Paul works in the FortisBC electricity calibration lab in Penticton.

Paul works in the FortisBC electricity calibration lab in Penticton.

Tech career opportunities booming in B.C., and Vernon

Technology professionals relied on for everything from water and roads to telecommunications and Internet

John Leech, Executive Director of the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C., explains that, “Every system we rely on – water, roads and transportation, telecommunications and Internet, hydro and natural gas, environment, health, forestry, and many more – utilizes engineering and applied science technology professionals working in the background. B.C.’s telecom and IT, animation and many other sectors produce new careers every month.”

The situation is no different in Vernon.

In fact, the local region is home to several technology-based companies – all providing employment while keeping the community connected to some of the most current high-tech services.

Two of the larger companies are tekmar Control Systems and Progressive Solutions, each with approximately 60 to 70 staff.

But an even bigger component to the world of technology is Kal Tire. Inside its newly-constructed head office on Kalamalka Road are approximately 270 staff members.

“A fair amount of their employees are technology-based,” said Kevin Poole, Vernon’s economic development manager.

“We also have some pretty unique companies that a lot of people don’t even know we have,” said Poole.

To name a few: AVS Systems, Protocol Technologies and Immersive Media.

The latter is a world leader in digital media, and can be found right here in Vernon.

“The head of that company chose to live in Vernon,” said Poole. “Hopefully we can keep them here.”

Immersive runs the Google street mapping and was also used by the City of Vernon in its Ironman bid but also has worked on cutting-edge worldwide projects.

“It’s pretty cool stuff,” said Poole of the 360 degree video work produced.

There are also a number of young, start-up technology-based companies that have relocated to the area, as many are attracted to the lifestyle Vernon has to offer. And Vernon has its arms open to the business.

“We see technology as a real opportunity for this area,” said Poole, noting that not a lot of industrial land is needed and such companies can lead to some significant employment along the way.

ASTTBC has more than 10,000 members currently working in thousands of careers available to graduates of two-year diploma programs available at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and other B.C. colleges and institutes.

“Our members enjoy rewarding, well-paid and often recession-proof careers in public service and the private sector alike,” Leech states.

“For huge numbers of young men and women, technology is the answer. In B.C. and across Canada, technology permeates every workplace and job. We need to get capable students involved and engaged in applied sciences and head off workforce shortages by building a B.C. ‘Science and Technology Culture’.”

Leech calls on government for renewed efforts to build student skills and confidence in math and science programming.

“We especially need to interest young students in science and how things work,” Leech says.

“Young students use technology every day – smart phones, iPads and computers. They play video games, even build robots.”

Leech lauds the recent “Year of Science” program that encouraged students toward so-called “STEM” subjects – science, technology, engineering and math. Citing the recent $6 million B.C. campaign to encourage careers in trades, Leech urges a similar effort to build awareness of engineering technology education and careers.

BC Technology Industries Association employers like Telus and BC Hydro and many smaller technology-rich companies say the single most important position they now struggle to fill is specialty technician/technologist.

Even the Canadian Council of Chief Executives expressed concern that only 37 per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds were interested in taking even one post-secondary course in sciences, according to a recent Angus Reid survey.

Leech says the opportunities for those seeking work in the technology field are considerable given a wave of retirements of present-generation B.C. technology professionals that is already underway.

“Half of our membership is now middle-aged at 45-plus, and 22 per cent are over age 55!” he says.

“Every region of B.C. shows growing demand,” Leech concludes. “New two-year technology diploma programs are still needed in the north and central B.C. However, young people are investing to travel so they can earn the necessary tech qualifications.”

It would appear their investment is a smart move, as it will result in a broad range of career opportunities.

Industries in all regions of B.C. support programs for local trainees to fill engineering and applied science technologist, technician and technical specialist positions.