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Province kicks in $3.5M for UNBC engineering school

Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark announces $3.5 million in capital funding for UNBC's engineering program. Bill Phillips photo
Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark announces $3.5 million in capital funding for UNBC’s engineering program. Bill Phillips photo

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

It started years ago as wish for the city.

Today, students wishing to become engineers can do so right here in Prince George. Starting this year, UNBC students will be able to complete their full engineering degree right here, thanks to $3.5 million from the province.

The funding will help UNBC increase its use of existing classroom space and teaching laboratories, and create a centralized collaboration space for programs starting in September 2019, when UNBC students can start the first full civil and environmental engineering degree program in the north.

“We were uprooting (students’) lives, at considerable cost, in going south to finish their degrees,” said Melanie Mark, advanced education minister, in announcing the funding. “Our government listened and acted … I was strong-armed by a few of you.”

In January of 2018, the government announced 2,900 tech seats for universities and colleges throughout B.C. and 280 new civil and environmental engineering spaces at UNBC.

She recognized the work of local MLAs Shirley Bond and Mike Morris, who were in the crowd, and reiterated the position that students who learn in the North tend to stay in the North.

UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks gives Advanced Education Minister the first UNBC Engineering jacket. Bill Phillips photo
UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks gives Advanced Education Minister the first UNBC Engineering jacket. Bill Phillips photo

“That’s what these engineering spaces will allow, but you can’t get your dream job without 21st Century facilities,” she said. “We need you stay here and raise your families here. We know there are tremendous economic opportunities for the engineers who are going to graduate right here at UNBC.”

She said program will help open doors for students into B.C.’s tech sector, which is fast growing and supports good-paying jobs.

The funding for civil and environmental engineering programs at UNBC supports government’s CleanBC strategy to reduce climate pollution and boost energy-efficient solutions, while improving British Columbians’ quality of life.

For environmental engineering student Lucia Dekleer it’s an exciting time. A Vancouver transplant, she is looking forward to completing her degree in the North. She said more space is definitely needed as supplies are now stored in a “broom closet,” and talked about pushing for more space with her department head.

UNBC environmental engineering student Lucia Dekleer. Bill Phillips photo
UNBC environmental engineering student Lucia Dekleer. Bill Phillips photo

“I said ‘we need a space for learning and getting to know each other,’” she said. “We have such a wonderful community already, but wouldn’t it foster a better community if we had a space to congregate, to learn, to share ideas, to socialize?”

She said the government funding of such programs are “priceless” in the North.

“The introduction of these new programs and spaces shows that UNBC is worth investing in and that the North is worth investing in,” she said. “All of this investment is going to things that will be used … Learn in the North, stay in the North. I can tell you a whole lot of people are going to stay in the North now.”

About 30,000 engineers are currently working in B.C., and nearly 12,000 job openings are forecasted over the next 10 years. Civil, mechanical and electrical engineers represent about 70 per cent of these job openings. About 7,300 of the projected job openings will be to replace retiring engineers.

“I’m proud of UNBC’s stellar reputation as an institution committed to sustainability, and a contributor to world-class teaching and research in the field of engineering,” said Daniel Weeks, UNBC president. “We’re thankful to the government for providing funding that is truly meaningful for our future scholars and talented faculty, whose work helps showcase the North’s leadership on a global scale.”