For every dollar a B.C. employer invests in training an apprentice, that employer receives an average $1.47 in return.
That's great bang for the buck, but Kevin Evans says there are not enough companies taking advantage of that opportunity, one that would help address the alarming shortage of skilled labour the province is now facing.
"We need more employers to understand the business case for investing in apprenticeships," said Evans, CEO of the provincial government's Industry Training Authority and the keynote speaker Wednesday afternoon at the 10th annual B.C. Natural Resource Forum at the Civic Centre.
"There are some risks involved and there's no guarantees that after you've spent four years investing in an apprentice, the apprentice is going to stay with you. There are poachers out there waiting until they are journeypersons and then they steal them, and we have to make that socially unacceptable.
"The flipside of that is it is a wonderful way to attract talent. Chances are you will have a more loyal employee who understands that company because they've spent four years there."
Evans pointed to the B.C. solid wood industry as one sector not doing its part. In 2012, just 15.3 per cent of companies hired apprentices, while the national average across all sectors was only 19.5 per cent.
"It's not sustainable," said Evans, a former CBC broadcaster. "If we don't train our workforce properly, we're going to have reduced productivity and less tax revenue for the province. We'll have mills shutting down and communities at risk and missed opportunities for our kids. There will be a domino effect if we don't get this right."
The ITA estimates one-third of B.C.'s solid wood sector workforce will be lost in the next five years due to retirements and attrition, most in critical skilled trades and many in supervisory or management positions. In the solid wood sector, an estimated 900 skilled workers will be needed in each of the next four years.
The Mining HR Council projects that skilled labour requirements will exceed 16,700 over the next 10 years, a 12 per cent increase, with nearly half of the current workforce eligible to retire by that time. In oil and gas, which employed 30,800 B.C. workers in 2011, ongoing expansion is projected to create 11,480 job openings by 2020.
Jobs related to technology and the trades will account for an estimated 43 per cent of all jobs in B.C. leading up to 2020, while 35 per cent professional and management positions. Evans says that means some form of post-secondary training will be required to fill more than three-quarters of the province's expected job vacancies.