By Shirley Bond
Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour
VICTORIA - British Columbia is expecting significant growth in the natural resources industry over the next decade, with most major projects located in northern or remote communities. Our province needs to be ready with the skilled workers required to build and operate these projects - that’s why government created B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint.
Our Blueprint is a comprehensive plan to re-engineer our education and training system to align with labour market needs, at the right time and in the right place. With nearly one million jobs expected by 2022 through retirements and new job creation, it’s clear that we must move quickly to make sure British Columbians are first in line for these opportunities.
One way we plan to do this is by taking training to where the jobs are. Residents of northern and remote communities, particularly Aboriginal people, need access to training where they live so they can take advantage of opportunities in LNG, mining, forestry and other growing industries.
Providing this access means developing flexible training tools that are capable of overcoming geographic, technological or other barriers. B.C.’s Blueprint is about developing these tools.
For example, mobile training trailers outfitted for classes in welding, electrical, millwright, pipe fitting and other trades are already enabling Aboriginal participants to explore trades training through innovative programs like Bridging to Trades.
Together with the Industry Training Authority (ITA), employers and post-secondary partners, we plan to bring these mobile classrooms to more remote communities across the province. In addition, we’re also exploring the possibility of providing in-camp training right on the worksite to connect workers with the skills they need without having to leave their job or their communities.
These approaches will be complemented by new technologies that enable online learning, so that students can access trades training through flexible delivery models that include virtual classrooms and the use of free online textbooks.
We’re also exploring how we can build flexibility into the trades training system through innovations like front-end loaded apprenticeships. This would put classroom work at the beginning of the apprenticeship, rather than spreading it out throughout the program. For apprentices that live in remote communities, this minimizes the time away from home. Front-end loading also gives employers confidence that apprentices will be on-the-job when they are needed most.
Making these changes means making the most effective use of our existing resources and future investments. Government currently invests more than $7.6 billion each year in education and training. Re-engineering our system doesn’t mean spending more, it means targeting more of the substantial resources already available to meet labour market priorities.
That’s why starting this fiscal year, we’re targeting over $160 million to do just that. That’s in addition to $185 million in capital spending for trades training infrastructure and equipment over the next three years.
B.C.’s greatest competitive advantage is a highly skilled and educated workforce. Bringing the classroom to the worksite is one piece of this puzzle; one that will ultimately help to create good jobs and a strong economy.
I’m confident that B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint will provide the foundation for this success - for individuals, for communities, and for our province.
Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour