Preparing students for increasingly tech-focused job market

With a wave of technology-driven disruptions impacting almost every industry in B.C., the province’s economic engine is increasingly in need of workers with high-tech skills sets. To meet this shift head on, the British Columbia Institute of Technology is ensuring that its students in all areas of study are equipped with the tech skills required to fulfill industry needs through a unique applied learning model.

“Our mandate is to provide workers for B.C.,” says Bethany Edmunds, associate dean of computing at BCIT. “It’s important for us to listen to our industry partners and figure out where industry is going and what we need to train our students for. What everyone comes back with is technology.”

The reality of tomorrow’s job market is that graduates in a wide range of fields, including healthcare, trades, engineering, business fields and many others, will require tech-related competencies.

“Every job is going to have a technology component to it,” says BCIT President Kathy Kinloch. “BCIT is preparing our students to anticipate and embrace the high-tech demands of their future workplaces, no matter what their field.”

To ensure graduates are equipped with the skills they’ll need to adapt to quickly-changing industries, BCIT leverages close industry relationships, hands-on learning and state-of-the-art simulation.

As part of its mandate, the school was at the centre of the recent #BCTECH Summit (May 14- 16 at the Vancouver Convention Centre). Now in its third year, the annual technology conference is the largest in Western Canada, and showcases the province’s growing technology industry.

The BCIT Tech Showcase included a number of student-run projects and hands-on demos meant to illustrate the unique applied learning model at BCIT, in which real-world projects, co-ops and work-integrated learning feature heavily.

One popular demo at the BCIT booth featured a life-size mannequin simulating childbirth, an example of state-of-the-art simulation technology in the classroom. “Before, nursing students would go out and watch a birth in clinical practice,” said Rob Kruger, a faculty member in Critical Care Nursing, Simulation and Innovation. “But that means they were watching it, not doing it. Here, we can have them assume different roles—the obstetrician, or nurse practitioner, or even a family member, and have those different experiences.”

The school’s Specialty Nursing Simulation Lab has invested in more than 20 mannequins. These range from premature babies to life-size birthing simulators. Besides equipping students with the skills they will need in rapidly evolving industries, BCIT is ensuring that their grads are personable, work well in teams, can think creatively and lead new initiatives.

Student Talia Walkey is an example of the opportunities that await students with an education complemented by tech, leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Walkey had no real computer science skills when she enrolled in BCIT’s Digital Design and Development Program, but has since learned computer coding.

“I was looking for something where I could figure things out, which is the coding part, and I also wanted something creative, which is the graphic design part,” she said. “And the third component is business, where we learn marketing and entrepreneurship.” Walkey and fellow Digital Design student Miria Huber developed, a website that helps users compare their resumes with the description of a desired job.

“Our aim is to help you get your dream job,” Walkey said. “If you’re not a good fit, we’ ll provide you with the keywords you should have in your resume, and skills you should have. And if you don’t have the skills, we’ll show you a list of BCIT courses you should take to get the job.”

Its applied education model is just one of the ways in which BCIT stands apart from other post-secondary schools.

In addition, the school’s instructors come from industry (some are on leave or in workplace exchanges). The result is superior graduate employment rates. Ninety-six percent of degree grads are employed. However, some of these grads will require additional education throughout their careers. Which is why another crucial component of BCIT’s approach is providing workers with re-skilling programs to stay on top of changing demands, which includes part-time studies.

“The fast pace with which the world is changing is driving the demand for continuous learning,” says Bethany Edmunds. “BCIT responds to these changes by providing industry-focused training in a flexible format to meet the demand of our ever-changing marketplace and workforce.”


This story first appeared in The Vancouver Sun, May 19, 2018 with credit to Shawn Conner.

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