November 13, 2015 - 8:11 AM
Two weeks ago, Venture Kamloops released a labour market study which stated Kamloops and region was facing a large labour shortage. By 2025, there is expected to be about 35,000 new jobs in the region, primarily replacing retiring workers. More than half will require some form of post-secondary education.
One of the key areas where there is predicted to be a labour shortage is engineering. Engineers will be in demand in other regions as well, making the ability to recruit that much harder.
Kamloops and region is already home to some of the province’s largest mines, as well as forestry, wood manufacturing and pulp mills. Add construction projects such as roads, bridges and proposed pipelines, and there is a wide range of jobs for engineers.
The problem is Thompson Rivers University doesn’t have an engineering school. Despite being in the heart of the economic prosperity of the province, there is no program at TRU to train engineers. That means when it comes time to hire engineers, local firms have to lure new grads from elsewhere. It means Kamloops is always drawing engineering grads away from Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Prince George or schools on the Prairies. But there are many other places the engineering grads can go, and many choose to stay where they studied as well.
Kamloops needs an engineering school to ensure the viability of the regional economy. There are all types of people who are needed to run a mine, but while many people can do the labour jobs, only a few can do the job of an engineer. Similarly when building a bridge, designing a landfill, or designing electrical components. Without the engineers, things literally grind to a halt.
Many times, if a company has a hard time getting an engineer, they will hire a consultant. The consultants fly in from afar on Monday and leave on Friday. They aren’t part of the community, don’t buy a house, don’t spend time or money in the community. And they don’t play an important part as a volunteer. And generally consultants don’t stick around from project to project, making the next project that much more difficult.
For Kamloops to flourish and become an economic powerhouse, TRU needs an engineering school. A local school would ensure projects could gear up faster, and resource projects could be more viable. At the same time, the skills of engineers would lead to more innovation and entrepreneurship.
A few years back, it was argued that TRU needed a law school to fill the ranks of retiring lawyers.
It is even more critical now that TRU gets an engineering school. Lawyers only have work when there is a strong business environment. In Kamloops and region, engineering is key to business.
TRU is already well on the way to having a school. It now has a first year transfer program for all disciplines plus second year electrical engineering. But now we need the political will to expand the electrical to third and fourth year, and then add other disciplines such as civil, mechanical and so on.
A new engineering school won’t happen without money. There needs to be political will to fund the additional faculty members and lab space for students. Most importantly, the province has to come on board with funding to make sure the school happens.
When the study was released, Terry Lake, MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson said “This study is critical for planning an overall strategy in our region for the next decade” while MLA Todd Stone said “This will allow communities to respond by implementing a blueprint for growth”. All nice words, but they ring hollow if funding isn’t found to ensure there are engineers trained in Kamloops for our regional economy.
Having 35,000 jobs only matters if there are people to fill them. Time to make sure that happens.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015