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B.C. government expanding skills training programs through new complex in Burnaby

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is spending more than $136 million to build a new trades and technology training complex in Burnaby.
B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during an announcement at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday July 16, 2018. The government says it will build a new state of the art trades and technology complex at B.C. Institute of Technology's Burnaby campus.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is spending more than $136 million to build a new trades and technology training complex in Burnaby. 

Premier John Horgan said the complex at the British Columbia Institute of Technology's campus will help more than 12,000 full- and part-time students a year in 20 trades and technology programs. 

"Every sector of our economy is crying out for more people," he told a news conference Thursday.

"More people are coming here than have come in decades. And that is not likely to stop." 

Canada's latest census showed British Columbia had the second-highest population growth among the provinces. B.C.'s population rose by 7.6 per cent between 2016 and 2021.

The government's latest labour market outlook showed eight out of every 10 new openings in the next decade will require post-secondary education or skills training. 

The outlook also forecasted more than one million job openings over the next decade. It said about 63 per cent of those openings will replace people who retire. 

Horgan said more people are working today than when the pandemic began.

“And our economic vision has always been to put people right at the centre of everything that we do. We cannot have economic growth that leaves people behind."

The government released a 40-page report outlining steps that will be taken to fill jobs over the next decade by targeting areas such as forestry, skills and trade, and technology.

The premier said the pandemic and other recent events have exposed vulnerabilities in society and things cannot go back to the way they were.

"The last two years of the pandemic and the extreme weather events of the past couple of years have changed our lives, changed our economy and changed our future," Horgan said.

"What we've heard coming through the pandemic is that businesses need workers. Without a strong, skilled workforce, our economy will sputter and stumble. We want to avoid that."

For the plan to succeed, he said it needs structures that support talent such as affordable housing and child care, better infrastructure such as roads, transit, hospitals and education institutions.

The plan has six "missions" to help growth that include meeting the province's climate commitments, building resilient communities and meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

The report also said the government is working to connect all B.C. communities to high-speed internet to help business expansion. 

Bridgitte Anderson, president of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, responded to the government's plan, saying it is short on details about what actions will be taken to spur growth.

"The pandemic has been challenging, especially for small- and medium-sized firms struggling with lower sales, increased debt and higher costs," she said in a statement.

"We believe a long-term economic strategy also needs to focus on tax reform, regulatory policies, and the overall cost of doing business — issues the business community has long championed." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press