Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


November 16, 2015

Private Members’ Statements: Apprenticeships in B.C.

S. Simpson: I am pleased to respond to this motion regarding the role of apprenticeships today.

We know that apprenticeships are critical to our future. Skills training, apprenticeship paths are critical. But we know that we are in a situation today where the government has been scrambling to put in place a program because of the conduct of this government starting in 2002.

In 2002, the government eliminated what was then the ITAC program, cast it away and began to frame their own version of what this would look like. And this was a version that undermined the trades training program in this province in an unprecedented way.

It’s a program that ended mandatory trades so that we didn’t have those demands. It’s a program that compromised the Red Seal program by creating a structure where, instead of necessarily creating carpenters, you created framers.

It’s a program that removed unions, organized labour and educational institutions, essentially, from the discussion around trades. It’s a program that, essentially, ended the counselling system at that point — eliminated those counsellors that the member previously talked about that have been restored now. They were eliminated under the program put in place by the B.C. Liberal government in 2002.

As a result of that, we essentially had the worst skills training programs and apprenticeship programs in this country. A 30 percent completion rate on our programs — that was the completion rate. We had a situation that, instead of having companies step up and engage in apprenticeship programs, they walked away.

Why did this happen? The key to this demise, as I mentioned earlier, was the decision of government to put in place a structure and people who took a totally ideological view of skills training. They eliminated organized labour from the conversation entirely. I would note at the time that that was happening, organized labour were running their own skills training programs with a 90 percent completion rate, while the government’s completion rate was about 30.

And they removed educational institutions from the conversation. Those institutions that were obliged and required to put the foundational training in place — they removed them from that conversation. As a result, we had this situation.

Now, what we know is that this turned around a few years ago, and what turned this around, of course, was the Premier’s aspirations around LNG, when those major investors on LNG came in and said: “You don’t have the trained workforce we need, and you don’t have an apprenticeship program that will deliver it. You’ve got to fix it if you want us to consider investing here.”

At that point, labour came back to the table, the discussion of Red Seal came back to the table, and we started to frame the program that is in place today. That’s what happened there.

The challenge with this, that we know, is that this is a program that has been framed around one industry, LNG — some health care a little bit but one industry, LNG. We know that the Premier’s aspirations and, essentially, pipe dream in terms of her view of the scope of LNG isn’t going to happen. We’ll get some LNG, hopefully, but it’s not going to happen in the way that the Premier has claimed time and time again for the last couple of years.

The challenge now will be: what happens with training? What’s the government going to do to expand and look at other opportunities, other industries and start to move to create those opportunities?

The program is too narrow. It needs to be expanded. The program needs better resourcing. It’s not good enough just to move advanced education money around without additional resources. It needs more resourcing, and it needs a commitment from employers for placements, a commitment that does not exist today. It needs to be put in place. Government needs to do better to get there, and they have not done that. The challenge will be what happens next.

The program is better today, because the people who should be at the table…. Many more of them are at the table in the apprenticeship discussion, but it is not complete. We’re going to look at a new economy. We’re going to look at innovation. We need to look at skills training that matches that new economy and that new innovation.

We have not seen that demonstrated by what’s happening with the ITA today. We can hope to see that heading into the future. If we do, then we may in fact start to see a structure of a training program that makes sense. But it was the changes made in 2002 by this government that set us back a decade. We lost a decade, and maybe we have a chance to repair it now. I guess we’ll see.

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