Greater awareness of job availability around the province could go a long way in providing employment for those seeking work, said John Les, Chilliwack MLA and parliamentary secretary to the premier.
A shortage of skilled workers, retraining, education and infrastructure development were some of the topics members of Nanaimo’s business community discussed with Les Tuesday during his three-city tour of central Vancouver Island.
The visit was part of a three-week provincewide tour.
“Later on this month the premier will be announcing her job strategy for the province and she asked me to consult with chambers of commerce, economic development offices and any other interested groups to gather impressions about how we can best move B.C.’s economy forward and create more jobs,” said Les. “There have been some interesting insights and points of view I think are useful for us to know.”
Les said some comments he heard on the Island tour are not too different from other parts of the province.
“There’s a number of people around whose skill sets don’t match the jobs available, so there’s an ongoing need for training and retraining,” he said. “The concept of jobs without people as opposed to people without jobs seems to be coming into focus quite a bit.”
Les also heard how unaware people are in various parts of B.C. about job opportunities in other parts of the province.
“Everybody is looking for work around home, but may not be aware that there are jobs available in Kitimat or in Terrace or Fort St. John. That’s not for everybody, but if you’re a young person looking for a job, maybe horizons need to be expanded a bit,” he said. “Maybe we need more robust job fairs so that we can develop a greater awareness of where the opportunities are. We have perfectly nice communities around British Columbia and sometimes the job market does shift around.”
Vancouver Island University is also an important tool in fostering economic development with its focus on aquaculture education in the shellfish industry.
“They tell me there is pretty much unlimited potential markets all over the world and a great opportunity for more development on the Island,” said Les. “And regional universities are well positioned to take a lead role with their trades programs.”
Continued infrastructure development is another key issue the business community put forward to Les.
“We’ve spent a lot of money on highways, bridges, roads, airports, ports and railways but more needs to be done,” he said. “I heard the Island is not well served with container-handling facilities and that inhibits the development of some businesses.”