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Austin calls for immediate skills training in northwest

Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin gave a private member's statement on the need for skills training as soon as possible  in the BC legislature today, March 31.

Although the "bedrock" of building a new industry in the province is a skilled workforce, Northwest Community College, which should be the centre of skills training for all of the proposed projects "has been woefully under-resourced for a number of years now," said Austin.

Colleges have not received enough money for operating costs and now they're being asked to cut their budgets.

"I suspect the government speaker on this topic will talk mightily about capital funding, but it needs to be understood that buildings don't train workers. Instructors train workers, and even they can't do that without prosaic things like heat and electricity, which is why the $40 million in cuts to B.C. colleges and universities are so concerning," he said.

The rate of unemployment and underemployment is unacceptable  – Austin represents some communities in the northwest that have 50 per cent unemployment rates or more – and yet, planeloads of outside workers are coming in to fill jobs that local people haven't been trained for, he said.

"The single biggest thing we could do to send a strong message to the LNG industry that we are open for business would be to immediately begin providing low-barrier opportunities to underemployed and unemployed workers in the northwest, to improve their skills," he said.

For the full transcript of Austin's statement, go to http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th2nd/20140331am-House-Blues.htm

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