Premier Christy Clark was in Prince George on Tuesday to announce $17 million in funding to upgrade skills training equipment at public post-secondary institutions around B.C.
Flanked by 11 vocational students in the industrial mechanics and machinists shop in the technical education centre at College of New Caledonia, Clark predicted a bright future for young people embarking on a career in the trades, particularly in northern B.C.
But the provincial government needs to play its part, she said, by giving them the chance to take advantage of those opportunities by ensuring students are getting the best training with the latest equipment.
Some of the equipment in place at CNC was made the year before she graduated from high school in 1983, Clark said. CNC officials later noted that three pieces on the roster date back to the early 1960s.
"That's not job ready," Clark said. "They need to be working on the equipment that's going to be equivalent to the equipment they're going to be using when they get out in the workforce."
The money stems from the provincial government's jobs plan, unrolled a year ago and CNC has submitted a wish list for nearly $1 million of that $17 million total.
If granted, it would pay for 32 pieces of equipment with one-third of that going to a new millwright program at CNC's Quesnel campus and the rest towards replacing outdated equipment in the millwright and heavy duty engine programs at its Prince George site.
Some will feature computer numerical control and two of the pieces are hybrids that allow students to use just one piece of equipment to learn more than just one skill, CNC operations manager John Reed noted.
Prince George Construction Association president Rosalind Thorn said she knows what a struggle it is for colleges to keep up with the latest in technology when dollars are in short supply. Industry has helped by contributing equipment and tools, she said, and the government's commitment will help round out the available training.
By 2019, there will be one million job openings in B.C., with 400,000 new jobs and 600,000 due to retirement, and 43 per cent will be in the trades said Jobs Minister Pat Bell.
"Our first priority as government is to make sure British Columbians can fill those new jobs," Bell said. "These young people standing behind us here could be making easily in excess of $100,000 a year just a few years from now, it's just amazing what is possible right here in B.C."
NDP skills training critic Gwen O'Mahony welcomed the announcement but added it was a long time coming given the jobs plan was released last September.
"They're moving at a snail's pace, I think, if it takes them a year to finally grasp that equipment needs to be updated," she said.