Spotlight: On Putting Post-Secondary Education First

Put post-secondary education at the top of the priority list for BC’s future: Averting a skills shortage will take leadership and investment.

It’s time to consider a bold and aggressive commitment to post-secondary education in British Columbia.

Action is critical to avoid a future skills shortage and safeguard the economic prosperity of our province. Globally there has been a rapid shift towards a more knowledge-based economy. In the next 10 years, 75 per cent of new job openings in BC will require post-secondary education. This - combined with the tsunami of baby-boomers poised to retire - will result in a skills shortage, one that can only be avoided by graduating more British Columbians with job ready skills.  It is predicted that more than 600,000 college graduates will be needed in BC by 2019. Increased investment in post-secondary education is a crucial step that must be taken now to avert this imminent skills shortage.

Leadership candidates and those who want to position British Columbia to take advantage of global economic opportunities must consider investment in post-secondary education as a cornerstone to any policy platform.  Continued and increased investment in our colleges and universities will be key to our future economic success. By supporting accessible, affordable and job appropriate education, leaders will ensure that we have the skilled workforce needed to drive a sustainable economy; an economy that can support the social safety net we value in this province.

It’s an effort and initiative that has to include all regions of this province. That’s where the strength of BC’s colleges comes in to play. Colleges are key to regional economic and skills development in BC. With campuses and learning centres in almost 70 communities, colleges have a unique regional perspective and first-hand knowledge of the needs of local industry and employers.  Add in a long history of collaboration with industry, government and other post-secondary institutions, and the result is the creation of programs that meet the unique needs of each region in the province. Ultimately this leads to stronger and healthier communities.

BC’s colleges support and strengthen every community in the province as the primary providers of skills training and education for all, including traditionally under-represented groups such as Aboriginal, immigrant and students with disabilities. With smaller classes and more individual attention, students at BC’s colleges achieve higher completion rates.  Plus, with the ability to transfer between institutions, there is greater flexibility in obtaining the right training and education. The result?  Students get affordable, accessible and job-appropriate training and education close to home.

Within the next decade, British Columbia needs skilled graduates to fill 600,000 jobs. We need to ensure there is capacity for more British Columbians to pursue a college education and graduate with the right skills and training. Colleges will need additional investment and support from government to satisfy this demand. With increased investment, colleges can increase education and training opportunities, modernize equipment and facilities, improve transition rates between secondary and post-secondary institutions, collaborate with universities and other colleges and work with industry and employers to meet the changing needs of BC’s economy. Without it we turn our back on an opportunity to prepare for and address the province’s skills shortage.

It’s time to put post-secondary education at the top of the list. The future prosperity of our province depends on the action we take today.

Jim Reed
President, BC Colleges
Tel. 250-595-4866