UPDATED: Cautious nod to federal Canada Jobs Grant
The Canada Jobs Grant announced in the federal budget last week will better match Canadian workers to skilled jobs, says Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam MP and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore.
Moore told The News Friday he has high hopes for the program that will see workers get up to $15,000 in skills training, with funding shared equally between the employer, the province and the federal government.
The program will start up after the current Labour Market Agreements with the provinces run out in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and while the details still need to be hashed out, could help reduce the country's 7% jobless rate, Moore said.
Unlike the current model, in which the province determines skills training needs, employers will be make the decisions based on their own specific needs.
"What we're trying to do is match the job openings that exist so Canadians can have jobs in Canada rather than bringing people [foreign workers] from outside of Canada," Moore said.
He said the new Canada Jobs Grant could help B.C. fill the needs for skills trades in the construction and resource industries. "It's business people finding people and matching them to skills they need for the jobs," he explained.
The plan could provide up to 130,000 Canadians each year with access to training at eligible institutions, including community colleges, career colleges and trade union training centers, according to the federal government.
Businesses could apply to train one or a group of employees or individuals seek training could be eligible if they have an employer to partner with them.
At first blush, the program wins a cautious nod from the chair of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce Youth Entrepreneurial Committee.
Rick Pasin, who is also the chamber's second-vice chair, said he welcomes any investment in post-secondary training, especially if it enhances current programs.
However, he's concerned about how it will mesh with existing education opportunities, given the constraints to post-education funding in the province.
"It's a good thing they made a move to put a program in place to at least raise the issue. [But] how is it going to be rolled out is going to be very important. We desperately need it to work because there will be a labour shortage by 2016," he predicted, referring to a Research Universities' Council of BC report on a shortage of skilled workings.
According to the council, 11,000 university, college and trades training spaces are needed over the next four years, as well as grants, scholarships and other improvements, to ensure there are enough qualified workers to fulfill needs in the job market.
Pasin was a member of the Surrey Board of Trade's advanced education committee that called for a tripling of college and university spaces by 2025 in the South of the Fraser region to avoid economic and social problems.
The document Can the Future Learn in Surrey and the South Fraser? says that with 940,000 people, Surrey and the South Fraser region are the fastest-growing areas of B.C. and yet there is relatively little local access for those wanting to attend college or university.
Pasin said he is also concerned about $70 million in cuts to post-secondary education that were announced in last year's provincial budget, and opposed by B.C.'s colleges and university presidents.
He acknowledged that the province is facing a budget deficit but said post-secondary education is important for skills training, and added that he hopes the federal Jobs Grant will mean more money for career education for young people.
"I see it as meeting a serious need. I'm interested in seeing the plan rolled out," Pasin said.