Skills shortage near: Iwama
By 2016, B.C. will have more jobs requiring post-secondary education than it will have people to fill them.
That’s the analysis of the Research Universities’ Council of B.C. (RUCBC), based on the province’s recent BC Labour Market Outlook. UNBC is one of the six members of the council, and President George Iwama says the need is there for more places to put students.
“A lot of what we’re looking at here is filling current programs,” he said Tuesday, “but we are keeping the pressure on the government for new programs, such as engineering and law.”
The report says that by 2020, there will be 18,800 jobs unfilled in the province because of a lack of education and training for B.C residents. Government data shows 8,400 of those will require a university degree, 8,100 a college credential, and 2,300 will require trades training.
“There is a need for more seats at all institutions,” Iwama said, “but we feel the government is occupied with trades training now, and we’re hearing from industry that they need people with the university level of education.
“We feel the government needs to balance the areas it is funding.”
Today, he says, southern schools are overrun with students, some of whom the government doesn’t provide the school funding for. At UNBC, it’s a slightly different story.
“I would feel comfortable in saying we could take on 400 more students at the school,” Iwama said. “Those are seats that are funded but not filled in the system.”
On average, he says, UNBC is currently filling between the high 80s and 90 per cent of funded seats.
“To me, though, it’s more important that we maintain the quality of education we provide,” he added. “We’re very strong in distance education, and that is something we want to build on to provide training to students across the north.”
With a large number of students from the north taking courses at UNBC, Iwama says, “the vision of the founders of the school is coming true.”
“We are concentrating on students from the north, because they are more likely to stay in the north when they are finished their schooling.”
Currently, UNBC is doing a lot of marketing in southern B.C. and centres such as Calgary and Toronto. Iwama says that could change.
“We are looking at putting more information out to students in the northern parts of other provinces. In Ontario particularly, we are becoming recognized for the good reputation we have worked to attain.”