The JobFest promotional package that was couriered to hundreds of places around B.C. is something to behold.
It's a big, shiny, jet-black cardboard box with JobFest emblazoned across the front in a kind of vaguely rock-star font. At first glance you'd think somebody in government was sending you the collected CDs of AC-DC.
The idea is to engage young people with a rock concert-themed careers expo that has been touring B.C. for the past few months. Traditional career fairs have been around for generations and somebody made the commendable decision to freshen up the idea. So JobFest, with a budget of $3 million, hit the road, with the mission of getting younger people excited about their future, while filling them in on what the employment picture looks like in B.C.
A cool new Victoria band -- Acres of Lions -- was among the groups recruited for the cause, and the road show includes two big tents that look like amplifiers. One has online career resource tools; one is a temporary tattoo parlour -- you get a removable tattoo of a given career and listen to a short pitch about that career while it's being applied.
People who attended the Abbotsford date even got to see Health Minister Mike de Jong play the drums.
JobFest drew a reported 3,700 people during a swing through northern B.C., where it played more than 25 venues. The tour itself is being considered successful to date by the Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Ministry. But some people are wondering about the promotion budget.
One recipient, in a non-government office that has zero direct involvement with young job-seekers, opened up the JobFest package and was moved to marvel.
Item one -- three neon guitar picks.
Item two -- a neon concert wristband.
Item three -- three big, glossy posters featuring people rocking out on various job sites. The first is a female carpenter playing air guitar with a level. Second is a young guy dancing at his computer station. Third, most alarmingly, is a young electrician plugging in a socket with showers of sparks around him and his hair standing on end. He's either electrified by JobFest, or electrocuted.
The rest of the package includes a plastic water bottle, a pen and pencil, a bookmark and a DVD full of career information.
About 2,000 of the kits were assembled at $40 each. In certain post-secondary offices that have been grappling with budget cuts for a few years, there's a degree of resentment at the production values that went into the packaging, if not the package.
Behind the JobFest scene, there is a lot of concern about how B.C. will cope with the widely expected labour shortage stemming from the baby boom bulge.
B.C. Liberals have been unveiling a sector-by-sector job strategy over the past year.
One of the recent ones covers the technology sector. The main feature is a $7-million program for smaller firms in a number of key sectors. Once they prove a need for specific expertise, they can get a voucher good for enough funding to employ a graduate with the required research and development skills.
But some of the universities and colleges are feeling left out by the phrasing of the initial outline of the "commercialization voucher" system.
The pool of hirees is considered to be graduate students from B.C. research universities. But that would exclude a lot of other universities and colleges -- those without graduate programs -- from the potential pool.
The youth employment scene is politically sensitive, because it's part of the B.C. Liberals' overarching Jobs Plan, the be-all and end-all of the Liberal platform. It hits all the right notes, theoretically. Enable jobs, create markets, get goods to them and develop the work force.
But NDP leader Adrian Dix has identified post-secondary access and job training as a priority of his party. And since his plan is to minimize any NDP government's agenda in order to concentrate more on fewer priorities, it will be one of the key priorities, if not the top one.
The only hint of his plan to date is a promise to give students more direct aid, funded by a tax on banks, and that is almost a year old.
When and if the NDP eventually fill in the details, the Liberals will have the rock-themed JobFest tour to show they are on the case.