Tech career opportunities booming in BC

“British Columbia has a ready source of great jobs and careers in technology."

  • Nov. 4, 2012 7:00 a.m.

“British Columbia has a ready source of great jobs and careers in technology. Our education programs need to keep up with that demand.”

John Leech, Executive Director of the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC, explains that, “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. BC’s telecom and IT, animation and many other sectors produce new careers every month.”

ASTTBC has more than 10,000 members currently working in thousands of careers available to graduates of two-year diploma programs available at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and other B.C. colleges and institutes.

“Our members enjoy rewarding, well-paid and often recession-proof careers in public service and the private sector alike,” Leech states.

“For huge numbers of young men and women, technology is the answer. In B.C. and across Canada, technology permeates every workplace and job. We need to get capable students involved and engaged in applied sciences and head off workforce shortages by building a B.C. ‘Science and Technology Culture’.”

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,” Leech says. “Young students use technology every day – smart phones, iPads and computers. They play video games, even build robots.”

Leech 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.

BC Technology Industries Association employers like Telus and BC Hydro and many smaller technology-rich companies say 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.

In Castlegar, local business manager and city councillor Kevin Chernoff says the influence of increased technology can be seen everywhere.

“At council, within the last couple of months, have switched all councillors and the mayor over to iPads,” he said.

“One of the main reasons, which came out of the Green Committee originally, is we go through a lot of paper. In fact, I think it’s about $5,000 in paper just for our council packages. Now we scan those pages in and we can access them through our iPads. It gives us access to way more data than we had before. It’s worked very well for us.”

Chernoff says the  city departments, including public works, frequently use computers and technology.

“We use systems called SCADA,” he said. “Which is really computer systems that control everything from the water pump to the water reservoir to monitoring pumps in sewage systems. So technology is becoming, I would think, a big part of every community.”

At Trowelex, where Chernoff is general manager, they are lean on technology for much of their business.

“Probably 80 per cent of what I do in a day is off a computer,” he said.

“It allows us to electronically order parts. It allows us to access vendor data bases and actually look at those parts in 3D. Also, a lot of our inquiries come through the internet.”

Trowelex now services their equipment largely using technology like computers.

“Gone are the days when you can fix it with a wrench,” he said.

“We plug a lap top into it. It tells us what’s wrong. It saves a lot of diagnosic time for both the customer and for us.”

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 says.

“Every region of B.C. shows growing demand,” Leech concludes. “New two-year technology diploma programs are still needed in the north and central B.C. However, young people are investing to travel so they can earn the necessary tech qualifications.”

It would appear their investment is a smart move, as it will result in a broad range of career opportunities. Industries in all regions of B.C. support programs for local trainees to fill engineering and applied science technologist, technician and technical specialist positions.