Engineering offerings will adjust for job prospects

TRU's increase in demand for engineers could mean a bigger and better engineering program

Tom Dickinson, Dean of Science (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Tom Dickinson, Dean of Science (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Following the sunny prospects put forth by a local market study, the university is looking at the different directions it can take its engineering program.

Although expansion from a first-year transfer program to a complete degree program within the next few years is unlikely, the university wants to strengthen its current engineering offerings in anticipation of a job market boom.

A labour market study commissioned by Venture Kamloops was released on Oct. 30. It claimed that by 2025, there will be 6,110 job vacancies requiring university degrees in the Kamloops region. In addition to this, there will be another 1,344 job vacancies requiring trades training.

These numbers coincide with a study conducted last year by TRU dean of science Tom Dickinson. Dickinson’s study predicted that by 2017, there will be a crossover between supply and demand in engineering fields throughout the province. Dickinson believes this is the result of the typical career cycles of engineers.

“Many engineers go from doing the groundwork themselves to becoming managers within their organizations, and some even become company leaders. It’s why you see so many people follow up their engineering degrees with MBAs,” Dickinson said.

Despite this, Dickinson has said that even with such a large amount of applicants to the university’s engineering program, the program is doing fine and is not overburdened.

“Many students, when applying for an engineering program, apply elsewhere as well. So many of these applicants that didn’t get into TRU likely went elsewhere. The real problem arises when engineering programs throughout B.C. become too saturated,” he said.

TRU’s Faculty of Science is looking to form an advisory committee to offer guidance and suggestions to the university on what direction its engineering program should take.

This committee will be comprised of local engineering professionals, many of whom had come to Dickinson in the past to voice their support for a better engineering program in Kamloops. “They will be able to tell us what professions we would need to produce to satisfy the local job market,” Dickinson said.

Although forming a regional committee is certainly a first step in improving upon TRU’s existing engineering program, any changes to the program will then have to be approved by regulatory bodies at both the provincial and national level.

“Part of a service plan we’re currently working on cites the need for engineering faculty to teach across curriculum and start hiring people based on what roles are needed in the region,” Dickinson said. Because of this, Dickinson has focused his hiring for engineering-relevant courses specifically on professional engineers or engineers about to achieve certification.

Dickinson also plans to pursue the strengthening of some of TRU’s most popular engineering-related programs. Electrical, software and computer engineering are all to be run as often as possible and be taught by professional engineers. These three areas will also be the first to gain additional program years at TRU when the program expands.

Dickinson said that with the new Federal Liberal government’s plan to improve infrastructure and encourage innovation and research, as well as an increase in interest in sciences across the country, these changes will likely happen sooner rather than later.