VICTORIA -- The B.C. government says it will invest $4.4 million into education and training for health-care professionals in the province.

The announcement Thursday is intended to drive more post-secondary students into careers in health care and to upgrade the skills of those already working in the field.

"For years, British Columbians have been calling for more trained health professionals in their communities," said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, in a statement about the funding.

"We heard that call to action and we’re investing in valuable, in-demand training in every corner of the province so that students preparing for careers in health care, or health professionals upgrading their skills, are able to provide quality health care when and where it is needed."

The programs targeted with the funding include training for health-care assistants, anesthesia assistants, mental health and community support workers and programs for nurses.

Schools receiving the one-time funding boost include Camosun College, Coast Mountain College, the College of New Caledonia, North Island College, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, Okanagan College, Thompson Rivers University, the British Columbia Institute of Technology and Vancouver Community College.

The province says the money isn't just for current students but existing health-care professionals as well.

"Registered nurses and other health professionals can access short, targeted training modules through the British Columbia Institute of Technology and respiratory therapists can access one-on-one clinical refreshers," the province said.

Vancouver Community College, specifically, received $750,000 to expand its bridging program for licensed practical nurses who choose to complete a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Similarly, BCIT received $227,000 to enable registered nurses working in critical care to train in advanced skills, the province said.

"We are committed to training, recruiting and hiring a new generation of health-care professionals at all levels, including respiratory therapists and critical care nurses, who are vital members of the health-care team,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“Respiratory therapists and nurses working with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic have a high-risk role because of their hands-on work treating patients with breathing difficulties and I thank them for all they do," Dix added.

The province says the $4.4 million announced Thursday brings the total new funding for health education to approximately $46 million since 2017.