It’s hard to miss the prominence of Vancouver’s virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) industry. The fastest growing sector in the city’s tech economy, the ecosystem has increased from 15 companies in 2015 to over 200 today. A key part of B.C.’s Digital Supercluster Initiative—a bid that netted the region a portion of $950 million from the government to scale technology businesses—the VR and AR industry has become the city’s calling card.
In order to continue that upward trend, the ecosystem needs to hire more qualified staff. But despite Vancouver’s strong history in video game design and animation—skills that can be easily adapted for VR/AR creations—it doesn’t have enough talent to fill the open positions in the booming industry.
Local post-secondary institutions, however, are helping to close that gap.
First came BCIT’s VR/AR and MR (mixed reality) course, a curriculum developed in conjunction with Microsoft, creator of AR headset the HoloLens. Next were a number of boutique academies devoted to teaching how to create games and industry apps in VR and AR. Now, vocationally-focused schools are creating courses to help students get jobs in the booming local sector.
Vancouver Film School is one of the first to announce a dedicated VR and AR diploma program. The eight-month-long curriculum will allow students to explore and create applications in a variety of areas, including healthcare, engineering, education, real estate, and entertainment—many of which form the bedrock of Vancouver’s tech industry. The program will make the institution one of the only schools in the world able to teach students how to develop and design on the emerging platforms.
Consisting of 10 courses and two electives, the program is tailored to people who want to apply their technical and artistic skills to solve real-world problems in areas beyond games and entertainment. In addition, the diploma is targeting those working in sectors that have already been disrupted by VR and AR—retail, healthcare, and travel, for instance—and who wish to get ahead of the curve. Vancouver Film School also welcomes those currently working in VFX and animation who wish to segue into designing in virtual and augmented realities.
In order to create students that are job-ready, Vancouver Film School has partnered with tech incubator Launch Academy and networking collective the VR/AR Association. Both are well-placed to help students into industry. In October, Launch Academy announced the opening of the VR/AR hub, a space dedicated to helping mentor and fund startups in the sector, while the Vancouver chapter of the global VR/AR Association is heralded as the model branch of the organization, positioned to connect and facilitate collaborations between local companies.
Devoted to cultivating up-and-coming talent in the VR/AR industry, Launch Academy and the VR/AR Association will collaborate on sourcing industry partners and mentors to assist students with VR/AR projects across a broad spectrum of industries and applications.
“The Launch Academy Team is really excited to partner with VFS and help contribute to the VR/AR Design & Development Program,” says Ray Walia, CEO and cofounder of Launch Academy. “The opportunities in the VR/AR industry are significant and we have a chance to position Vancouver as a global leader. We are really looking forward to connecting VR/AR companies to top quality talent graduating from Vancouver Film School and also helping the entrepreneurial minded Vancouver Film School students with the execution on their own VR/AR startups.”
The institution has stated that it aims for its VR/AR design program to be the best in the world within the next 24 months. The new program will open for enrollment in early 2019.
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