Minister discusses labour shortages projected in B.C. for this decade

The Northeast is projected to have the highest annual growth in the demand for workers at 1.7 per cent, followed by the Mainland/Southwest at 1.6 per cent and the North Coast and Nechako regions at 1.3 per cent. Just over one million job openings are expected in British Columbia by 2020, with close to two-thirds of these openings due to retirements, and the other one-third due to economic growth.

"Within the next five years, we expect to have more jobs than we have people to fill those jobs," said Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.

The strongest annual growth in the demand for workers is expected in healthcare at 2.4 per cent, followed by natural and applied sciences and related occupations at 1.6 per cent, and occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport at 1.6 per cent. In terms of the occupations with the highest number of job openings – new jobs and replacing retiring workers – sales and service occupations are expected to lead with 224,600 jobs, followed by business, finance and administrative occupations with 182,000 jobs, and trades, transport and equipment operators with 153,300 jobs.

In the Northeast, it is expected a boom in construction – specifically with large projects like the proposed Site C Dam – and the continued growth of the natural gas sector will result in a high demand for skilled tradespeople.

Bell said those projections assume a flat U.S. economy in the short-term, and that the controversial HST will remain implemented after this year. He added the report places a strong emphasis on post-secondary education, as about 78 per cent of job openings over the next decade will require some post-secondary education and training or a university degree.

To address the increasing need for skilled workers in British Columbia, the provincial government is investing over $470 million in jobs training and skills development programs this year.

"We've put in place a labour market development strategy called Skills for Growth that is helping to boost the level of skills in people who are already working and helping to provide new skills to those who are not," said Bell, adding that includes that includes 15 different programs offered in the Northeast.

He said, for example, the Industry Training Authority (ITA) will fund about $75 million this year towards trades training in communities across the province. He said another $2.4 million in federal-provincial funding will be provided to ITA this year for trades training programs for Aboriginal people across the province, and to undertake research to identify barriers that limit the success of Aboriginal people entering and completing skilled trades certification. A $1.6-million Workforce Exploration Skills Training program will help participants gain the skills to fill jobs in the mining sector, he added.

Bell said the BC Provincial Nominee Program will help attract skilled workers from other jurisdictions and encourage entrepreneurs from abroad to start businesses in British Columbia.

He added he has also engaged the Small Businesses Roundtable to focus on key economic sectors and regions and come up with recommendations on how to support those sectors. He said his colleague, MLA Kevin Krueger, who co-chairs the advisory group, will be doing extensive consultations with small businesses across the province in the coming months.

For the Northeast, the minister said other initiatives such as the increase in the tax rebate for homeowners in rural British Columbia, and continued incremental investment in infrastructure such as recreation and arts and culture facilities through the Northern Development Initiative Trust, will help persuade an often transient workforce to settle permanently in the region.