BC expands skilled trades progam

A million job openings are expected by 2022 and almost half of those will require college education or apprenticeship training.

The B.C. government is expanding a grant program as part of a jobs training blueprint for students studying in-demand skilled trades at public post-secondary institutions.

Announced on Thursday, the B.C. Access Grant for Labour Market Priorities has been expanded to aid student funding for relocation and tool costs, along with further funding to reduce provincial student loans and support from StudentAidBC. Funding may receive up to $16,400 in non-repayable grants to help them cover the full cost of their education at 14 post-secondary institutions across the province, which includes the College of the Rockies.

In addition to the expanded grant program, the government is provide $6.8 million to fund 1,424 new seats at those aforementioned post-secondary institutions to reduce wait times for trades training.

“We’re delivering on B.C.’s blueprint to make sure British Columbians have the right training to take advantage of the growing economy,” said Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk.

It’s no secret that the labour market has been begging for skilled trades over the last few years, a shortage that only getting worse as the baby boomer generation begins to retire.

A million job openings are expected by 2022 and almost half of those will require college education or apprenticeship training.

Students are eligible for B.C. Access Grants if they qualify for StudentAid BC funding, attend full-time studies in foundation or pre-apprenticeship programs and enrol at an eligible post-secondary institution.

There are 13 programs eligible for the grant funding, which include studies such as power engineering, heavy duty mechanics, carpenters and heavy equipment operators.

From the perspective of the College of the Rockies, funding is available for relocation, tools, loans and unmet needs. Up to $4,000 is available for relocation, $500 for tools, a maximum of $2,000 of funding to reduce provincial loans and up to $6,500 for unmet needs to pay for education and living expenses.

The College of the Rockies isn’t a stranger to the skilled trade shortage, and enrolment in their programs, such as heavy duty mechanics and welding, are through the roof, according to Russell Workun, the dean of instruction trades.

“Heavy duty equipment technician program is one that is obviously very popular, simply because in our region, there’s a lot of big equipment that needs to be worked on,” said Workun. “The welding program is another very popular one that we’ve added extra intakes in order to get people coming in. The industrial electrician is another very popular program.

“These are all kind of reflecting the demands we see in our region for workers.”

With those kinds of programs already in place at the College, Workun added that the demand has accelerated the expansion of some skilled trades areas.

“We’ve seen a boost in our numbers in the industrial mechanics program here in the last couple years, again because there’s a need,” he said. “When we talk to the CanFors and the Tecks and the people that use industrial mechanics, they have a need for people.

“Obviously, with our heavy duty program, there’s an immediate need where these people can go out and get work.”