Clark: Province takes ‘two big steps’ toward LNG leadership

Government, industry, First Nations and labour share the same goal of creating more opportunity for British Columbians.

The central part of our plan to grow the economy and create more opportunity for this generation is bringing home the transformative opportunity presented by LNG.It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity, with the ability to create 100,000 new jobs, and enough revenue to eliminate our provincial debt—but the key word here is “opportunity.” Make no mistake, B.C. has competitors, and while we’ve made enormous progress, there’s a lot of work to do.

This week, we took two big steps forward. On Tuesday, Jobs Minister Shirley Bond announced B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint: Re-engineering Education and Training. It’s a comprehensive strategy to re-engineer B.C.’s education and apprenticeship systems.  And we can only bring this opportunity home by working together—government, industry, First Nations and labour.

As with most big announcements, this didn’t happen overnight. The foundation was laid over a year ago, when I met with union and non-union labour leaders, including Jim Sinclair and Tom Sigurdson. We don’t always agree on the finer points of policy, but we share the same goal of creating more opportunity—more good-paying, family-supporting jobs—in British Columbia. And crucially, making sure British Columbians have the necessary skills to fill those jobs.

This issue has never been more important. When you factor in retirements, a growing economy, and the enormous opportunity of LNG, there will be one million job openings in B.C. by 2022. More than 78 per cent of those jobs will require some form of post-secondary education, and 43 per cent will need skilled trades and technical workers.  In other words, we need to train another 430,000 skilled trades and technical workers—that’s equivalent to the total population of the Okanagan Valley and Kamloops.

So I asked labour leaders for their input and suggestions on how we should proceed. In April, they came back with 15 recommendations. We accepted all 15, which were reflected in the plan.

British Columbia currently invests more than $7.5 billion every year in education and training.  We’re targeting more of these resources to reflect the job market graduates will actually face. Beginning this fiscal year, over $160 million will be allocated to re-engineering education and training.  In four years, this will reach nearly $400 million per year—that’s about $3 billion over the course of 10 years.

Of those one million jobs, we estimate about 100,000 will directly result from developing the world’s cleanest non-renewable resource—LNG. And to reach final investment decisions, we have to keep moving forward. That’s why this week, I’m leading a delegation of LNG and industry officials on my fifth international trade mission, this time to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

We’ll meet with key companies moving forward with LNG proposals, reinforce B.C.’s competitive advantages to new investors—including a plan to better prepare a skilled workforce—and our commitment to deliver clean, reliable energy solutions to the growing economies of Asia.

As the economy continues to grow and evolve, we have to plan ahead, and adapt along with it. This week, we took two big strides in the right direction.