He lauds the recent Year of Science program that encouraged students toward so-called “STEM” subjects – science, technology, engineering and math.

Citing the recent $6 million B.C. campaign to encourage careers in trades, Leech urges a similar effort to build awareness of engineering technology education and careers.

B.C. Technology Industries Association employers like Telus and B.C. Hydro and smaller technology-rich companies note the single most important position they now struggle to fill is specialty technician/technologist.

Even the Canadian Council of Chief Executives expressed concern that only 37 per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds were interested in taking even one post-secondary course in sciences, according to a recent Angus Reid survey.

Leech says the opportunities for those seeking work in the technology field are considerable given a wave of retirements of present-generation B.C. technology professionals that is already underway.

“Half of our membership is now middle-aged at 45-plus, and 22 per cent are over age 55,” he said. “Every region of B.C. shows growing demand.”

Gaudet said the reality is growth and sustainability cannot happen without technology and innovation.

“As we shift from a resource-based to knowledge-based economy, the skills that secured sustainable employment 10 years ago are very different today,” she said.