Job shortage not yet critical in Kamloops
As universities in the province sound an alarm about an impending job shortage, the head of Venture Kamloops said the situation isn’t critical in the Tournament Capital.
Jim Anderson, who said he supports the universities in their quest for changes that will add to the work pool, said B.C. is not producing talented people fast enough to keep up with the need.
Kamloops is not in a deficit position now, he said, thanks to a good labour pool.
However, he added, there are some segments that are lacking.
For example, one skill-set area that is falling behind in potential employees is in innovation, Anderson said.
“And that’s not just equipment. It’s about managers, engineers, people in finance. People who can create new opportunities.
“We’re not talking about someone inventing something new, but in advancing existing technologies for business.”
Noting Kamloops tends to be an industry-based economy, Anderson said “attached to that is a certain way of life” that doesn’t always focus on innovation.
“There is gap there we are attempting to breach.”
Maurice Hindle, president of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, agreed all sectors that contribute to the economy “have to make sure we can support the growth that will be coming at us in the next five years.”
He concurred with Anderson that the Kamloops economy is relatively strong and expanding, noting he expects Domtar employees losing their jobs when one line is shut down will find opportunities in the community in other businesses that are expanding.
The national chamber conducted a survey in 2012 to identify the top barriers to competitiveness and the No. 1 issue was a shortage of skilled trades, Hindle said.
An update of the study is due to be released in February and Hindle said he expects that shortage will remain at the top of the list.
Earlier this week, Thompson Rivers University joined with other post-secondary facilities in calling on the provincial government to enact three steps to fill what it says is a growing skills gap:
• Fund a space for every qualified student to ensure 11,000 new student spaces in university, college and trades training in the next four years;
• Guarantee students in need have resources to help finance their education, including grants, scholarships and improvements to student loans;
• Commit to innovation and jobs by creating an Innovate BC initiative to bring government, business and post-secondary institutions together to build on the province’s research and innovation potential.
TRU president Alan Shaver said the concern goes beyond simply skilled trades, noting research indicates more people are leaving the workforce in coming years than will be replaced.
He said studies have shown demand for workers will exceed supply by 2016.
Shaver noted any steps to increase capacity will take at least two years to fully implement, bringing the province close to that tipping-point year.
“We have to start talking about this now,” Shaver said.
Asked if the cost of a post-secondary education doesn’t also impact adding university students to the workplace, Shaver disagreed.
Pointing out that he has talked to parents who pay up to $500 a month to have their children participate in bantam hockey, Shaver said TRU’s tuition of about $4,000 a year is not out of line with other costs.
Some universities in Great Britain charge the equivalent of more than $14,000 a year in tuition, he said.
“You have to be realistic about the costs of a good university education.”
He noted a national survey in 2011 showed 95 per cent of university graduates had employment “commensurate with their degrees” and their earnings were accelerated in the first three years or work.
Hindle said he would like to see more international students graduating from TRU stay in Kamloops, bringing their skillsets into the economy, rather than losing those talents to other countries.
Hindle said it’s good the issue is getting renewed attention.
“This goes into the future,” he said.
“We need everything from MBAs and good business people, to the trades, to scientists and engineers in order to be able to maintain our growth.”