B.C. must do more to prepare for tech job surge: report

Universities warn of broader skills shortage by 2016, not just in trades

Technology related jobs will outstrip B.C.'s ability to train the needed workers in the years ahead

Skilled jobs in technology and technical trades are forecast to be in high demand over the next several years, according to a new report.

But it argues B.C. isn’t adequately prepared to train enough young people to fill those roles.

An estimated 25,000 new jobs will be created by 2020 requiring advanced technology or technical education, according to the report from the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C.

That means about a 17 per cent jump from the current 150,000 positions in those fields.

The report makes 44 recommendations, including a call for the provincial government to draw up a science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and training strategy.

Too few students enrol in post-secondary study leading to applied science careers, it warns, and a major wave of retirements of older tech workers is approaching.

The province is urged to focus attention on tech training programs in the north, Interior, and Kootenays that can then feed into second-year programs at larger institutions like BCIT.

“This is a critical priority given the extent of job creation and huge capital projects expected in northern regions over the next decade,” the report said.

The province’s strategy to export liquefied natural gas is alone expected to account for $48 billion in investment and 1,400 new jobs in the years ahead.

The report said the success of the province’s jobs plan in several key sectors will hinge on its ability to usher young people, new Canadians, aboriginals and others into the new careers.

Recommendations include extending a training tax credit to employers of certified technologists and technicians.

B.C.’s major universities are also issuing a call for more public funding.

The Research Universities’ Council of B.C. forecasts a serious skills shortage will hit the province starting in 2016.

It argues immediate action is needed to improve access to all types of post-secondary programs – not just trades but at the university and college level as well.

The council predicts 18,800 jobs could go unfilled by 2020 because too few residents have the needed training, forcing B.C. to import skilled workers.

“It’s a myth that tomorrow’s jobs don’t require university education,” SFU president Andrew Petter said.  “To stay competitive, maintain our quality of life and lead in research and innovation, we need more graduates at all post-secondary education levels.”

The research council urges the province to add 11,000 new post-secondary student spaces over the next four years to ensure there is space for every qualified B.C. student, along with more grants, scholarships and student loan help.

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