In hopes of solving labour shortages in various industries, the provincial and federal governments have come together to provide funding to the B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT) for a new life sciences training program along with additional federal funding for an aerospace training program.
“What do aerospace and life sciences have in common?” asked federal International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan during at press conference at BCIT’s aerospace technology campus in Richmond. “They are both hotspots of growth in British Columbia.”
The federal government is contributing $14.5 million toward projects at BCIT, $9.3 million of which will come from the Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative to develop a gas turbine maintenance, repair and overhaul training program which the federal government claims is the first of its kind in North America. The program is expected to create 160 new jobs and generate an additional $360 million in revenue in B.C. by 2027, according to the federal government.
Sajjan highlighted that B.C.’s over 200 aerospace companies makes it one of the largest such clusters in Canada and supported the program as a long-term solution to the province’s airline industry shortages.
Mark Roesler, director of quality for MTU Maintenance Canada Ltd., a company that repairs and overhauls airplane engines says that this funding and its partnership with BCIT will develop what he calls an “extremely innovative” teaching concept to help fill the labour gaps within the airline industry that were exacerbated by the pandemic. Roesler says the task of finding locally existing qualified people has become an extreme hardship for the industry and has driven the need to come up with innovative solutions like the new program at BCIT.
“MTU is extremely proud to collaborate with BCIT to provide an enhanced and modernized gas turbine technician program that will facilitate a reinvigorated and highly trained workforce to our core business and the aviation industry here in B.C.,” said Roesler.
The federal government is also contributing $5.2 million through the Regional Innovation Ecosystem Program to help BCIT establish a new life sciences program.
Along with $2 million from the provincial government, the investment will be used to create a new B.C. National Biomanufacturing Training Centre with the goal of supporting companies addressing some of the most pressing health-care challenges. Together with this funding, BCIT is partnering with the Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences to develop a new program that delivers industry-informed biopharmaceutical manufacturing training in the new program.
B.C. Innovation Minister Brenda Bailey said this investment is a first step in their B.C. life sciences and biomanufacturing strategy that they planned to launch this year. She said the strategy was a key commitment that will help nurture new talent, develop new lab space, leverage post-secondary research capabilities and support employment across the life sciences sector. Bailey bragged about how B.C. is Canada’s fastest-growing province in the life sciences sector and said that the BC NDP government is committed to helping to build local talent to meet the industry’s needs. Bailey has the hope that this plan and other investments will help turn B.C. into a global hub for life sciences.
“To the life sciences and biomanufacturing businesses I want to say: ‘We have your backs, your future employees will soon be ready to roll,” said Bailey.
Murray McCutcheon, senior vice-president of partnering at AbCellera Biologics Inc. (Nasdaq:ABCL), a Vancouver-based biotechnology company, said that this program will help re-establish domestic biomedical manufacturing capacity; something that was found to be woefully inadequate during the global pandemic.
“For AbCellera, this [program] couldn’t come at a better time as we are actively building a manufacturing facility and recruiting the team that will operate it,” said McCutcheon at the press conference. “As an anchor company here in B.C., we look forward to working closely with this training centre and BCIT.”