The trades and technical fields are merging more than ever, and a new funding boost to B.C.’s trades programs has highlighted their interwoven nature.
The province committed $5.4 million across 15 post-secondary trades and technical schools, including Chilliwack’s University of the Fraser Valley, which received $310,455. A portion of that money has gone to boost the technical programs the school offers, as well as the trades programs.
“This is very, very good news in that regard,” John English, Dean of Applied and Technical Studies said Tuesday. “Previously, tech has not been part of the equation (for government funding). This government has expanded the scope.”
It’s thrown the doors open to help fund programs like engineering, digital media, computer science and computer programming, he said — fields that are increasing connected to the trades, both in educational settings and the working world.
“This funding gave us an opportunity to align this money with the direction we want to take,” English said. They purchased computer equipment for their graphics and digital design department, as well as “very advanced trades equipment to improve their CNC work.
“This is really leading edge stuff,” he said. “And it’s to the point now where to be in the trades you have to be able work with computers. Trades are not like they used to be.”
Any time the school is able to beef up its inventory, and offer up a stronger learning environment, the students are appreciative, England says.
“I think what they really get a thrill out of is seeing things and being able to work with things that they see out there in the industry,” he says, making them confident and ready for employment. And although the funding comes in sometimes unexpectedly, they are always ready with ideas of how they’d like to improve their learning environments.
“Funding does come periodically, and what we’ve learned over the years is to be ready, so when it does come we know exactly what we want and we’re ready,” he says. And often, he adds, they’ll hear that a government is changing direction in scope and can get themselves oriented.
This new funding announcement is an example of that. The prior Liberal government was very trades focused, and funding earmarked for the school was very prescriptive in how it could be spent. UFV had heard the new NDP government was leaning toward the tech industry, as well as trades, and so they were prepared for some kind of announcement in this way.
But the amount was a welcome surprise.
“We did very well this time,” English says. “It’s very good for the Valley.”