Growing need for technicians and technologists

Buildings are more than an assemblage of steel, concrete and bricks.

From the most mundane warehouse, to a soaring condo tower to a gleaming glass office complex, every building is the product of a complex weave of architectural design, engineering, science and technology.

At the centre of that weave, tying together the creative impulses of the architect with the pragmatic realities of the engineer, the architectural scientist uses digital technology to understand how buildings work, how they perform, how building envelopes withstand the elements and stresses of their environment.

“There’s a great team behind every great piece of architecture,” says Ron Kato, the head of the Architectural Science degree program at BCIT.

Graduates of the four-year program understand architecture along with the technical aspects of construction, says Kato.

As more and more buildings are designed and engineered in the digital realm, using computer assisted design and three-dimensional modelling, they’re becoming more complex, creating a growing need for architectural scientists and technologists, he says.

“Digital technology makes buildings more complicated. Once architects become more aware these things can be done, they demand them. It requires whole different skills than 10 years ago.”

So much so that his program can barely keep up with the demand. Of his last graduating class of 20 students, 19 have found work with architectural firms or in the public sector.

Some have gone on to graduate studies.

That’s music to the ears of John Leech, the executive director of Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC.

“For huge numbers of young men and women, technology is the answer,” says Leech.

“Technology permeates every workplace and job. 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.”

Leech’s organization has more than 10,000 members currently working in thousands of careers available to graduates of degree and diploma programs available at BCIT and other B.C. colleges and institutes.

But the demand for even more is nearly insatiable.

Employers like Telus and BC Hydro, and many smaller technology-rich companies say the single most important position they now struggle to fill is for specialty technicians and technologists.

“Every region of B.C. shows growing demand,” says Leech.

“We need to interest young students in science and how things work.”

That’s because a lot of present-generation technology professionals are hitting middle age, about 22 per cent are over age 55.

Leech says government programs like the recent “Year of Science,” that encouraged students toward “STEM” subjects - science, technology, engineering and math - are a start.

But more, like the $6 million campaign to encourage careers in the trades, needs to be done to build awareness of engineering technology education and careers.

“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,” says Leech.

“British Columbia has a ready source of great jobs and careers in technology. Our education programs need to keep up with that demand.”

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