Colleges Support Workforce Innovation in B.C.’s Interior

Rural communities are having to adapt to changing economic realities as B.C.’s economy diversifies and as traditional natural resource sector jobs change to reflect innovation and emerging technologies. The Regional Workforce Development in Rural B.C. project is identifying promising opportunities for communities in the B.C. Interior to successfully prepare for change. The aims of this project were recently validated as the project received Federal funding through the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) Community & College Social Innovation Fund, ranking in the top 10 nationally. 

Led by the 4 colleges in the B.C. Interior (Selkirk College, College of the Rockies, Okanagan College and College of New Caledonia) and supported by the Kootenay Workforce Development steering committee, this initiative brings together industry leaders, educators, elected officials, policy makers, economic development practitioners, students, and leading scholars to collectively assess comparative workforce development strategies in ways that inform future policy, planning, and action. Regional Cluster Advisory Teams are now forming around technology and advanced manufacturing, mining and metallurgical, tourism, and forestry. These advisory teams will focus on clusters of economic activity surrounding each of these sectors, shaping the research agenda for over 30 student researchers who will work under the support of university and college faculty advisors.

Cluster focused research teams comprised of graduate and college students, university and college faculty, and the B.C. Regional Innovation Chair (RIC) in Rural Economic Development will work together during the summers to advance the research agenda and to build applied research capacity of highly qualified personnel. The overarching partnership model is designed to work with universities and other partners in ways that build the capacity of the region in order to become competitive in the global economy.

This initiative is helping to advance the applied research and innovation ecosystem in the B.C. Interior. An international group of leading scholars from Vancouver Island University, Simon Fraser University, University of B.C.- Okanagan, University of Northern B.C., University of Alberta, University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Memorial University, and the University of Highlands and Islands have signed on to help shape and refine the research program which will include adapting and implementing best practice workforce strategies in the case study region’s rural context.