British Columbia Institute of Technology

B.C.I.T., c. 1965
BC Archives photo HP072559

This historical overview was abstracted from information posted on the Department of Human Resources page at the B.C.I.T. website. Additional material about BCIT will be found in The Homeroom pages relating to adult education and to provincial colleges and institutes.

History and Accomplishments

When the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) first opened its doors to students in the spring of 1964, its philosophy was to prepare job-ready graduates who could step into key technical and commercial positions and make an immediate contribution. After 32 years as one of the leading schools of technology in Western Canada, BCIT has seen many changes, but its basic philosophy has remained the same. For that reason, graduates of BCIT trades and technology programs are some of the most sought after graduates in Canada.

BCIT 1958 to 1986

The Technical and Vocational Training Assistance Act of 1960 provided funds for new technical and vocational schools across the country. In British Columbia the concept was eagerly embraced and even before official passage of the act, a task force began planning a new institute of technology.

Construction was complete by 1964 and the first students started classes that fall. Tuition was $150 for the year, and the school calendar advised that accommodation was available in the vicinity for approximately $90 a month. Students were required to dress in a "manner in keeping with the dignity of the Institute" which meant shirts and ties for the men, and "appropriate attire" for the women.

BCIT's first decade was one of widespread acceptance by business and industry. During the 60's and early 70's, it was not uncommon for entire classes of BCIT students to have jobs prior to graduation. By 1974, the day school enrolment was 3,079 and almost 6,000 students were attending night classes. Another 3,850 students were enrolled in the Industry Services division, bring the total 1974 student enrolment to 12,889.

Because of expanding enrolments, a vigorous building program had to be initiated. As a temporary measure, 25,000 sq. ft. of space in the form of portable trailers was added to the Institute in 1975. Years later, a few of these same trailers are still here.

Three events in 1974 influenced BCIT's development. The Institute signed its first two collective agreements with the newly certified Staff Society and Local 59 of the BCGEU. Gordon A. Thom, who would remain at the helm of BCIT for 12 years, took over from the Institute's second principal Dean H. Goard. And finally, BCIT became an autonomous entity separate from the Ministry of Education with its own Board of Governors.

Suddenly, the Institute was responsible for setting up and maintaining its own payroll, purchasing, personnel, financial planning, student information, and internal and external communication services. To help cope with the change, a new organizational structure was introduced and administrative staff increased.

Through the late 70's and early 80s, enrolments continued to rise and the placement of BCIT graduates remained high despite a downturn in the province's economy. In 1977, with the unemployment rate on the rise, BCIT could boast a training-related placement rate of 93 percent. The reputation of the Institute continued to grow and applications for admission poured in.

BCVS-PVI 1958 to 1986

BCIT's School of Trades Training, one of the largest and best equipped trade schools in western Canada, bears little resemblance to its humble beginnings as the

British Columbia Vocational School

(BCVS). Because of the urgent need for vocational training, BCVS was originally set up in 1958 as a temporary school at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds under the tutelage of Colonel J. W. Inglis. Some of the first classes were held in the cow barns, which students and staff had to vacate during the exhibition.

In the spring of 1959, the provincial government announced plans to establish a permanent vocational school at the present site in Burnaby. Eight prefabricated buildings, including four workshops and four classroom blocks, were erected later that year and the school was officially opened on June 29th, 1960.

By the spring of 1961, the school could boast a day school enrolment of 1,799 and an additional enrolment of 2,192 in the night school program. Program offerings included carpentry, plumbing, sheet metal, electrical, iron working, boat building, plastering, electronics and aeronautics. However, with construction of the Peace River crude oil pipeline in full swing, the most popular course was welding. In fact, the demand for welding instruction was so high, that a graveyard shift which ran from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. had to be put on in the early 1960's.

By the end of the decade, the demand for trades training was out-stripping the supply. To keep up with the demand, BCVS began year-round operation, and plans for expansion were set in motion. During the 1970's, the physical plant grew steadily, culminating in the construction of the $4.8 million J.W. Inglis Building (NE1) in 1977.

Up to 1978, BCVS was administered directly by the provincial government. However, as the school grew, the arm's length administration of day-to-day operations became impractical. On April 1, 1978, BCVS and the Haney Educational Centre were amalgamated to form the

Pacific Vocational Institute

(PVI), a crown corporation with authority to operate autonomously from the provincial government. Henry Justesen was named president of the new institution and he continued in that role until the merging of PVI and BCIT in 1986.

BCIT Downtown Campus

In 1976 due to growth of the part time studies programs and a lack of space to accommodate courses on the Burnaby Campus, BCIT stated to research the downtown market. A survey conducted by BCIT marketing students indicated a strong desire for BCIT courses in the Marketing, Management, Financial Management, Administrative Management, as well as Computer training. The survey revealed that students preferred the 17:30 to 20:30 time frame allowing people to come directly from work to class.

September 1978, we were off and running with 17 courses and 330 students enrolled. In January 1979, enrolment increased to 681 students.

Accommodating these courses was often challenging as we rented classrooms all the downtown core including the YMCA, Crown Zellerbach, H.A. Simons, B.C. Tel, Robson Square, The National Tellers Training Institute, Christ Church the Baptist Educational Center, The Century Plaza Hotel, etc. There was the occasional "administrative nightmare" associated with offering classes in so many locations, especially as our temporary office was located in the Scotia Tower at Pacific Centre.

Enrolment in September of 1979 grew to 1,330 students, exactly 1,000 more than when we started in 1978. Classroom problems became acute. It was evident that the growth of our programs would force us to find a large centralized location where we could consolidate all of our classes.

The opportunity to consolidate came in 1980, a building was located at 549 Howe, our present location. The building was chosen largely because of location but also because it was available incrementally; we could gradually expand as more space became available. The acquisition of this location made possible a partnership between Capilano College, Simon Fraser University, The Education Information Center, and BCIT who eventually held the lease on the entire building.

Capilano College withdrew in 1983 and Simon Fraser University moved to their own downtown facility in 1989.

On November 26, 1996, members of the Institute community celebrated the grand opening of BCIT's new Downtown campus.

The campus is housed in an eight-storey building at the corner of Seymour and Dunsmuir Streets. It will serve close to 10,000 students a year by the year 2000 and offer great training opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.

Lucent Technologies (formerly part of AT&T) has partnered with BCIT to provide the integrated cabling system that makes BCIT's new campus the first "smart" building in Western Canada.

One cabling and fibre-optic backbone can handle all building systems, including voice, data, video, security, multi-media and building controls. Operating speed: 155 megabytes (equal to 22,000 pages of text) per second.

In addition to job-ready training, the new campus is also available for conference needs. Classes begin at the new campus in January 1997.

BCIT - 1986 to the present day

In 1986, PVI and BCIT, which had co-existed as neighbours on the same site for 22 years, were merged to form a new institution. The merger laid the foundation for the Institute's expanded role as the flagship of trades and technological training in British Columbia. The mandate of the "new" BCIT included an important new responsibility: to be the province's focal point for the transfer of applied technology. To that end, the Technology Centre was created and made part of BCIT. The Institute's growth continued in 1994, when the Pacific Marine Training Institute amalgamated with BCIT under the School of Trades Training to become the Pacific Marine Training Campus.

The Vancouver School Board first began providing navigation training in 1919, in a building on Dunsmuir Street. This short-lived venture soon lapsed, and it was not until 1938, when the provincial government opened the Vancouver Navigational School, that publicly funded marine instruction was again available on the West Coast of Canada. In 1949, this operation was transferred to the Vancouver Vocational Institute (with the addition of a main engineering component), it remained until 1975. During that year, new leased premises were acquired, and this new facility, namely the Marine Training Centre, began providing training in navigation and engineering. Following the establishment of the Marine Training Advisory Council in 1975, it was decided that the responsibilities of the Centre should be increased. As a result, in 1978, it was designated a Provincial Institute and renamed the Pacific Marine Training Institute.

BCIT is growing to include the following satellite campuses:

Additional off campus instruction is provided through Industry Services.

During the past several years, access to our programs for high school graduates has been improved by additional scholarship and bursary funds through initiatives such as the BCIT Entrance Awards and the Alumni Scholarships. Additional Distance Education opportunities and co-operative programming with the community colleges and the establishment, on the Burnaby campus, of a state-of-the-art childcare centre make it easier for student of all ages to take advantage of BCIT's excellent training programs.

Recent initiatives have included recommendations for the establishment of an Aerospace Centre of Excellence at BCIT's Sea Island campus, to serve the ever increasing needs of the Aerospace industry in the next decade; the development of a "Campus Master Plan" to ensure that BCIT facilities will be able to meet student needs in the 21st century; a $10 million capital campaign in co-operation with the provincial government to raise private sector funds for new equipment and facilities; career enhancement opportunities for graduates wishing to pursue degrees; and the development of a three-year Strategic Plan which represents a blueprint for our future educational direction.

Recent initiatives have included opening of a new Campus Centre at the heart of BCIT's Burnaby Campus, part of a "Campus Master Plan" to ensure facilities meet students needs into the 21st century. A $5 million capital campaign is also underway to ensure that the new downtown campus has the latest, most innovative communications technology available.

BCIT has also begun granting Bachelor of Technology degrees, allowing diploma graduates to continue their education for further career and personal advancement.

The Institute is focusing its development over the next decade on three core businesses:

The coming years will continue to be exciting and challenging as BCIT evolves and continues to meet its mandate and goals.

BCIT Historic Overview

1960 BC Vocational School opened on this campus
1961 Plans to establish BCIT announced
1962 First principal appointed
1964 First students on campus 498 in Engineering & Business
1966 First graduates
1967 Health Technologies added
1975 3200 full time students
1994 Amalgamation of the Pacific Marine Training Institute with BCIT to form BCIT's Pacific Marine Training Campus (PMTC)
1996 BCIT offers it first Bachelor of Technology Degree
1997 Opening of BCIT Downtown - the institute's state of the art downtown campus