Students, industry connect in BCIT’s Tech Collider

WITH a focus on supporting B.C.’s vibrant technology sector, the new Tech Collider at the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s (BCIT) downtown campus will connect students and industry to solve real-world challenges.

“British Columbia has one of the fastest-growing tech sectors in Canada,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, on Friday. “Investing in technology and innovation centres like BCIT’s Tech Collider will help students get the skills and education they need to pursue fulfilling and in-demand careers in tech, while offering opportunities for employers in the tech industry to access the next generation of B.C. talent to close the labour shortage and continue delivering the services British Columbians rely on.”

A multi-purpose learning centre and collaboration space centred in the heart of downtown Vancouver’s technology and business district, the Tech Collider encourages collaboration (or “collision”), learning, and innovation between students, entrepreneurs and industry professionals.

With an investment of $9.85 million from the Province, the Tech Collider features state-of-the-art audiovisual technologies, including one of the largest interactive, multimedia screens in Western Canada, measuring 10 metres (32 feet) wide and three metres (nine feet) high. Throughout, there are flexible conference and learning spaces to accommodate as many as 250 people.

“The technology sector will continue to be a key growth industry over the next 10 years with more than 100,000 new job openings,” said Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. “The BCIT Tech Collider will help produce highly skilled and well-rounded graduates who can quickly advance in the tech sector. Exposure to leading-edge tech, high-level entrepreneurs, and industry professionals will position graduates for success.”

The new Tech Collider provides classroom and lab space, and features new and expanded tech programming where students can engage with entrepreneurs and tech employers on real-world challenges in media design and production, 3D printing, virtual reality and entrepreneurship services. The Tech Collider features “makerspaces”, collaborative workspaces for learning and sharing. These spaces help to prepare students for 21st-century skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As part of the expansion, BCIT also received ongoing operating funding for 300 new tech seats.


Investing in technology, innovation

B.C.’s Labour Market Outlook predicts more than 118,00 job openings in science, technology, engineering and math over the next decade. Approximately 40% of the job openings in these sectors will be new job opportunities.

Provincially funded projects underway:

Over the next three years, the B.C. government is investing $2.6 billion into new and upgraded facilities in the post-secondary sector.

This includes a collaborative campus being built in Langford with a $79.8-million investment by the B.C. government, as well as capital expansion on campuses throughout B.C., including a trades and technology complex at BCIT that will provide training for thousands of tradespeople every year, a new academic building and student housing at Douglas College’s main campus in New Westminster, and a biomedical engineering building at UBC.

* Forefront of biomedical engineering: A new biomedical engineering building at UBC received $25 million from the B.C. government. The five-storey building will feature classrooms and learning spaces on the lower floors, with research labs and spaces on the upper floors, and is slated to open in 2025.

* Skills of tomorrow: To train British Columbians to take on the jobs of the future, government has invested $151.6 million to build a state-of-the art trades and technology complex at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Burnaby campus. The complex will be a hub for skills training and will include four new buildings, benefiting more than 12,000 full- and part-time students per year in more than 20 trades and technology programs.

* Expanding laboratory spaces: Government announced $64.8 million to expand the University of Victoria’s Engineering and Computer Science Building by adding a six-storey addition to provide new laboratory and teaching spaces and an adjacent new high bay research and structures lab.

Through the B.C. Knowledge and Development Fund, government has awarded more than $850 million to more than 1,500 projects that drive innovation and economic growth since the program began in 1998.

* In September 2022, government announced $30 million through the BC Knowledge Development Fund to support 120 post-secondary research projects at eight institutions. Projects being funded range from genomic and metabolic solutions for B.C. agriculture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University to studies on healthy brain development in pre-term infants at the University of British Columbia.

* In August 2021, the Province invested nearly $25 million to support 34 post-secondary research projects that will drive innovation and economic growth. The projects will also help create jobs, protect biodiversity and the environment, and help keep British Columbians healthy and safe.

* Sparking innovation: More graduate students will benefit from a $3.75-million scholarship fund that will spark innovation, economic growth and help recruit and retain B.C.’s brightest minds.

Recently completed projects:

* BCIT Tech Collider: A $9.85-million investment from the B.C. government to renovate BCIT’s downtown campus classroom and lab space opened.

* Connecting student researchers: Government provided $8.6 million to Mitacs for its accelerate and elevate programs that connect student researchers with innovative companies to provide students with real-world experience in applying their research.

* New mobile marine classroom: A new mobile marine classroom is in use by students at Coast Mountain College in Prince Rupert, giving students the opportunity to practise coastal natural-resources management, ecosystem restoration and environmental monitoring with the tools and technology they will be using once they enter the workforce. ($250,000 provincial funding).

* The future of health care: A new innovative space for BCIT students studying nursing, MRI diagnostics and other health-care roles opened its doors to students in 32 health-care programs in September 2022 ($66.6 million provincial funding).

* State-of-the-art learning centre: Government invested $16.6 million into the Health Sciences Centre that opened at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus in 2021, supporting nearly 600 students to train for in-demand jobs such as certified dental assistant, health-care assistant, pharmacy technician and more.