Okanagan's education and industry sectors taking action on fuelling tomorrow’s economy

The workforce of tomorrow will need a lot more people trained in engineering and sciences, and the Okanagan’s K-PhD educational institutions and industry are taking on the challenge. To avert a looming skills shortage, they’re encouraging more students to pursue their interests in science and technology.

The first-ever Engineering, Science and Technology Education Symposium is planned for Penticton this October, bringing together educators, employers, and students from B.C., Canada, and around the world. The Symposium is organized by UBC Okanagan, Okanagan College, School District 23 (Central Okanagan), the Okanagan Science and Technology Council (OSTEC), the Okanagan Research and Innovation Centre (ORIC), and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.

“The future of our community, province, and nation depends on innovation-led economic growth fuelled by a strong science and engineering workforce,” says Dick Fletcher, Chair of the symposium steering committee, a professional engineer, and partner with Urban Systems Ltd.

“With nearly 60 per cent of adults in the Central Okanagan without any post-secondary education, this workforce does not currently have the numbers to meet the ever-increasing demand for skilled scientists and engineers,” says Fletcher. “The competition to hire the best and brightest science and engineering talent is intensifying worldwide, while the number of high-school graduates entering post-secondary programs in sciences or in engineering is declining.”

Lorraine Baron, K-12 Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator for School District 23 (Central Okanagan) acknowledges the challenges faced by teachers as well. “As teachers we can find it challenging to provide engaging and authentic opportunities for student learning,” says Baron. “How do we keep our students enjoying mathematics and science?”

Compounding the issue, Fletcher notes, significant numbers of senior engineers are approaching retirement. “To develop solutions to this declining pool of qualified scientists and engineers, this symposium aims to heighten awareness of science and engineering education, and to build stronger connections within the K-PhD education system and industry.”

Keynote speakers will include:

  • Dr. Carl Wieman, Nobel Prize in Physics laureate and leader of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at UBC (via video)
  • Bruce Aikenhead, O.C., former Director-General of the Canadian Astronaut Program
  • Dr. David Sufrin, award-winning teacher and author of mathematics textbooks
  • Catherine Roome, Chief Operating Officer of the B.C. Safety Authority

The symposium will be held Oct. 23 to 25 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. Complete information, including daily programs and sponsorship opportunities, can be found on the web at www.ubc.ca/okanagan/engineering/fef.

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