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Goodbye Fassbender, Hello LNG Advocate?

07/30/2015 07:33 EDT | Updated 07/30/2016 05:59 EDT
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After what I can only imagine was a vigorous game of musical chairs B.C. Premier Christy Clark shuffled the cabinet. With it, my dream of seeing an education minister that actually had some knowledge or first-hand experience of our school system has once again been shattered.

My initial reaction was relief and happiness about saying goodbye to Peter Fassbender who will now be responsible for TransLink (good thing he's used to being hated and criticized). But after a look into what our new B.C. minister of education, Mike Bernier, represents for the future of our education system, I feel slightly sick to my stomach.

Bernier has 20 years experience working in the LNG field. He is also currently working with Clark on her next election platform, which of course will focus once again on LNG.

As MLA for Peace River South, Bernier is often heard touting LNG as the "greatest and most regulated industry in the world" and offering it as the answer to job loss in his area and the province.

What I have been unable to find in Bernier's resume and work history is any experience whatsoever in education -- probably because he has none. Not to say Fassbender was the best option (far from it in my mind) but at least he had previously held a trustee position, so he had a little experience of the inner workings of the education system.

So you have to ask yourself, why would Bernier, a LNG expert and advocate, be chosen as the education minister?

The answer might be in the BC Skills and Jobs Blueprint. If you haven't had a chance to review the blueprint, I suggest you take the time to do so; there are huge changes coming to our children's education and ones that I feel we should all be aware of.

The BC blueprint is geared to reinvent our education system starting from kindergarten to meet the demands of the workforce, which our government claims will see one million jobs needed in the energy (or LNG) sector by 2022.

In the government's own words: "The blueprint has three objectives to maximize the school-to-jobs plan, including focusing on early, hands-on learning in schools, shifting education to match jobs in demand and entering partnerships with industry and labour to deliver training."

Here's what concerns me:

  1. This strikes me as a larger movement of slowly handing over our education system to corporations and businesses falling into the highly concerning GERM movement, which doesn't sit well with me.
  2. Our government has a pretty bad track record of predicting how many and when jobs will be needed especially on the LNG front. Which will more then likely result in thousands of students losing out on their education to be trained for jobs that don't even exist, leaving them with nothing to fall back on.
  3. The government's willingness to throw so much money to train students for one specific trade while ignoring so many other trades. Just ask any shop teacher in this province how underfunded their shop class is.
  4. The blueprint layout and media releases often leave you with more questions then answers.

More importantly, I want my son's education to follow the path he wants, not what the businesses in this province want. I want him to experience all aspects of the education system so he can try different things and make a decision that really reflects what will make him happy.

What I don't want is them looking at my energetic and exceptionally strong son in primary school and say, "He would be a good fit for a physical trade; lets gear him towards that."

Now don't get me wrong there are aspects of the blueprint that could work if they decided to gear this program more towards not only trades but all job demands and took into account students' interests.

For example, they could start in Grade 10/11 and offer students a VARIETY of trades, red seals and other training which works alongside their education. So when those students graduate, they not only have an education but can enter the field of their choice with the ticket or training needed.

Focusing all our education on one specific trade that may or may not even pan out in this province seems a little risky to me, and doing so starting at a primary level when you would have to be looking at the job market several years into the future also seems problematic.

So where does Mike Bernier fit into this plan? I'm not quite sure yet, but this cabinet shuffle shows clear signs of Clark trying to further tie our children's education and future to LNG. I can't say that I am surprised as it seems to fit quite nicely into the premier's LNG plan (or obsession as I call it).

I will be watching intently waiting for further announcements.

As Clark would say, LNG is our future -- which is funny I always thought our children were the future.

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