B.C. budget training dollars skip construction industry

Tuesday’s provincial budget included millions of dollars for a variety of training initiatives, but the construction industry says it was overlooked, despite continuing to be a massive driver of the provincial economy.

Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, said the biggest issue in the construction industry is the shortage of workers, which was not addressed by the budget.

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Between people retiring and demand for new workers, the industry in B.C. will need 60,000 more people between now and 2030, he said, noting the budget should have included major investment in trades training and for the expansion of trades and technical-related programs.

The industry, which across the province saw a 16 per cent drop in housing starts last year, a 26.6 per cent drop in commercial building-permit values and a 22 per cent drop for industrial builds, still accounts for close to 10 per cent of the provincial economy, it says.

The provincial budget included $96 million pledged over three years for skills training to build health-sector capacity and another $32 million in targeted training, including $17 million in training programs for Indigenous people, $5 million for micro-credential training, $6 million for work-experience placements and $4 million for short-term skills ­training.

Another $36 million was made available for a number of student and youth employment initiatives.

Andrew Wynne-Williams, vice-president of the B.C. division of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said the funding does little to address the manufacturing sector’s skills shortage.

“How do those programs meet the needs of our province?” he asked, adding that’s where a national and provincial manufacturing strategy would come in handy, as it could tailor such programs to a needed result.

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