Gov’t Budget Delivers on Urgent Need for Engineering Technologists

The BC Government tabled the 2018 Budget this week, announcing funding for technology education, infrastructure projects, skills training for indigenous people and support for newcomers. “I see solid focus in areas of concern to business and industry, in particular the critical need for more engineering technologists and technicians. In January the Government announced a new Civil Technologist program at the College of New Caledonia (CNC) in Prince George as well as other tech programs for Camosun College in Victoria and Okanagan College in Kelowna. This is a great start but much more is needed, and soon”, said John Leech the CEO of the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC, a professional association of 10,500 engineering and applied science technologists, technicians and technical specialists.
ASTTBC has been leading efforts to signal an alarm bell on the technical skills shortage in BC and has been a strong advocate for students in K-12 and their parents and teachers to pay close attention to STEM – Science, Engineering, Technology and Math education and careers. Over the last decade the number of graduate technologists has been flat, even though growth is projected at about 3.5% a year. The Conference Board of Canada indicated that engineering technologists and technicians contribute almost $55B to the Canadian economy which translates into $6B in BC. ASTTBC says the demand is strong,  the work is rewarding, the compensation is attractive and  employment is almost recession-proof.
ASTTBC was pleased to see $2.6B announced to build capacity for post-secondary in science, trades and technology. Government targeted $11M for computers sciences, information technology and engineering. All good news for tech ed in BC. “BC employers are looking for technical skills in other provinces and out of the country, stressed Leech. “Consulting engineering companies such as my employer, WSP as well as larger public bodies such as BC Hydro are challenged to find the technical skills they need,” said Sid Siddiqui, Chair of the Technical Education and Careers Council (TECC), a blue chip Group of employers, educators and others brought together by ASTTBC over ten years ago to help build awareness of the need for technical skills in BC. “
ASTTBC CEO John Leech went on to say, ” As I travel around the province the one message from employers is ‘find me more engineering technologists and technicians’. Senior leaders at firms such as McElhanney, Binnie and Herold Engineering struggle to find the needed technical skills. In January alone ASTTBC’s TechJOBS career search service posted 50 openings for techs. This is our highest listing for one month. It tells the story of the serious need for technical skills, which will only become more challenging as we lose skills to retirement.”
ASTTBC is also pleased to see added funding for Indigenous skills training. $201M was allocated over 3 years for housing, Indigenous skills training, and Aboriginal Friendship Centres. ASTTBC has been working with First Nations to enhance awareness of technical education and careers and the application of technology on First Nations lands. “ASTTBC launched the First Nations Careers Council with the Kamloops Band over ten years ago, setting the stage for a partnership to deliver mentoring, coaching, bursaries and training,” said Leech. “Much progress has been made and strong relations developed with a number of First Nations. One example related to training is our current work on a Public Works Technician program with the West Bank First Nation In Kelowna. There is a high demand for public works skills in all communities across BC, so ASTTBC’s initiative will fill a real void.”
To top it off the Government announced capital investments in infrastructure including bridges, roads, schools and hospitals, which they say will create 50,000 jobs, many to be filled by engineering and applied science technologists, technicians and technical specialists.
The BC economy is strong and, with the green light for major projects such as Site C and the Pattullo Bridge replacement, a greater number of technical skills will be needed to help design, construct and then maintain these infrastructure projects over the long haul. ASTTBC is looking to the BC Government to ramp up many more two year engineering technologist programs across BC.