University presidents warn of impending job skills deficit

Council calling on B.C. government to better fund post-secondary education

Tyler Smith

A shift in supply and demand expected to hit B.C. in 2016 means employers are expected to have a difficult time finding well-educated people to fill positions.

This ominous jobs deficit forecast, put out by the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia this week, comes with a call to action from the presidents of six B.C. universities asking for better funding from the provincial government. They say that’s the only way a deficit will be avoided.

“It’s simple: we’re not educating enough people,” said Allan Cahoon, president of Royal Roads University.

“B.C. has historically made up for that deficit with in-migration from other provinces, but that’s in decline. We’re also going to see an increase in the number of people retiring, and there’s a shortage of talent coming out of our universities.”

In 2016, 5,900 jobs will go unfilled in B.C. due to a skills deficit, they say. By 2020, that number is expected to balloon to 18,800.

David Turpin, president of the University of Victoria, says the deficit will come in a variety of jobs spanning many sectors.

“It’s going to be all across the board. Some of the big ones are areas such as supervisors, nurse supervisors, registered nurses, teachers, auditors, managers in retail, all types of engineers,” he said.

The RUCBC is calling on the government to take three steps immediately to reverse the forecasted skills gap: secure space for 11,000 new students in universities, colleges and trades schools over the next four years; improve financial assistance programs (grants, scholarships loans); and commit to improve B.C.’s research and innovation potential.

“Moving up into election environment, it’s absolutely critical that this province be able to educate the young people so that they can succeed in the new economy,” Turpin said.

Advanced Education Minister John Yap did not return phone calls.


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