By Dirk Meissner
THE CANADIAN PRESS
VICTORIA-A British Columbia government program to help students, workers and businesses meet the challenges of a changing economy includes $3,500 skills-training grants and more affordable, accessible post-secondary education.
Businesses need more skilled workers, and students and employees want the cost-friendly training opportunities to bridge the skills gap required to succeed in the economy, Premier David Eby said Tuesday at a news conference.
“Demand for employees with skills has never been higher and this is a very focused program informed by our engagements with, in particular, businesses but certainly in partnership with First Nations and other groups that are under represented in these jobs to make sure that we’re responsive to the needs that are out there,” he said.
The $3,500 grants are for people who enrol in short-term skills upgrading programs at post-secondary institutions, starting this fall, said Eby.
The grant will help with the tuition costs for more than 400 training opportunities at post-secondary institutions for in-demand jobs in construction, technology and clean energy, he said.
The government estimates the grant program could provide 8,500 newly-trained people over the next three years, Eby said.
“So, there are all kinds of opportunities for people, for businesses to take advantage of this training,” he said.
The skills upgrade will increase an employee’s pay and provide employers with the highly-trained workers needed to help businesses compete in the marketplace, Eby said.
The program will focus on providing training options in fields of work and occupations where businesses need skilled workers, said Selina Robinson, post-secondary education and future skills minister.
“This is a plan that is grounded in the labour market outlook and in our engagement with employers of all kinds,” she said.
“It’s not a one and done. This is an ongoing, living document, a living program making sure we’re continuing to respond to the labour market needs of the province.”
A 10-year labour market outlook for B.C. has forecasted there will be more than a million job openings in the province.
The Opposition BC United said the program doesn’t appear to be community focused and doesn’t address declines in post-secondary institution attendance in B.C.
“We need to understand the workforce needs in our communities,” said Coralee Oakes, BC United post-secondary institutions critic.
She said recent government labour force reports forecast publishing as a future job opportunity in her central B.C. community of Quesnel, where mining is a growing opportunity.
Oakes also said she’s concerned that recent statistics show less than 51 per cent of recent high school graduates are attending a post-secondary institution.
The government’s plan also includes more affordable and accessible student funding supports, Eby said.
Interest-free student loan maximums for eligible students will double starting in August, increasing to up to $220 per week for those without dependants and up to $280 weekly for students with dependants.
It is the first increase in loan maximums since 2006, Eby said.
All former youth in care in B.C. will have their tuition waived for post-secondary education, removing the previous age requirements for the tuition waiver program, he said.
The program also includes some student loan relief, said Eby.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2023.