It may be a tad early to realize Premier Christy Clark’s dream of seeing B.C. become the world’s technology hub and Kelowna at the centre of that, but the province is investing, albeit in a small way, in helping computer programers of the future get some of the skills they will need to fill jobs in the industry.
On Tuesday, Clark announced $250,000 will be split among five post-secondary institutions, including Okanagan College and UBC, in a pilot project to help develop coding-skills related programs.
Coding is what makes it possible for people to create computer software, apps and websites.
Speaking at Kelowna’s Hyper Hippo Games studio, Clark said B.C. is now home to a growing tech sector that generates $23 billion in annual revenues and employs 84,000 people. And the Okanagan is a growing area for technology.
“I want to make B.C. the world tech hub and Kelowna will be at the centre of that, no doubt,” she said.
But both she and Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton admitted that $50,000 for each institution—Okanagan College, UBC, SFU, the University of Victoria and Vancouver’s B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT)— is simply seed money for a pilot project.
Hamilton said the money will help the institutions development programs that are needed now in the fast changing world of technology training.
The tech sector has sent a loud and clear message that there are job opportunities locally, nationally and internationally,” said Hamilton. “With the right training , hands-on experience and industry contacts, thriving careers are easily within grasp for students at Okanagan College.”
Lance Priebe, Hyper Hippo Games CEO, said there is a talent shortage in the tech sector here, something his company is keenly aware of as it is continually seeking talented new programers.
Priebe, one of the trio behind the creation of the local technology super success story that was Club Penguin, welcomed the provincial money saying he was excited by the announcement. He called it a great opportunity for Kelowna and the institutions involved.
“As a growing tech company, Hyper Hippo is thrilled to see this help today in growing talent in our own backyard,”said Priebe.
After Priebe and his two partners who developed Club Penguin sold it for in 2007 for $350 million to the Walt Disney Company, he started Hyper Hippo Games and it developed 20 different computer games. Out of that came its current offering called Adventure Capitalist, a popular game that has skyrocketed in popularity since being launched last year and in February added Apple’s App Store and then Google’s app store.
Clark said the pilot project being funded at the five post-secondary institutions is something she expects to eventually go province wide, helping all regions of B.C. provide better coding skills training for those entering the tech sector.