B.C. launches skills ‘re-engineering’

B.C. government has unveiled its plan to redirect post-secondary funds and student aid to jobs in demand

Justin Akinclose

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has unveiled its plan to match up skills training with emerging jobs in resource development, by redirecting post-secondary funding and financial aid toward occupations in demand.

The plan emphasizes industrial skills such as welding, pipefitting, heavy equipment operation, truck driving and concrete finishing, but ministers and officials stressed that it also includes engineering, health care and other occupations where jobs are projected to increase.

The main shift for colleges and universities is that within four years, a quarter of their operating grants will be targeted to programs with identified demand from the job market. Employment data will determine post-secondary funding, instead of the tradition of block grants to post-secondary schools.

Ministers avoided identifying areas that will lose funding, but have previously cited far more teaching graduates than there are jobs in the school system. Premier Christy Clark has lamented a system where students receive a bachelor’s degree and then must take additional training to qualify for jobs.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender outlined a plan for K-12 schooling that aims to double the number of spaces for high school students taking industrial training in high school to 5,000 in two years. Students in these courses get college credits while still in high school, allowing them to go to work more quickly.

The ministry is also revamping its kindergarten to grade nine curriculum to give it more emphasis on “hands-on learning” and exposing students in earlier grades to the range of jobs they can expect when they graduate.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said the Industry Training Authority will soon get a new board of directors and industry advisory councils to provide up-to-date information on job market needs.

NDP leader Adrian Dix said the overhaul of the ITA to restore union representation on its board shows that the model set up 10 years ago has been a failure. He also questioned how the education system can be restructured without adding new resources.

“We need investment in skills training,” Dix said. “Instead what we have is a ministry of reallocation, which will cause considerable problems in the system and will not, I think, cumulatively give young people what they need.”

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk said the student loan program will also be adjusted to market demand, with loans reduced or forgiven for students who graduate with in-demand skills and are willing to move to get work.

 

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