Premier Christy Clark made a point about investing in education when she announced that the province would be contributing $794,000 to Northern Lights College for upgrades to skill training equipment.
“We have a big task ahead of us in ensuring that British Columbians are first in line to get those jobs. We need to enable the private sector to create those jobs first. Then we need to enable British Columbians to get the skills they need to be able to work at those jobs,” said Clark.
She made the announcement at the Fort St. John campus, where she was joined by MLA Pat Pimm to highlight the additional funding, which is part of $17 million announced in September for upgrades at public institutions across the province.
The tightly choreographed presentation started with Clark meeting with several students and instructors in one of the college’s workshops.
Clark said that the increasing exploitation of the region’s natural gas reserves is a central pillar of her government’s goals to create new jobs and grow the economy.
“In natural gas, we have the ambitious goal to enable the construction and completion of three LNG plants in the northwest by 2020, the first of them by 2015,” said Clark.
The plan is to expand exports of natural gas to the Asia-Pacific Rim.
To that end, the government and BC Hydro are working together on dam projects to produce the hydroelectricity needed to turn natural gas into LNG (liquefied natural gas) for shipment overseas.
Clark said that if these large-scale projects are followed through on there could be one million new jobs created in B.C. over the next ten years.
One of the primary goals of the government’s one-year-old Jobs Plan is to address the province’s deficit in highly skilled trade labour through promotion of and investment in the trades.
Pimm said that as part of the province’s new skills and training plan, the government wants to encourage more people to think about a career in the trades and migrating to the northeast.
“We want to encourage more and more people to consider careers in the trades … With every investment in equipment, facilities and programs we send an important message. That choosing a trade is a very smart choice offering a secure future, a rewarding, challenging, skilled and well-paying job,” said Pimm.
Dwayne Watson, a level four apprentice in the heavy-duty electrician’s program, said that the investment in the college was badly needed.
“The equipment we have to work on was outdated when it was donated to the college,” said Watson, noting that the engines that he and his classmates work on don’t actually run.
“We need to be able to work on the kind of equipment that is actually out in the workforce,” said Watson before thanking the government for its investment.
The Dawson Creek resident said that it meant a lot to him to be able to stay and get a trade education in the northeast. If he had needed to go to Prince George or even further south for his training, he probably may not have been able to afford to go to school.
The Premier praised Northern Lights College for ability to produce graduates whose training meets the evolving demands of the private sector.
“[Northern Lights College has] an ability to partner with the private sector that is unparalleled among post-secondary institutions anywhere… in the country,” said Clark.
“We really are depending on you in order to continue to grow this economy,” Clark said, complementing the college’s students and faculty.
“This region of the province makes such an outsized contribution to our entire economy and to the provincial treasury to enable us to pay for healthcare and education and things that matter to people,” said Clark
The college’s president, Laurie Rancourt, thanked Clark for the government’s investment in the college and said that the money will be used to bring the college’s equipment “up to date and relevant” with many industries in the region.
She said that skills development and training in the northeast will help the region weather its skilled worker shortage.
Clark also used this occasion to stump for her next election, saying that both she and Pimm know how important the northeast is to the rest of the province while some politicians in Victoria tend to overlook it.
“This region of the province really matters and not everybody down in the southwest of the province always remembers that.”