Located strategically on the west coast of North America and home to millions of immigrants from Asia, British Columbia serves as a hub for business and social connections between Canada and Asia-Pacific.
As one of Canada's largest post-secondary institutions, British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) successfully bridges the gap between academia and the business community. Through its five campuses and eight satellite locations, BCIT offers programmes which revolve around industries such as energy, construction and environment, health, business and transportation.
"Our mission is to be integral to the economic, social and environmental prosperity of the province of British Columbia," says Paul Dangerfield, vice-president, education, research and international.
"Following our mission, we believe we have a dual obligation to our students and their employers."
BCIT has dedicated itself to developing individuals who adapt to the shifting demands of their business environments. The institute employs faculty with professional certifications and industry experience to ensure that teaching methods and curricula are closely tied to the needs of industry. BCIT's modular education model enables employment entry at different career points and allows students the flexibility to exit after two- or four-year programmes as practitioners in the relevant industry.
"We call it entry to practice," Dangerfield says. "We work with businesses to develop road maps so that we can provide them with graduates who will enter and be successful in the industry."
Such business connections are vital to BCIT's programme development and enhance the classroom experience at the institute. Donor-funded projects, such as the CUBE - supported by Lockheed Martin, NGRAIN and the Western Economic Diversification Canada - enable students to implement learned skills on three dimensional virtual models in their programmes.
The integration of 3D simulation into the curriculum helps students explore complex systems such as heart valves, and disassemble and manipulate electronic devices or jet engines through laptop computers.
Practice in 3D virtual worlds supports students in developing skill sets applicable to the real world.
Among the institute's many other industry links are its relationship with BC Hydro, a long-term applied research partner. For example, BC Hydro Power Smart sponsored BCIT in 2010 to upgrade the institute's infrastructure through applied research projects that provided opportunities for faculty and students to participate. In the new system, electricity consumption in BCIT's joinery and carpentry shops is reduced by as much as 85 per cent.
Through such collaborations and alongside its applied research liaison office, BCIT develops commercially viable products and technologies, providing students access to applied practice.
"We believe students can do theory and practice at the same time - it is about empowering students to make something out of what they have learned," Dangerfield says.
The institute's contribution to business development expanded over the Pacific with the establishment of Canada's first Confucius Institute in 2005. This partnership model between the Chinese Ministry of Education and BCIT was established to help teach Chinese language and culture in Vancouver. In addition, BCIT has also provided consulting services to Canadian companies doing business for or with China.
"We help companies develop a China strategy, which is critical to the industry here in BC," says Lawrence Gu, dean, BCIT International and the Confucius Institute. "This fits BCIT's vision of serving the local community."
By expanding its international industry relationships, BCIT hopes to continue to fulfil its mission of contributing to economic prosperity in its province.
The Canadian federal government announced in October last year a HK$59.7-billion contract to a Canadian shipbuilding company, Seaspan, to supply non-combat vessels to North Vancouver and Victoria shipyards. The British Columbia provincial government estimates there will be 4,000 direct and spin-off jobs created by the Seaspan project over the next decades. BCIT is well poised to contribute to the growing need for skilled trades to Seaspan and similar business initiatives in British Columbia.
"The demand for what these companies are providing is there - what they need is the human capacity, in order to offer that in Canada and around the world," Dangerfield says.
"Our local and international students have received the proper industry training and education. BCIT can be a place to provide the necessary human capital to these companies," Gu says.
"Even for companies based in Asia, BCIT's talent pool can help them establish links to Canada or to market themselves overseas."