From artificial intelligence and advanced robotics to big data and self-driving vehicles, disruptive technologies both stir the imagination and threaten to reshape our economy.
It is an exciting time, fuelled by innovation and creativity. Yes, some jobs are being displaced but many more are being created. While we can’t predict tomorrow’s breakthroughs, education leaders at British Columbia’s colleges are focused on the future.
To ensure lifelong success, we are adapting to the rapidly changing shifts, tailoring educational programs to economic needs, and fostering applied research and innovation.
For us, it’s about developing talented, innovative and adaptable learners. With nearly a million job vacancies to fill over the coming decade in British Columbia, today’s learners will be the ones moving our economy forward.
It’s already happening. In Victoria, college learners are using wearable technology to improve the safety of pilots who are fighting forest fires. In the Okanagan, they are developing innovative energy efficiencies for hydroponic farming. And in Vancouver, sophisticated software is being created to improve worker safety in mines, mills and on complex construction sites.
These are just a few of the many examples demonstrating the leadership of B.C. colleges as we adapt to the emerging economy. We know that more than 90 per cent of our graduates transition to the workforce within six months, so they need to be equipped with the right skills.
To meet B.C.’s future employment needs, more people must develop the skills and knowledge required by the province’s labour force. And we must do it by offering affordable, accessible and applied educational programs.
Fortunately, with campuses and learning centres in more than 60 communities around the province, B.C.’s colleges are well positioned to produce graduates with the right mix of subject matter expertise and employability skills.
These competencies include digital literacy, critical thinking, leadership, team building skills and enhanced flexibility with a willingness to embrace the unknown. In many cases, these are the skills required by British Columbia’s fastest growing sector, high tech, which now employs more people than mining, oil and gas, and forestry combined.
At B.C.’s colleges, we recognize that times are changing, and learners now need to be prepared for more than a single job. The economy is rapidly shifting, workplaces are being digitized and it is estimated that 42 per cent of existing jobs in Canada are at high risk of disappearing. That’s why we are prudent partners in the future economy, constantly striving to understand the disruptive forces, adapt and equip today’s learners with the key workforce competencies required by employers.
To ensure we are on the right track, British Columbia colleges regularly form partnerships with businesses to meet local employment demands while giving learners relevant workplace experience. Ultimately, it helps graduates transition seamlessly into the workforce, often filling critical skill gaps.
These kinds of partnerships are being forged across a diverse range of sectors including health care, high tech and even in forestry where modern sawmills now require employees with a high degree of technological skill.
British Columbia colleges are transforming for tomorrow’s economy, embracing online teaching and new technologies, offering digital courses and adapting for those seeking retraining, upskilling and experiential learning. It doesn’t stop there. Digitized classrooms, simulation labs, virtual reality and mobile classrooms are all features of today’s colleges. It’s a flexible delivery model that brings higher education to people, communities and underrepresented groups.
That inclusive strategy is reducing the barriers to higher education sometimes felt by Indigenous peoples, new Canadians, women and minorities. By welcoming them to higher education we prepare them for a job market that desperately needs talent, thereby supporting families and strengthening communities.
Colleges are transforming to ensure learners, whether they are new to post-secondary education or are among the millions of Canadians who will need to be retrained, become the talented, innovative and critical thinkers that are in demand by our skill-hungry labour market.
The future represents opportunity for all. In colleges across British Columbia, we are working to understand the changing landscape and respond proactively, ensuring career success for our citizens and economic prosperity for our province.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.