Shirley Bond

Shirley Bond

Job training key to curbing student debt

NANAIMO – B.C. minister visits Vancouver Island University campus to promote government investment.

B.C.’s minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training says the government is helping to curb post-secondary student debt by devoting money to in-demand jobs.

Shirley Bond was in Nanaimo Friday to tour trades facilities at Vancouver Island University and discuss skills training. She said the B.C. Liberal government invests $7.5 billion a year in training and education and part of it is targeted at in-demand professions.

The aim is to see 25 per cent of provincial operating grants going to public post-secondary institutions for the high-demand jobs by 2017-18, according to the government’s jobs blueprint report. Bond said some of the money and support that is provided through student loans and bursaries will be targeted to the occupations.

“The most significant part of debt, when it comes to students in British Columbia, is usually the living, the accommodations, the tools, all of those kinds of things. So we are looking at ways to support students, but again, we’re going to align some of that funding for students to those in-demand jobs.

“We also know that students are also going to have to look at where they’re going to work in the future, so we want to be talking about whether or not there’s an opportunity to see students thinking about spending some of their time in the north, or in those areas where there’s development,” Bond said.

Liquefied natural gas was part of the B.C. Liberals’ 2013 election platform, which should bode well for trades students at the university.

“When you look at heavy-duty mechanics, welders, carpentry, we need all of those in large numbers over the next number of years and one of the things our ministry is working on is looking at the data behind major projects in our province,” said Bond.

She said the government will closely examine the workforce that projects demand and wants to see course offerings align with that.

“There isn’t a day or meeting that goes by where companies, people who are looking to invest in B.C., are not talking about a skilled workforce,” she said.