Engineering our Future

What will northern BC be like in a decade? This question was in my head today at the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver. A special event brought together 300 northern mayors, councilors, regional district directors, and other hangers-on like me to hear Rich Coleman – the BC minister of LNG – speak about how the development of liquefied natural gas export capacity will transform BC and the communities of the North.  Indeed, the promise is spectacular. Coleman suggested the investment in LNG infrastructure hermes handbags
(pipelines, export terminals) would be about $100 billion, dwarfing the $3+ billion investment in the modernization of Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter in Kitimat, which is the largest single project in northern BC presently.

Coleman’s speech was designed to wipe away any doubt that “energy” is the most significant issue in northern BC and the province as a whole. It was also designed to instill a sense of urgency; that BC is in a race with other countries to supply Asia with natural gas. Winning this race, Coleman argues, is essential if BC is to reap the economic benefits that would subsequently fund health care, education, and other government services the citizens of the province enjoy. The race seems to be rapidly reaching a climax, as Coleman indicated that many of the companies pursuing LNG opportunities in BC – Shell, Chevron, Petronas, and BG among them – are eyeing “go or no-go” decisions in the fourth quarter of 2014.  These decisions will coincidentally come as UNBC is celebrating its 25th anniversary and Prince George is preparing to host the Canada hermes belt Games.

How will their decisions affect northern BC? And how will northerners work to steer these decisions for the benefit of their communities and the environment?

One option was on the UBCM agenda today: the expansion of engineering education and complementary technical training at colleges. In fact, the expansion of engineering education was the City of Prince George’s lone resolution to the UBCM membership, and it passed this morning, just before Coleman’s presentation. Engineering is significant for two reasons:

  • the growth of the northern resource economy is requiring greater numbers of engineers to actually conceive of and design the infrastructure being proposed, be they pipelines or local bioenergy systems. After being in operation for a generation, UNBC possesses incredible evidence that people educated here are likely to stay here and it’s believed that the region needs a few hundred more engineers.
  • Engineers create. They dream up new ideas. They question. They devise solutions. Their ingenuity is needed in the North to develop new opportunities and new businesses, rooted in an understanding aaa hermes belt and appreciation of the local context and environment.

Currently, UNBC partners with UBC to offer a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. This will be joined by a graduate-level engineering program that will focus on forest products and be based at the new Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George. The typical student in this new master’s program will be an existing engineer who wishes to acquire additional education in wood products and utilization (such as in multi-story buildings). These are important programs for the region, but newly trained engineers are also critical, in such specialties as civil and mechanical engineering.

Adding undergraduate engineering programs won’t be easy. On the flight to Vancouver today, I read the draft first chapter of a new book about the history of UNBC that is expected to be published in 2015. Written by History professor Jonathan Swainger, the chapter recounts the founding of the northern colleges in the 1960s and 70s and how the efforts to create them served to inform the campaign that would come later to establish UNBC. These efforts were defined by local understanding of the critical nature of post-secondary education to regional development/diversification, the reluctance of governments to invest, and the ability hermes belt size chart men
of founders to achieve regional cooperation. It may not be so different today. While the colleges and university are in place, the communities of the region (their citizens, businesses, and governments) still play a critical role in identifying and advancing educational programming to increase their capacity and realize their future promise.

Rob

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About Rob van Adrichem

Rob van Adrichem is a UNBC grad and the University’s Vice-President for External Relations. He was born and raised in Prince George and has been an employee of UNBC since 1992. He was appointed by former Premier Gordon Campbell to a provincial council on climate action and has been a champion of UNBC’s efforts to be a model for sustainability. He is married with two young children.