“If we can meet those targets we can put 9,000 people to work and put another $500 million into our economy,” she added.
Although she didn’t specify what kind of jobs she envisions, the government has promised a full international education strategy later this year.
The announcement came on the second day of Clark’s election-style tour of the province this week where she’s been previewing elements of a jobs plan she will release in full on Thursday.
Clark said there are currently about 94,000 international students in British Columbia, and that in 2010 those students collectively spent about $1.8 billion in the province.
To attract more students in the coming years, Clark said she would establish an international education council to help build stronger relationships with other countries, and that she would ramp up British Columbia’s overseas marketing efforts.
“I intend to be the best salesperson that British Columbia has ever had,” she said.
But New Democratic Party MLA Carole James questioned the effectiveness of the strategy, saying the promises are all similar to moves made by former premier Gordon Campbell. Plus, James said, B.C. already has a council on international education: the British Columbia Council for International Education.
“I don’t disagree with bringing international students here, but the premier made a very big deal about these rolling announcements,” said James.
“This was going to create jobs and solve the economic challenges. Instead, day two we’re seeing repeat announcements, we’re seeing panels that are already in place.”
Minister of Advanced Education Naomi Yamamoto said there is a clear difference between the existing council and the one announced Tuesday by Clark.
She said the new one will “be responsible for the finalization and the implementation of our international education strategy.”
“It will be dealing with things the BCCIE doesn’t really touch on,” Yamamoto added, citing things like visa issues and making sure host communities are welcoming to international students.
“The council we are talking about today has a much broader mandate.”
On Tuesday, Clark also announced new initiatives for skills training.
“We expect we’re going to have one million job openings over the next 10 years and 70 per cent of those will require some kind of post-secondary education,” she said.
“We have to have our workforce primed and ready to go, and we have to start working at this now or it won’t be ready.”
Clark said her government will set up regional workforce tables where industry leaders, first nations, labour leaders, educators and others can help the province determine the training needs best suited to their region.
Clark added the government will provide up to $6 million each year to certain industry groups to help them identify training needs specific to their sectors.
“We’ll provide them with up to $6 million to make sure they have all the information they need to be able to tell us who they’re going to need to have educated over the next 10 years in order to meet the demands they will create as they grow our economy,” said Clark.
James was critical of the plan, saying it doesn’t do enough, especially in light of cuts already planned for training programs in the province.
A recent budget document shows the Industry Training Authority plans to cut about $4.7 million from its training budget this year, and another $4.3 million next year, a reduction the B.C. government attributes to government stimulus funding drying up. The authority’s core funding will remain.
Jim Sinclair, president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, said he’d welcome an an improved relationship with the province on training issues, but will wait to see how the government carries out Clark’s commitment to involve labour in the regional workforce tables.
“We’ve got 10 years where we really haven’t been at the table in any real form. If they’re interested in changing that, we are too. But it’s got to be more than words,” Sinclair said.
“The apprenticeship system — there is no question it’s in shambles. Despite the biggest building boom [in B.C. history] we’ve seen a drop in the number of apprentices who are successful,” he added.
“We’re interested in having a new relationship around training with the government, but they’ve got to be interested in listening and they’ve got to be committed to putting resources back into building the system with us as partners, otherwise it’s just part of the photo opportunities I’ve been seeing this week.”
Source: The Vancouver Sun