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Labour Day review: Two sides of B.C. job creation
Job creation remains the government’s top priority.
This was the reassurance offered recently by Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, Shirley Bond.
That and the promise of a hefty goal of one million job openings by 2020 in sectors including liquefied natural gas, mining, forestry and others.
“Tremendous economic opportunities lie ahead for our province — opportunities that will translate into one million job openings,” Bond said earlier this month.
She’s referring to a plan published in September 2011 titled Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan.
What’s promoted as a living plan for creating long-term jobs and investment in B.C. and strengthening the economy through low taxes for families and business, controlled spending and balancing budgets, and new investment in skills training, is the cornerstone of the government’s goal.
“Since the release of our B.C. Jobs Plan, one new mine has opened, five more are under construction and six existing mines have announced expansions,” said Bond. “The five LNG plants that are planned are expected to deliver over $1 trillion in GDP benefits to B.C. by 2046 and LNG means more than 75,000 new jobs throughout the province, once the five proposed plants are fully operational.”
The strategies of the jobs plan leverage B.C.’s advantages in eight key industry sectors (forestry, mining, natural gas, agrifoods, tourism, transportation, international education and technology), “to enable job creation, maintain investor confidence with fiscal discipline and ensure our workforce will meet the needs of the future by encouraging and improving skills and trades training throughout the province,” states the government’s website.
Of the one million job openings ahead for folks, the government assures 43% will need trades and technical training.
That’s where their Skills and Training Plan comes in.
“(The plan) represents fundamental change to how we prepare British Columbians for the jobs of tomorrow,” reads its website. “The Skills and Training Plan is the result of numerous conversations with industry, employers and post-secondary institutions. To find their needs, conversations took place through regional workforce tables, sector-based tables and through one-on-one conversations.
“The plan ensures British Columbians can take advantage of the incredible job opportunities today and in the years ahead, and help address the rising shortage of workers.”
The plan is built on a $500 million annual investment in training British Columbians for the jobs associated with economic growth. In addition, the plan includes investing $75 million to improve training facilities and equipment.
“Aboriginal participation increased 103 per cent between 2006 and 2011,” its website indicated.
“In the past year, the number of women participating in apprenticeship programs has increased by five.
“Since the Industry Training Authority was first established in 2004, the number of apprentices has doubled in B.C., with 32,000 people in the trades training system today.”
The Liberals say that since the B.C. Jobs Plan was introduced:
• 2,270,300 people were employed in the province. As of today, 2,309,000 people are employed in the province. The difference is 38,700 more people working.
• 1,747,300 people were employed in full-time positions in the province. As of today, 1,830,900 people are employed in full-time positions. The difference is 83,600 more people in full-time positions.
• The unemployment rate in the province was 7.5%. As of today, the unemployment rate is 6.7%, below the national average of 7.2%.
The Routleys respond
As recent surveys indicate job losses and part-time employment dips, Cowichan’s NDP MLAs Bill and Doug Routley are calling for immediate action.
“Right now the issue of youth and employment is becoming a crisis, and a chronic problem,” said Nanaimo-North Cowichan’s Doug. “We have jobs without people, and people without jobs.”
Routley’s referring to a recent July 2013 Labour Force Survey — particularly, the net decline of 11,700 jobs in July and part-time employment dropping to 17,800.
Government officials maintain dips are likely due to typical monthly fluctuations. But that doesn’t cut it for the Cowichan duo.
“I think with the minister’s spin, people would be more appreciative if they’d take more responsibility,” said Doug, noting more focus should be on assisting post- college grads into the work place.
“These younger people with degrees and student loans are forced to take low-paying jobs,” he said.
“The facts are that B.C. has the worst performance in the country,” added Cowichan Valley MLA Bill. “They’ve lost 30,000 of their forest sector jobs since 2001.”
Both Routleys pointed to the elimination of the Red Seal trades apprenticeship program in 2003/2004.
“Most industry through B.C., what they want most on the job is a Red Seal ticketed tradesmen.
“What they’re trying to do is break trades down into components so they can reduce cost for industry but it has not been working.”
The Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program was established more than 50 years ago to provide greater mobility across Canada for skilled workers. It represents a standard of excellence where tradespersons are able to obtain an interprovincial endorsement on their provincial/territorial certificates. The Routleys strongly suggest the government reinstate B.C.’s involvement in that program.
They also want a cohesive effort to create a partnership with industry.
“There are plenty of opportunities, but we just haven’t seen that level of planning,” said Doug.
Other considerations could also come in the way of reducing child care costs for young mothers trying to break into the work force, he added.
“Look at a provincial comparison to Quebec, it’s not just about labour it’s about child care,” he said. “They have the highest percentage of women in skills trade, and that’s directly linked to child care.”
The recent ministry statement on the July 2013 Labour Force Survey noted employment among youths (ages 15 to 24 years) also decreased in July by 7,700 jobs compared to last month.
“And the youth employment rate increased to 12.2%. Employment for men older than 25 was up by 2,700 jobs while women in that age group lost 6,700 jobs.