Five local businesses received visits Friday from B.C.’s job minister, who thanked them for helping build the next generation of tradespeople.
Shirley Bond spent the day touring sites in the South Okanagan with the leader of the Industry Training Authority, which is responsible for administering the province’s apprenticeship programs.
“For a long time, I think that students and families didn’t consider careers in the trades and now… we need to honour them,” Bond said during a stop at Penticton Fabricating on Dawson Avenue.
“It’s a great-paying job, you can look after your family pretty well, and they’re in big demand in British Columbia. So I think we need to work with parents and training institutions to change their thinking, to change that culture.”
Bond said the B.C. government is “re-engineering” the post-secondary education system so that funding for universities and colleges is tied to programs that are in demand.
“We need to look at what we need in terms of the workforce of the future and the workforce of today and line up our training,” she explained.
The minister also said her government is working to attract more investment to B.C. so that companies here have enough business to keep their apprentices on staff.
“Whether (investors) are in mining, liquefied natural gas, the forest sector, oil and gas… we have the companies here that can meet their needs, so our job is to get the investment coming to British Columbia,” said Bond, adding it’s also crucial to “make sure we have the skilled workforce and support the employers like we are here today.”
Brad Harder, who owns Penticton Fabricating, said he’s satisfied with the job government is doing encouraging apprentices and agreed with Bond that there needs to be better promotion of the trades as a career choice.
“I think the gap is probably more between the secondary school system and the colleges in getting the high school students to understand the trades are a good option,” he said.
Harder, whose company employs six welding apprentices on a staff of 34 and supplies metal products to a variety of industries throughout B.C., Alberta and the U.S., appreciated the minister’s visit.
“It’s really encouraging to have people pay attention to what we’re doing here,” he said.
Bond’s other stops included Karoleena Homes and Unit Electrical Engineering in Okanagan Falls, and Brutus Truck Bodies and Greyback Construction in Penticton.