Spotlight: Is the Knowledge Infrastructure Program making a difference?

Last March the Federal Government created the $2-billion Knowledge Infrastructure Program, signaling a commitment by the Federal and Provincial governments to enhance infrastructure at post-secondary institutions across Canada. This investment is long overdue. And, while recognizing the fiscal restraint that government is under, investment in knowledge infrastructure and resources is absolutely necessary. In British Columbia our future economic and social health depends on our ability to be competitive in the global economy. Continued investment in BC’s 11 public community colleges is critical to ensure that we have the highly skilled, well-educated workforce we will need tomorrow.

So, one year later is the Knowledge Infrastructure Program making a difference at B.C.’s colleges?

There are 17 initiatives underway at BC’s colleges with government funding totaling $132.5 million. These projects range from small retrofits to large-scale building projects - all designed to strengthen our colleges’ ability to deliver advanced knowledge and skills training in communities throughout BC. Once built these facilities will train workers with new skills required for the jobs of tomorrow. The best way to demonstrate the effect and the potential benefit of the Knowledge Infrastructure Program is to look at some projects underway.

At Okanagan College’s Penticton campus, a new Centre for Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation is being built to meet the Living Building Challenge. Local support for the initiative has been strong - the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of  Commerce immediately endorsed the project and contributed to the College’s $5-million fundraising campaign.

The new Centre is creating up to 179 direct jobs and will provide state of the art education for students close to home. The Centre should achieve net-zero energy consumption by incorporating building elements that are a first in North America with building costs similar to conventional construction. The skills learned here will translate into jobs that will capitalize on tomorrow’s new green economy.

In Prince George, at the College of New Caledonia, construction is underway for a new technical education centre. The new Centre is being built to LEED gold standards using solar and geo-thermal technology. The result will be lower energy consumption and more room for trades trainees.

Building of the new Centre has created 126 jobs and will provide the infrastructure needed to deliver quality education and training in the future. Once completed 360 full-time equivalent (FTE) student training spaces will be added in Prince George. Over time, there will also be an additional 22 instructor and staff positions.

Construction of Energy House at the Dawson Creek campus of Northern Lights College is creating up to 25 jobs during construction and is providing a significant short-term economic stimulus. Energy House is an 807-square metre, multi-use facility that combines classrooms and training facilities. It will produce all its energy needs through a wind turbine, solar panels, biomass and geo-exchange systems. It will include a training lab for wind turbine maintenance, an operational 300KW wind turbine and a training tower.  Energy House will be instrumental in training and creating jobs in the region in the clean energy sector.

At North Island College construction is underway for a new skills development and training facility. The new facility is being designed to meet LEED gold certification and has created 58 jobs in the Comox Valley. The new facility will help retrain displaced workers in a region hit hard by the downturn in the forest industry. The skills development and trades training centre will house carpentry, multi-purpose workshops and marine training programs.

So, is the Knowledge Infrastructure Program making a difference?

You bet it is.

These initiatives at BC’s colleges are creating jobs now and are helping to guarantee that we will have the physical capacity to serve students tomorrow. They are helping to ensure that future market requirements are met by providing new skills training centres so we can avoid another skills gap in BC. However, in order to maintain our competitive edge both at home and abroad, we call on government to continue to invest in BC’s 11 community colleges to ensure a well-educated and highly skilled workforce. This investment is critical to the future economic and social health of our province and country.

BC’s 11 community colleges support and strengthen every community in BC by providing well-educated, highly skilled, job-ready graduates. We’re building a stronger British Columbia when we make investments through programs such as the Knowledge Infrastructure Program.

Jim Reed
President, BC Colleges
Tel. 250-595-4866