BURNABY, B.C. - There'll be 272 new seats in trades programs at the B.C. Institute of Technology this September, and the provincial government says they'll help equip students to work in the proposed liquefied natural gas industry.
Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk said Monday the Burnaby, B.C.-based institution will receive a total of $1.35 million to pay for the new positions and some minor equipment, and there'll be similar announcements in the coming weeks across the province as the government rolls out its Skills for Jobs Blueprint.
Away from the fanfare, though, Tom Sigurdson of the B.C. and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council said the provincial government needs to ensure that students are able to find apprenticeships outside the classroom.
"A bum in a seat does not mean a thing unless there are hands on the tools," he said hours after the announcement.
He said students need apprenticeships to succeed, and municipal, provincial and federal governments must ensure those students can get hands-on experience on publicly funded building projects.
The provincial government has announced repeatedly that there'll be as many as one-million jobs openings in B.C. by 2022.
Shirley Bond, minister of job tourism and skills training, said there's the potential for as many as 100,000 jobs from five liquefied-natural-gas projects alone, as well as jobs in mining and forestry. She said there'll also be job openings due to retirements.
"I think the most important statistic of all is that no matter what happens with liquefied natural gas, mines, any of those major projects, two thirds of us will be leaving the workforce, and so we need to be actually training people regularly to ensure that we have the replacement workers we need, as we have an aging demographic," said Bond.
Virk said the funding will cover trades that are aligned with the top 12 liquefied-natural-gas jobs expected to open across the province in the coming years.
The trades are identified in a government news release as heavy-duty equipment mechanics, iron workers, electricians, crane operators, welders and steam-and-pipefitters.
Virk said the provincial government will try to train as many British Columbians for the jobs as it can before looking across Canada or even internationally for workers.
The provincial government announced $6.6 million for trades seats this past April as part of its Skills for Jobs Blueprint.