A hot day is shaping up at the University of British Columbia as I wait for 130 students from northwestern BC to begin their two-day tour of Vancouver at the stunning campus. They’re due to meet me at the First Nations House of Learning – the Longhouse. The bus that will bring students from towns and villages like Kitimat, Terrace, Prince Rupert, Lax Kwa’laams and Hazelton is running late. Since most of the young people I’m about to meet are on their first flight ever, a flight delay may not be the best of luck, but it sure is a typical taste of air travel.
After their long journey, it’s no surprise they pile off the bus and onto the shady lawns of the Longhouse to the shouts of teachers and chaperones. Some brief wrangling and our new fast-version of the campus tour is underway. The students are already shaking their heads at the vastness and diversity of UBC as we cruise past everything from the music department to the on-campus housing and rec options.
We stop at the “echoing circle” at the centre of campus and make use of it for an impromptu singing of Happy Birthday to the one of the students…
…and a quick group photo.
We just had a quick pizza lunch…not just because this crowd of teenagers was hungry, but because we’ve got a lot more to squeeze in before we head downtown. We’ve seen the outside of buildings and a few lobbies, but now it’s time to head to a classroom and find out about some potential careers. “This is a really nice school,” says Damian. “I would really like to go to it after I finish high school. Maybe for engineering.” He’s not alone, and I follow the students who are off to discover the world of engineering.
It’s small wonder these grade 10 students are a little quiet when asked what an engineer does; as we find out, there are a lot of different specialties and applications, from building bridges to designing information networks.
We’ve left the classroom to see one of the many fields of engineering in action: green power. We get a chance to see the engineering departments bio-gasification system up close, a facility that uses wood waste to help power a General Electric Jenbacher engine. The engine generates up to two megawatts of electricity, which can help reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 4,500 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 1,100 cars off the road.
We all begin the long walk back to the Longhouse to wait for the rest of the classes and catch our rides downtown. The students will get a brief moment to run amok in downtown Vancouver and settle into their rooms before the evening’s banquet at the Hyatt.
“For a lot of these kids, they haven’t been to Vancouver, some not even on a flight before,” says teacher Marty Strachan. “It’s a trip to learn about careers and LNG, but it’s also really a trip to Vancouver.” The students make the most of the banquet at the Hyatt.
The evening’s presentation is a chance for students to talk frankly with Jobs Minister Shirley Bond and Education Minister Peter Fassbender. A few join the panel and others ask questions from the audience. Given the massive interest in LNG opportunities in their hometowns, they don’t just have questions about job opportunities and education. The students are using their opportunity to talk straight to the government with questions about topics like working with First Nations to preserve the environment and length of time natural gas is expected to provide employment.
Day 2 – 8:45am
It’s time to see why the students are here. We organize ourselves at the 2014 LNG Conference and the students break into groups to start checking out the wide variety of careers on display.
Talk about hands on. The students are all over the simulators for heavy equipment. “This is a great chance to feel what it’s really like,” says Erica. “It’s really a great feeling, and fun. Like a video game.”
I catch up with students as they spread out. They’re trying all kinds of direct and indirect jobs related to the LNG industry, including some things they never thought of, like steering ships…
…and flying helicopters.
They also try out trades like scaffold building…
The students visit the WorkBC Find Your Fit zone to figure out what suits them, from accounting to carpentry.
I actually get to watch one student discover an aptitude at one of the carpentry puzzles. He solves it faster than most, in seconds flat, so I ask him if he knew he was good at thinking that way before. “Not really,” Ted says, “But I’ve always thought I’d like to go into carpentry, like since I was pretty young.”
The Premier arrives at the conference and the students surround her for a group photo before a few of them get the chance to talk with her about their career aspirations.
The noon sun finds us on good healthy walk to Stanley Park to check out the aquarium before the students board their buses for home. It’s a good chance to relax, have an iced tea, and catch a 4D movie before they board their buses to begin the long journey home.
The students leave Vancouver after a whirlwind tour with a lot to think about. As one teacher puts it: “I think they’re starting to realize the amount of opportunity that comes with the interest in our area and the hundreds or thousands of people that will come. Their generation won’t have to worry about jobs being available. For them, it’s going to be about deciding what jobs to go after.”
For more information on B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint, visit: www.workbc.ca/skills
To find out more about the ITA review, visit: http://www.jtst.gov.bc.ca/ITA_Review/
To find out more about the BC Jobs Plan, visit: www.bcjobsplan.ca