Last week, Minister of Advanced Education Melanie Mark announced that TRU will receive $400,000 in startup funding from the B.C. government this year in order to offer a full software engineering degree program.
TRU is expected to ramp up to a total of 140 spaces in undergraduate software engineering by 2022-23, which will produce 35 additional graduates per year by 2023.
Mark’s announcement is part of a province-wide initiative by the NDP government to supply B.C.’s fast-growing tech sector with skilled workers.
“Our province is in desperate need of these tech graduates. We are going to need thousands of engineers, programmers and software developers as more than 80,000 tech-related openings become required in the next decade,” Mark said. “We have committed to 2,900 technology seats throughout B.C. institutions to invest in 21st-century jobs.”
B.C.’s tech sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the provincial economy, with 106,000 people working for 10,200 business and generating $29 billion in revenue a year. However, compared to other provinces, B.C. is producing fewer tech graduates, notes Mark.
“We don’t want to be behind the 8-ball, we want to be ahead of the curve,” she said. “I’ve talked to people at startups and they need talent, there is a huge shortage of talent. In order to have the best BC, we need to have people trained in relevant courses and programming.”
In addition to the $400,000 being given to TRU, another $4 million in funding has been given to other B.C. institutions such as University of Northern British Columbia and the College of New Caledonia to develop their own engineering degree programs.
Though TRU has long since allowed prospective engineering students to start their degrees here through a transfer program, they would eventually be required to leave and complete their degrees elsewhere. With the addition of an engineering program in Kamloops, students will be able to graduate, work and live within their community.
“The choice of software engineering comes from our desire to support the growing tech industry here in Kamloops and the region and to empower our students to take part in that expansion,” said TRU President Alan Shaver. “We anticipate that there will be a lot of new startup companies because of this and this is going to accelerate the growth of the tech industry and the region.”
In total, the B.C. government expects there to be 83,400 job openings in technology-related fields within the next decade, with 5,100 of those openings in the Thompson-Okanagan. Funding for engineering programs across B.C. is to be ramped up to $42 million by 2023, Mark added.
TRU’s software engineering program will begin next year during the fall 2019 semester. Yet it is likely that the software engineering program will have a presence in the Industrial Trades and Technology Centre when it opens later this year according to Dean of Science Tom Dickinson.
“The same equipment that is used in some of the trades is used in the labs for engineering. We’ll have a presence in the ITTC as soon as it opens this summer,” Dickinson said. “In addition, with our architectural engineering program, it’s building towards a degree and we’ll have them move to the ITTC too.”