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KPU Richmond launches programs to meet gaming and film industry demands

Public school partners with private company to offer hands-on courses with industry-connected instructors.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) launched an official collaboration with a private company last week to offer courses in video game development, visual effects and animation at the university’s Richmond campus with the aim of meeting local industry demand for talent.

Designed in partnership with Centre for Entertainment Arts (CEA), the new program will offer hands-on courses through industry-connected instructors to prepare students with technical and professional skills to join B.C.’s growing visual effects, animation and gaming industries, said Dr. Alan Davis, president and vice-chancellor of KPU, at Thursday’s launch.

“These programs sit squarely in KPU’s role of helping develop the future workforce for the province,” he added.

CEA is an entertainment provider that connects with Canadian public institutions to offer entertainment arts diplomas and industry mentorship.

The partnership between KPU and CEA comes at the “perfect time” as the creative arts industries have “recovered phenomenally” from COVID since late 2021, according to co-founder and co-CEO of CEA, Diwakar Gandhi, who was also at the launch.

“The outlook of the industry is incredible, and the growth is here to stay,” said Gandhi.

“When you watch films, people think these are movies made in the U.S., but the post-production is actually done here,” he added.

The challenge, however, is a shortage of skilled artists.

“There are not enough artists,” said Melissa Best, vice-president of education at CEA. “Studios are taking artists from one studio and bringing them to another. Artists are getting multiple job offers. There's a huge demand for this.”

“I've been involved in multimedia since 1995,” Best added. “I've never seen a boom like this in my entire 20-something years.”

To prepare students for real-life work, the coursework will simulate a studio environment in specialized computer labs, because in this industry, “experience is everything,” said David P. Burns, associate vice-president of academic at KPU.

“A whole range of courses are getting taught by people specifically pulled from the industry, said Burns. “In this program, you have to be able to go out and join a studio and be part of that pipeline right away.”

Angelina Vedernikova, an alumna who graduated from CEA’s advanced 3D animation program in December 2021, is now in animation quality control at Industrial Light and Magic, a leading visual effects company in Vancouver.

She told the Richmond News that after joining the industry, she had more “aha” moments and understood better how she was taught.

“Everything they taught us is very practical and applicable,” said Vedernikova. She concurs that the personal and team-based projects she got to work on in school helped.

“I'm eternally grateful for my mentors and my classmates because they kept the bar really high.”

As the new entertainment arts programs are built into KPU’s Faculty of Arts, students will also be able to get credits taking courses from other departments, and collaboration between entertainment arts students and those majoring in relevant disciplines, such as design, expressive arts and music technology, will be encouraged.

B.C.: World’s leading centre for creative technologies

According to B.C.’s Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training, Anne Kang, the creative technology industry has become one of the most dynamic economic engines in B.C.’s economy, generating $2.3 billion in global sales annually across more than 250 companies. The province’s labour market outlook predicts around 13,000 job openings in this field in the next 10 years.

In Vancouver, there are more than 60 studios in the visual effects and animation industry, making it the world's largest cluster of domestic and foreign-owned studios, according to the Vancouver Economic Commission.

“We have a massive foreign studio structure here because it’s cheaper (than the U.S.) And the B.C. government has done a lot in terms of providing tax credits to the industry, which has helped a lot in bringing foreign studios to Vancouver,” explained Gandhi.

“There’s so much more production happening, but there’s not enough talent in the market. That’s why our students are very important…there’s a need for the talent.”