BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint: Time will tell

North island College president cautiously optimistic

North Island College is seeking details about exactly which programs will be targeted for funding as per BC’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint.

Launched last week, the 52-page document is high-level and focuses on trades training, with one of the main changes being that within four years, 25 per cent of post-secondary institutions’ operating grants must be targeted to programs leading to ‘high-demand’ jobs. (Visit www.bcjobsplan.ca/getskills/ to view the blueprint.)

Further details about which programs will be targeted haven’t yet been released to the college, according to NIC president John Bowman.

“When they say skills for jobs, which skills and which jobs are we talking about because there’s one million job openings projected over the next decade, but those million jobs include health care and business … I mean it’s across all sectors,” said Bowman.

“The provincial labour market encompasses trades, business, managerial, social services, in some areas social workers are in very high demand … early childhood educators are in big demand on Vancouver Island, particularly in some of our smaller, rural and aboriginal communities — will those programs qualify under the skills target? We don’t know.”

He said the college already focuses on aligning its programs with market demands, noting a large part of NIC’s mission is to prepare students for jobs.

“Much of what is in the blueprint we are already doing in terms of aligning our programs with labour market needs and high-demand occupations,” said Bowman. “A lot of our resources and funding goes into programs in areas like trades and health and business and fields that lead directly to employment.”

Bowman estimates 15 to 20 per cent of the college’s provincial operating grant now goes to programs leading to ‘high-demand’ jobs, but he can’t be sure where the college sits until he sees which occupations the government considers ‘high-demand’. He doesn’t expect much change for the next school year because the four-year shift to 25 per cent is staged, with 10 per cent targeted during the first year.

Until the college knows which programs it needs to re-allocate its operating grant to, it won’t know which programs it needs to take money from to do it.

Bowman said he believes the decision of which programs the funding is shifted from will be largely up to the college. But, he noted the college will need to submit a Skills Gap Plan to government, something referenced in correspondence from the ministry to the college. He doesn’t yet know what the plan would entail, but said it will be the process whereby re-allocations of funding are “determined and approved.”

Though the details need to be ironed out, Bowman said there are many positive changes listed in the blueprint.

“I want to give the government credit for increase to dual credit (programming), the ACE-IT  program, partnerships between colleges and secondary schools, those are good things, the investment in infrastructure for trades and industry training, those are positives,” he said.

 

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