Minister of Jobs

Minister of Jobs

Jobs minister pays a visit to Maple Ridge

B.C. universities need to tailor programs for jobs: Pat Bell

B.C. labour minister supports Ottawa’s review of the temporary foreign worker program, even though he thinks a lot of the criticism of it is “nonsense.”

People read into the program and criticism what they will, said Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Pat Bell.

They also seem to have lost faith in the program, so it should be reviewed, he added.

Ottawa announced the review following the controversy of a Chinese mine company’s plans to bring in 200 foreign workers to labour in a northern B.C. coal mine.

Bell was at Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton’s office Tuesday following a Maple Ridge luncheon speech, talking about matching job skills with the future demands of the economy.

In the next seven years there will be a million job openings across Canada, as baby boomers retire.

In B.C., that will work out to at least 100,000 vacancies.

The problem is that universities are offering courses, such as in the humanities, based on what students are demanding rather than tailoring their course offerings to future needs in the economy.

That produces crops of fresh graduates wondering around with degrees but no jobs.

“They need to consider themselves economic engines. They need to craft their program offerings based on what jobs will be available as these students graduate.”

And while most parents want their kids to study academics, more than 400,000 jobs will be available within seven years that will require trades or technical training.

Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association executive-director Ineke Boekhorst said schooling should include entrepreneurial training so people who want to start their own businesses have the knowledge to do so.

“That could really help the start up of a lot people who have that vision but really don’t know where to go.

“It would start a lot of local businesses, I would think.”

Bell agreed, saying he’d like some entrepreneurial training added to trades training so that plumbers or electricians can learn the basics of running their own businesses.

He’d also like to include entrepreneurialism into elementary and high schools, though that will take some time.

He said the world economy is shifting from Europe and the U.S. towards Asia and the stakes and risks are high.

But he’s worried that people just assume that energy projects in B.C. will happen.

About 30 liquified natural gas projects have been announced for North America with six of those planned in B.C.

It would be sad if B.C. didn’t get three or four, he said.

“If we think we’re just owed it or if we send the wrong signals to the international investment community, if we’re sending the wrong signals that investment isn’t welcome here. Then that’s a problem as well.”

He added he wasn’t talking about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline across Northern B.C. which is drawing heavy public opposition.

He said the company isn’t paying attention to the steps the B.C. government has outlined for that project.

Bell said that mining activity around his hometown of Prince George has brought the unemployment rate to 4.2 per cent.

Dalton added later that B.C. has a great future because of resources and skilled workforce.

“At the same time, we need to look at ways that students can move into the jobs that are available.”

That will take a change in thinking at all levels, which is already starting to happen.