With a provincial election just months away, new findings on British Columbia’s looming skills shortage has the potential to become a key election issue.
A B.C. Labour Market Profile reveals that by 2016, B.C. will reach a “tipping point” where the number of jobs requiring university, college, or trades credentials will exceed the supply of graduates in the province.
The report was released by B.C.’s six research universities, based on the provincial government’s BC Labour Market Outlook.
It notes that by 2020, approximately 18,800 jobs could go unfilled because too few British Columbians have the necessary training, with 8,400 requiring a university degree, 8,100 a college credential, and 2,300 trades training.
“This is a wake-up call for all of us. The government data shows that we have to act today,” said University of British Columbia president Stephen Toope.
“To secure our economy, we need to continue to build on our excellent post-secondary system and deepen our commitment to education, innovation, and research.”
The issue is particularly urgent for the Lower Mainland, which is home to two thirds of the one million job openings projected for B.C. from 2010 to 2020.
“It’s a myth that tomorrow’s jobs don’t require university education,” said Andrew Petter, president of Simon Fraser University.
“To stay competitive, maintain our quality of life and lead in research and innovation, we need more graduates at all post-secondary education levels.”
In October, the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia made a presentation to the provincial legislature’s standing committee on finance urging a strong commitment to post-secondary education and research.
The presentation, “Opportunity Agenda for BC,” noted that investing in post-secondary education should be both a social and economic priority for B.C., and outlined three urgent needs in the education system:
1. A space for every qualified student with 11,000 new funded spaces over four years in graduate and undergraduate university, college, and trades programs;
2. A guarantee for students in need with expanded financial aid including grants, loan reductions, and graduate scholarships;
3. A commitment to innovation and jobs by establishing Innovate BC, bringing together government, business, and post-secondary institutions to build the province’s research and innovation potential, advance new opportunities, and help drive economic growth.
The B.C. Labour Market Profile recommended the provincial government adopt the Opportunity Agenda, saying that acting on it “will ensure British Columbia can look to the future with confidence as a leader in developing its citizens, in job creation, and in building a sustainable economy with better, more secure outcomes for all British Columbians.”
The Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia includes members from UBC, SFU, University of Victoria, University of Northern BC, Thompson Rivers University, and Royal Roads.
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