B.C. VIEWS: Pressure on for skills training

Province spurs students to pursue trades careers, but more program seats, loan reforms needed

New Brunswick Premier David Alward and B.C. Premier Christy Clark are looking for a solution to a dispute with Ottawa over redirecting skills training money.

New Brunswick Premier David Alward and B.C. Premier Christy Clark are looking for a solution to a dispute with Ottawa over redirecting skills training money.

VICTORIA – Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk has offered some advice for students heading for post-secondary education this fall.

In a commentary sent to B.C. newspapers, Virk reminded students that his task “is to ensure post-secondary students obtain the experience and qualifications needed to put a paycheque in their back pocket.”

B.C. is forecast to have one million jobs to fill by 2020, through a combination of retirements and economic growth. More than 40 per cent of them will require trades and technical training, and for students, likely a move north.

“My advice to students is to look at where the jobs are based and tailor their education and training to match,” Virk wrote. “Our population is concentrated in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island, but as a resource-based economy, many directly and indirectly related jobs are located elsewhere.”

That’s not the only blunt message for students deciding on a career. While defending his ministry’s spending plans in the recent legislature session, Virk described some of the problems that are entrenched.

Parents, particularly in immigrant communities, push their children towards medicine, law, dentistry or engineering, he noted. Students themselves gravitate toward areas that are familiar to them, such as teaching.

B.C. universities graduated 2,000 new teachers last year. Another 850 arrived from out of province and were licensed to teach in B.C. During the same year, the B.C. school system hired 800 teachers. And many of those jobs were outside metropolitan areas.

It’s been hammered into us by the B.C. government’s endless “jobs plan” advertising, and a similar campaign by Ottawa, that more students need to focus on trades and resource industries. Virk acknowledges that his budget contains another $1 million for advertising, the same as last year, much of it to reinforce the need to fill skilled jobs. But he danced around the question of whether there will be spaces in technical programs.

NDP critics say the waiting list for these kinds of programs at Kwantlen University and B.C. Institute of Technology are running between a year and three years. And they have frequently noted that advanced education spending is budgeted to decline by $42 million over the next three years.

Virk said post-secondary institutions working with industry have produced 456 additional seats in high-demand programs for this year. It’s a start.

In July, Premier Christy Clark joined the chorus of premiers protesting Ottawa’s plan to claw back $300 million in federal training money to provinces, for its new employer-driven Canada Jobs Grant. Clark and New Brunswick Premier David Alward were assigned to find an alternative to this drastic shift and report back in the fall.

As usual, the NDP spent lots of time grilling Virk about student debt and the alleged need to reduce it. Ministry statistics show that about 30 per cent of students take out loans from the federal-provincial program, and the average is $20,000.

One of the latest changes is a program of grants that go toward student debt as a reward for those who complete their chosen program. With 23,000 students collecting $41 million in grants, it might be working. For all the fuss about student debt, students pay only about a third of costs. The rest is on taxpayers, whether it produces any useful education or not.

Virk is under instructions to review the student loan program “to find further improvements to meet students’ needs.” Given the magnitude of the gap between what skills our education system produces and what the economy needs, a larger shift in priorities is needed.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com Twitter: @tomfletcherbc Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

Just Posted

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

A multi-building residential development on Erskine Lane in View Royal was approved by council on June 15. (Courtesy Town of View Royal)
Dire shortage of three-bedroom apartments, says View Royal mayor

New development to feature wide range of rental units, amenities for tenants

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. The website for a Broadway theatre showing "Springsteen on Broadway" said it would only allow guests "fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine" — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
No Springsteen for you: AstraZeneca not good enough to qualify for Broadway ticket

View Royal mayor among those unable to attend New York entertainment due to COVID-19 restriction

Numerous Esquimalt residents can now build a detached accessory suite of up to 65 square metres in their backyard. (Township of Esquimalt)
Backyard suites now legal for some Esquimalt properties

One unit of up to 65 square metres now permitted for eligible residents

BC Housing has brought in sanitation trailers to the former Mount Tolmie Hospital site so its current residents can access clean water, showers, sinks and toilets after a collapsed sewer pipe impacted water service to the building. (Google Streetview)
Mount Tolmie Hospital homelessness shelter using sanitation trailers after pipe collapse

Travelodge shelter residents faced intermittent hot water supply in late May, early June

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Seth Rogen’s vibrant orange sculpture was sold for $7,000 above Vancouver Art Gallery’s initial estimation at auction Tuesday. June 15. (Heffel Fine Arts)
Vase made by Seth Rogen sells for $12,000 at Vancouver auction

The B.C.-born comedian has a new pot habit and it’s paying off

BC Lions running back John White IV (3) runs with the ball during first quarter CFL football action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Saturday, September 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
BC Lions file trademark for new logo

Canadian Football League team files for new design on June 1

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Camper van explosion burns Vancouver Island gas station to the ground

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Most Read