Skills Gap Looms Large in Most Areas of BC

BC’s 11 public colleges are working with industry and communities to tackle regional labour shortages.

(VICTORIA) November 8, 2013 | On Tuesday, provincial, civic, industry, business and post-secondary education leaders will come together at the BC Business Council Summit – Building Prosperity Through a Competitive Economy – to hear how British Columbia can prepare to take up the many economic opportunities available to build a strong and vibrant economy. 

“One of the many challenges facing our province is our aging workforce combined with the growth in the knowledge-based economy”, states Jim Reed, President of BC Colleges.  “This has led to an ever-widening skills gap – the difference between the supply of skilled and educated workers and the industry demand – and it’s a real issue in many parts of our province.”

In order to take up the growing economic opportunities British Columbia needs a workforce educated with the right skills to get the jobs done. BC’s eleven public colleges – located in every region of the province – are working with industry right now to ensure BC’s labour force is ready and that the skills taught match the need.

“Our colleges are working closely with local businesses and industries to create programming that aligns with labour force demand and ensures a workforce educated with the right skills, close to home,” says Angus Graeme, President of Selkirk College and Chair of BC Colleges. “This will ultimately help to build long term success for our citizens and create strong and vibrant local economies that contribute to the overall health and prosperity of British Columbia.”

Each region of the province faces different labour force challenges and opportunities, see how our colleges are collaborating with business and industry in their regions to address the skills gap by reading the highlights below:

Northwestern British Columbia has over $60 billion in large-scale projects underway or planned for the region. However there is a shortage of skilled workers needed to support these major projects. Northwest Community College (NWCC) is working collaboratively with employers to ensure students are trained with the right skills to meet industry demand.  Read a backgrounder on the story here.

In the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Community College (VCC) works with local employers to identify skills gaps and then puts programs in place to fill them. Specifically, VCC is preparing Aboriginals, women and youth to work in high demand industries – Oil & Gas, Marine, Heavy Construction, Road building – as Commercial Transport and Diesel Engine mechanics. Read a backgrounder on the story here.

The mining industry in British Columbia is now valued at $8.3 billion and makes a significant contribution to the provincial economy. Five of the top six mines in BC are located in the Elk Valley (East Kootenay) and together represent $5.4 billion in total revenue. To meet the growing need for skilled workers for the mining industry, the College of the Rockies launched a Haul Truck Operator program in August.  Read a backgrounder on the story here.

In the South Okanagan-Similkameen, new projects like Skaha Hill development and a new 378-cell, $200 million correctional centre are fueling a construction boom and the demand for skilled construction workers. To meet the demand and provide students with the experience needed to fill these positions is Okanagan College’s Residential Construction Program.  Programs like this are giving students a solid skills foundation to start their careers.  Read a backgrounder on the story here.

At a projected rate of 11%, northeastern BC is predicted to have the highest annual growth in demand for workers over the next 10 years. Job growth is forecast to be in all industries that require labour with specialized skills and expertise. Northern Lights College, working collaboratively with members of the Northeast Regional Workforce Table, is creating effective solutions to combat their regional skills challenge. One of these solutions is to address training for high demand occupations like, Heavy Equipment Operators and Primary Production Labourers. Read a backgrounder on the story here.

The West Kootenay-Boundary region of British Columbia is rich with natural resources and home to an array of primary industry employers. Selkirk College, working collaboratively with key employers and stakeholders in the region including Fortis BC, BC Hydro, Columbia Power Corporation, Teck Metals and Zellstoff Celgar, recently hosted the Partnership for Prosperity industry summit with the goal to build the capacity required to produce the skilled workforce required in the region. Read a backgrounder on the story here.

Mining is a major employer in Northern BC. There are currently 9 operating mines, 2 mines under development, 19 proposed mines and 78 major exploration projects. The College of New Caledonia and the Canadian Institute of Mining is working to provide scholarships and bursaries for mining certificate students and trades students who are associated with mining, such as millwright/machinist, welding, electrical and carpentry. CNC’s mining certificate program has been successfully delivered at the Fort St. James and Burns Lake campuses, with more than 80% of graduates earning jobs. Read a backgrounder on the story here.

BC Colleges is a consortium representing BC’s 11 public, community colleges serving almost 200,000 students annually with campuses in over 60 communities throughout the province. BC’s 11 public colleges offer a comprehensive range of programs from university studies and baccalaureate degrees to career, technical and trades education. All of BC’s colleges offer programs that are accessible, affordable and responsive to the evolving needs of BC communities and industry.

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