A woman looks at a wireworm at an open house at PARC Agassiz.

Science jobs abound at Pacific Agricultural Research Centre in Agassiz

Opportunities run the gamut from machine operation to delving into leading research

Tucked away behind a grove of beautiful trees in Agassiz, is a bustling centre of leading edge science and technology.

The Pacific Agriculture Research Centre is home to the development of modern technology, and the work the scientists and biologists have completed in the past has garnered national and international attention.

And even though it’s tucked away, the centre is eager to share their knowledge with the local community — and even help students decide if science and technology is the right path for them.

“The best avenue for knowing what goes on in the research centre is to attend the open houses,” said Dr. Sankaran Krishnaraj, the centre’s director of operations.

“You will get a full flavour of what goes on in the centre.”

Some of the research happening right now in Agassiz includes integrated pest management, dairy welfare, producing crops in greenhouses, and much more.

And you don’t have to be a scientist to be a contributing member of the centre.

“There are all different levels of education here,” he said. “At the one extreme you have farm crews and casual level workers who have basic education and are operating the farm equipment, all the way to scientists who are internationally known for doing high quality science. You have the two extremes and all the way in between.”

Agassiz isn’t the only place where science jobs are booming.

British Columbia has a ready source of jobs and careers in technology and education programs need to keep up with that demand.

John Leech, executive director of the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC said “Every system we rely on – water, roads and transportation, telecommunications and Internet, hydro and natural gas, environment, health, forestry, and many more – utilizes engineering and applied science technology professionals working in the background. B.C.’s telecom and IT, animation and many other sectors produce new careers every month.”

ASTTBC has more than 10,000 members currently working in thousands of careers available to graduates of two-year diploma programs available at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and other B.C. colleges and institutes.

“Our members enjoy rewarding, well-paid and often recession-proof careers in public service and the private sector alike,” Leech states.

“For huge numbers of young men and women, technology is the answer. In B.C. and across Canada, technology permeates every workplace and job. We need to get capable students involved and engaged in applied sciences and head off workforce shortages by building a B.C. science and technology culture.”

Leech calls on government for renewed efforts to build student skills and confidence in math and science programming.

“We especially need to interest young students in science and how things work,” Leech says. “Young students use technology every day – smart phones, iPads and computers. They play video games, even build robots.”

Leech lauds the recent “Year of Science” program that encouraged students toward so-called “STEM” subjects – science, technology, engineering and math. Citing the recent $6 million B.C. campaign to encourage careers in trades, Leech urges a similar effort to build awareness of engineering technology education and careers.

BC Technology Industries Association employers like Telus and BC Hydro and many smaller technology-rich companies say the single most important position they now struggle to fill is specialty technician/technologist. Even the Canadian Council of Chief Executives expressed concern that only 37 per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds were interested in taking even one post-secondary course in sciences, according to a recent Angus Reid survey.

Leech says the opportunities for those seeking work in the technology field are considerable given a wave of retirements of present-generation B.C. technology professionals that is already underway.

“Half of our membership is now middle-aged at 45-plus, and 22 per cent are over age 55,” he said.

“Every region of B.C. shows growing demand,” Leech concluded. “New two-year technology diploma programs are still needed in the north and central B.C. However, young people are investing to travel so they can earn the necessary tech qualifications.”

It would appear their investment is a smart move, as it will result in a broad range of career opportunities. Industries in all regions of B.C. support programs for local trainees to fill engineering and applied science technologist, technician and technical specialist positions.

To learn more about job opportunities, training and supports available, contact Work BC Agassiz at 604-796-0266.

To find out more about the Agassiz Pacific Agriculture Research Centre, visit www.agr.gc.ca, or visit during the annual open house, held each summer on the same day as the Slow Food Cycle Tour.



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