Opinion

Trades training key to northwest's future

By Kevin Evans

Terrace and its neighbours are on the cusp of an economic boom, with plenty of reason to celebrate the growing list of major projects.

However, it does beg the question: Will we have the skilled workers to fill these jobs?

Over the next decade, at least one million jobs are expected to open up in B.C. and three out of every four will require some post-secondary education or skills training.

In the Terrace region, skilled trades jobs are expected to account for nearly 14 per cent of overall employment by 2020 – amounting to approximately 6,400 jobs.

This growing labour demand comes at a time when the province’s existing skilled workforce is shrinking and more tradespeople are transitioning to retirement.

The promise of significant prosperity and employment is currently within our reach, but how we respond to it will determine whether we meet this opportunity or let it slip through our hands.

If we want growth to continue in Terrace and throughout the province, we will need to hire more apprentices and make sure they get the guidance and job training they need.

This was the topic discussed by more than 150 business, labour and training providers who recently came together to discuss the state of B.C.’s skilled trades at the Industry Training Authority’s Facing the Challenge conference.

Participants supported the call for a shift towards a much stronger training culture where employers see the value in work-based training programs, and see the investment in apprenticeship as a reasonable price to pay in order to participate in B.C.’s coming development boom.

Adding to this rallying cry are two recent announcements from the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation committing nearly $25M to skilled trades training initiatives across the province over the next few years.

Currently, the province invests more than $100 million annually in the ITA to support over 140 diverse training programs, including more than 40 Red Seal trades.

There are over 38,000 apprentices, youth and pre-apprenticeship training participants registered in B.C.

And since 2004, the number of apprentices has more than doubled.  Yet, much more needs to be done to ensure we continue on the right track. In order to guarantee the best and brightest workforce for our economy, government, industry and labour need to continue working together to increase apprentice opportunities in all trades.

From a business perspective, sponsoring an apprentice simply makes sense: according to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, employers receive an average of $1.47 for every dollar they invest into hiring an apprentice.

Apprentices also bring many things to the table, such as a reliable and well-trained staff member; an employee who is eager to learn and committed to long-term skills development; and a loyal, skilled workforce capable of helping a business evolve and succeed.

Ensuring that apprenticeship programs are available for everyone in B.C. is a key component of ITA’s mandate.

That’s why ITA’s women in trades training, immigrants in trades training, and aboriginal and youth initiatives encourage employers to tap into the full range of B. C.’ s potential workforce resources as part of a long- term strategy to fill these needs.

As Terrace heads into an exciting new phase of development, we need to recognize that a very real constraining factor for succeeding may be the lack of human capital. All of us – industry, government, and labour – must rise to the occasion to meet this challenge head on.

Supporting skilled trades training and the investment into apprenticeship is one of the surest ways we’ll be able to do this.

 

Kevin Evans is the chief executive officer of the Industry Training Authority, a provincial Crown agency responsible for managing and expanding B. C.’ s industry training and apprenticeship system.

 

 

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