Leading the Way to the Future at Thompson Rivers University
Continuing studies Thompson Rivers University is creating a trained workforce by offering specialized learning opportunities and building a recognized engineering program.
What we think of as a tech sector job is evolving, according to Dr. Lincoln Smith, Director of Research Partnerships and Enterprise Creation at Thompson Rivers University (TRU). “It’s not just people in front of computers programming,” he says. “As the regional technology sector grows, companies are needing graduates in business, communications, and visual arts as well as in engineering and sciences. We work directly with these regional companies to provide the trained workforce for their continued growth.”
As well as training the workforce, TRU is creating jobs with its TRU Generator. Established two years ago, the Generator is a place on campus for students and faculty to get advice and support to evaluate their business ideas and build them into companies. It allows innovative student entrepreneurs to learn about new tools and methodologies and gives them the opportunity to leave TRU with both a degree and their own start-up.
“The TRU Generator has a pioneering approach that is closely partnered with the external tech accelerator in Kamloops,” says Dr. Smith. “Each organization can focus on what it does best. Together we are accelerating the growth of the tech community in the region, with more start-up businesses providing good paying jobs for graduates.”
Dr. Smith adds that TRU’s commitment to tech has benefits beyond the university. With the increased development of the tech community, young people have new opportunities to work in the region and do not necessarily need to move elsewhere for work. The university will attract new students with the local job opportunities during and after studies are completed.
“The mission for the TRU Generator is to change the way that innovation is thought of and practiced at the university,” says Smith. “Students will leave TRU with a degree and the skills to work in the digital economy — possibly in their own company.”
Innovative Software Engineering Builds a Path for Success
Software engineering, like other engineering disciplines, is all about solving problems and developing solutions. But as technology continues to play a bigger part in daily life, the solutions being developed must also evolve, requiring software engineering programs to evolve into multifaceted courses to better serve students.
The software engineering program at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) does just that. “Our new program provides a fantastic opportunity to not only meet the needs of the expanding tech sector, but let students complete their entire course of study at TRU,” says Dr. Tom Dickinson, the university’s Dean of Science. “With growing innovation hubs in Kamloops and Metro Vancouver, there is a huge need for software engineers and the demand can’t be met with the current level of graduates.”
Software plays a critical role in our ever-increasingly technology-driven world, and this means there is a lot of variety in the kinds of work and sectors one can pursue. “It’s the entire life cycle of the software — programming, designing, and testing — and there are some pretty cool applications that software engineers can get involved with,” says Dr. Dickinson. “The self-driving car wouldn’t be possible with-out software engineers.”
Best practice in learning
TRU’s Bachelor of Software Engineering is one of only two in BC, so to differentiate itself and create a better experience for students, the university has made a commitment to keep its class sizes small. “We have put experiential learning at the forefront and adapted our program to include best practices in problem-based and group learning,” says Dr. Faheem Ahmed, a professional engineer and Chair of Engineering at TRU. “This, along with our mandatory two co-op work terms, [ensures] graduates learn practical skills and are ready to work in the sector.”
Dr. Dickinson says there has been a lot of excitement from students and young people about this new program. “We need to change the perception of what an engineer does. It’s not all about wearing a hard hat. The profession has evolved to meet the changing economy.”
Kamloops was recently recognized as the start-up community of the year, and with the city’s creative and growing tech sector, there are huge opportunities for software engineers.