The emerging economy in the Prince Rupert area has caught the eye of business educators from Simon Fraser University.
There are more than 40 Masters of Business (MBA) programs offered across the country and the Northwest Community College is now offering an executive MBA program for the first time. SFU’s Beedie School of Business offers a similar program in Vancouver but saw a need to bring a customized version of the program to Northern B.C.
“We regard it as a responsibility of the university to make itself available to different regions of the province,” said the program director, Mark Selman.
SFU has been running customized programs in different regions of the province for the past 18 years. The recent interest from international companies to expand the port terminal and to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on the North Coast demonstrated to Selman that the situation in Prince Rupert is changing.
“Prince Rupert is emerging into something of a node in global networks,” Selman said.
The executive MBA program is for already established business leaders who want to improve their management skills and want to improve their operations for when big industry steps into the area.
The program began last October and runs for 36 months, with ongoing online projects and three classes a semester. Faculty fly in from Vancouver to give five to six days of instruction for a course.
The first week of February instructors, including Selman, flew in to teach the condensed second semester portion of the program. He said there are 25 students from the Port Authority, Aboriginal organizations and small business owners who are able to work full time while studying for their EMBA. Some students travel from Terrace and Kitimat to take the program but most are from the city.
Selman and his colleagues spoke with several business owners to develop the program.
“There is no difference in quality in terms of the level of education that people get,” Selman said.
The main difference from the Vancouver program is that the courses look at the challenges organizations face around sustainability or Aboriginal relations, there is an emphasis on entrepreneurship and operations management.
“That’s an obvious interest for the Port. It looks at issues like logistics. The economy here is driven by operations management and logistics,” Selman said.
SFU started thinking about bringing the program to the North Coast four years ago, and Selman said he had expected at least one LNG project to be underway when they first started teaching.
In his observation, many of the people in the North are resourceful but don’t necessarily have the traditional qualifications that people have from the cities in the south.
SFU also ran an MBA program in Kitimat and most of the students were from the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter company.
As big companies move in, such as Shell, and even smaller companies, such as an engineering consulting firm, they have international standards for the kind of people they want to hire.
“If people in Prince Rupert are going to compete for those positions and not just see them taken by other people from elsewhere in the world they’re going to have to upgrade their skills and their credentials to meet those global expectations,” Selman said.