Fletcher: Dix hot on subject of need for skills training in our province

NDP's Dix takes credit for Liberal moves on education in B.C.

My recent column on skills training  gave short shrift to the NDP position: Tax the banks and hand out grants for women’s studies, sociology and other worthless pursuits, while skilled jobs go begging.

That’s a pretty crude caricature, so I sat down with NDP leader Adrian Dix in his legislature office last week to get a better sense of his thinking on the subject.

Dix has been devoting a lot of time lately to skills training, in trades particularly. He meets frequently with business people now, and his recent speeches emphasize that every one of them talks about the growing shortage of skilled employees.

Dix credits Premier Christy Clark and jobs minister Pat Bell with making some good moves recently, announcing equipment upgrades for vocational programs around the province. He says it’s because the NDP have been “pounding away at them for eight months” about freezing advanced education spending in their March budget.

Dix calls that a crucial mistake and predicts the government will reverse it soon.

“So I think, if we’re going to have a mission for four years as a government, if we’re elected, this is the mission: To start to address the skills shortage,” he told me.

In his speech to the recent municipal convention, and again at an NDP provincial council meeting, Dix zeroed in on B.C.’s apprenticeship system. Since the B.C. Liberals took it from trade unions and set up a Crown corporation called the Industry Training Authority in 2004, the completion rate for apprentices has fallen to 37 per cent, he said.

Dix assured me he isn’t proposing to “blow up” the ITA, or hand control back to unions. They will have “a voice,” along with business.

Speaking to the NDP executive, Dix referred to Phil Hochstein, president of the non-union Independent Contractors and Businesses’ Association, as the symbol of trades training decline. Not surprisingly, Hochstein has a different take.

The 37 per cent figure is misleading, Hochstein said, because under the ITA there are currently 32,000 apprentices in the system, twice as many as when it was union controlled. Many drop out in the first year, and Alberta claims a better completion rate because they don’t start counting until the second year. And when Dix touts Alberta’s “mandatory” trade system, Hochstein said he means returning to a system where all work is restricted to journeymen or registered apprentices of that trade.

The marketplace has spoken on that restrictive system, he said, and unionized construction is down to about five per cent of the market, based on payroll.

Dix agreed with me that the public school system has over-emphasized university, to the detriment of not just industrial trades but lab techs, chefs and other skilled workers that are in short supply.  And would NDP student grants be targeted to need? Dix’s answer was a definite maybe.

Just Posted

Valley Road closed 24-7, for now

Kelowna road closure extended due to safety concerns to build creek retaining wall

Accused killer’s fate in the hands of Kelowna jury

The jury is expected to start deliberating this afternoon

Silver Creek RCMP search expands north

RCMP were seen collecting evidence three kilometres north of the farm where human remains were found

Above and beyond for the United Way

Local company keeps on raising money for the United Way of the Central Okanagan

Have your say on downtown parking in Kelowna

Open house scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Rally condemns violence, promotes healing

Discovery of human remains and disappearances of women have created tension in the rural community

Justice to decide court’s jurisdiction over Indigenous man

Alex Louie, also known as Senklip, is standing trial over 9 charges related to alleged gun smuggling

Province grants $784,000 for Okanagan projects

Rural Dividend grants support Okanagan community projects

B.C. NDP convention set for Victoria

Premier, federal leader Jagmeet Singh to add energy

B.C. school trustee calls LGBTQ school program ‘weapon of propaganda’

Chilliwack’s Barry Neufeld published the comments on his Facebook page

B.C. couple hope boat drone becomes first to cross Atlantic

Colin and Julie Angus of Victoria to have drone collect environmental data en route

Driver trapped for 16 hours after car flips

Member of Anarchist Mountain Volunteer Fire Department in Osoyoos made discovery while out for walk

Penticton pilots new mobile parking payment app

Eliminating the need to carry change for parking meters

Most Read