VICTORIA – As we celebrate International Education Week in B.C., I’d like to highlight this relatively unknown sector and the positive impacts it has on our province.
I recently returned from a trip to China and Vietnam where I was fortunate to meet with a variety of institutions, organizations and individuals involved in post-secondary international education in both countries. And while international post-secondary education is already a thriving economic and cultural engine, I came away from that trip knowing that the opportunities between our countries are endless.
Currently, international education contributes about $1.6 billion to the B.C. economy and creates close to 21,000 jobs. B.C. is, in fact, the top province in Canada for attracting international students. In 2009, more than 140,000 international students from over 165 countries were studying at B.C.’s public or private post-secondary and English as a Second Language institutions. Of those, approximately 25,000 were specifically attending one of our public post-secondary institutions, making up about six per cent of the total public institutions enrolment. Our largest international partner continues to be the Asia-Pacific region, where almost 70 per cent of our international students came from in 2009.
There are many reasons why students from around the world choose to study in B.C. Not only is our province beautiful and full of vibrant culture and activities, but we’re known around the world for the quality of our education and the safety, security and reputation of our institutions. These are very important factors for students and their families to consider before they choose to invest their money in a post-secondary education far from home.
B.C.’s post-secondary institutions are consistently ranked amongst the top institutions in Canada and the world. We should be very proud of the reputation we carry around the globe.
Our efforts to ensure that B.C.’s reputation in post-secondary education remains very high include the introduction, in 2009, of our Education Quality Assurance program – the EQA – which has become our seal of quality for private and public post-secondary institutions. This program is recognized worldwide and allows students to make informed choices when deciding where to pursue their post-secondary education. It allows them to have confidence that the institution they are looking at is reputable, recognized and guaranteed by the Province, and will provide the kind of quality education they are seeking.
By 2019, over a million jobs will be available in B.C. A recent survey of international students studying in B.C. indicated that more than half are interested in working in our province after their studies. We know that with the baby boomers nearing retirement, we are going to face a shortage of skilled workers in a wide array of professions and trades – shortages that some of these international students may be able to help us fill. This gives us an advantage in attracting and retaining skilled international graduates who have Canadian qualifications, work experience and familiarity with Canadian society to succeed in B.C.
International students are fundamental to the future of our province, as they provide cultural, social and economic benefits, contributing knowledge and skills to help us meet labour market needs across British Columbia. As a province that’s rich in ethnic and cultural diversity, we should embrace our international status and continue to welcome students from around the world to B.C.
During International Education Week, I encourage each of you to meet a student who has come here for another part of the world to study. I encourage you to find out their story and listen to their experiences. You may be surprised by what you uncover.