Today, government released its updated #BCTECH Strategy, which includes a significant expansion of tech-related grad seats and co-op placements throughout the province to support growth in regional technology training and expertise – and in doing so, further strengthening local economies, including Prince George.
The number of tech grads will increase by 1,000 per year in rural and urban areas by 2022. Post-secondary tech degree program co-op placements will be doubled to over 1,400 students annually, and the Mitacs student research program will be expanded by two-thirds to over 800 internships annually.
The Canada-BC Job Grant will continue to help tech-sector employers to train new and existing staff in companies of all sizes and across all industries. Government will also continue to work with the First Nations Technology Council on their comprehensive skills-development program Bridging to Technology. The program provides upskilling and new skills development. Other innovative pilot projects will be launched to increase the participation of groups that are under-represented in the sector.
“Technology affects virtually every industry in our economy, across every region of the province. Increased training will bring more people into the technology sector, creating more high-paying, family-supporting jobs that are benefiting communities across the province,” said Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour.
Tax-related initiatives will also assist in creating an environment for further growth and job creation throughout the province. Government is expanding eligibility for the Interactive Digital Media Tax credit to include augmented reality and virtual reality products designed to entertain. The Small Business Venture Capital budget has been increased by $3.5 million per year, a 10% increase that will allow for up to $11.7 million in additional equity financing for qualifying corporations annually. And for the first time, companies will be able to participate in both credits at the same time – allowing for significant savings.
A new Innovative Ideas Fund will be launched to encourage government purchase of innovative technology products. A pilot “Startup in Residence” program will also be launched to assist with the test and launch of private-sector solutions to public-sector challenges. To help companies seeking to expand their market reach through exporting, the Export Navigator pilot program will be expanded from four to six regional communities.
Government has also announced the appointment of a new rural representative to the BC Innovation Council in order to even better connect B.C.’s lead accelerator with rural B.C.
These initiatives follow key investments contained in the original #BCTECH Strategy, which included establishment of a $100-million BC Tech Fund, as well as curricula changes and funding to support training, which will give every student the opportunity to learn coding by Grade 9. Students are already building robots and drones, creating websites and developing apps throughout the province.
Investments in new, modern infrastructure also ensure more training capacity in B.C.'s post-secondary education system to train the next generation of innovators, including $4.5 million for a Wood Innovation Research Centre – UNBC, Prince George.
On a regional basis, data from BC Stats and Stats Canada show a healthy number of tech companies in regional British Columbia, including approximately 107 tech businesses operating in the Fraser-Fort George region.
The host of BC Tech-related initiatives follow the release of the Rural Economic Development Strategy which highlighted government’s commitment to build rural communities and diversify local economies – and highlighted a total government investment of $3.6 billion in economic development initiatives in fiscal year 2016-17, in addition to $246 million of new investments for this fiscal year – including $40 million to facilitate Internet connectivity for rural B.C.
#BCTECH Strategy One-Year Renewal and Update: http://bctechstrategy.gov.bc.ca
#BCTECH Summit: http://bctechsummit.ca
BC Jobs Plan Update: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/bcjobsplan/economy/progress-reports
BC Innovation Council: http://bcic.ca