B.C. Jobs Minister Shirley Bond says the province needs more apprentices.
So she is touring the province, recognizing companies that take on apprentices in the hope that their actions will encourage other companies to follow suit.
“We are recognizing people who have made a commitment to apprenticeship training. It’s not always easy, it’s not always convenient, but it’s absolutely critical to the workforce of the future,” said Bond during a stop in West Kelowna Wednesday to present a certificate of appreciation to Wildcat Helicopters.
The company, which has been in operation since 1998, has always taken on apprentices,” said vice-president Ian Wilson.
Normally about 10 percent of its 50-person staff are apprentices, he added.
Bond said currently only about one in five employers in B.C. say they are willing to take on apprentices and that number needs to increase if B.C. is going to have the trained labour force it will need to meet the demand for skilled labour it is anticipating over the next eight to 10 years.
Wilson said with older employees retiring, it is important to extend the knowledge base to younger workers and by taking on apprentices, the company can train them not only in the fundamentsa but also in they way they want. And, he added, in some cases, the apprentices who train at Wildcat stay on with the company after their training is complete.
In other cases they move on to other companies and sometimes return to Wildcat later in their careers.
Bond’s visit to the West Kelowna helicopter company followed a roundtable discussion with business leaders in Kelowna earlier in the day.
She said it was good to hear directly from them about their needs and also to hear what is being done by the likes of Okanagan College and UBCO, where the workers of tomorrow are being educated and trained.
Bond said both the college and the university are looking at ways to tailor their offerings to meet the needs of students looking to go into areas such as the trades.
In recent years, Okanagan College has received millions of dollars in provincial funding to increase the number of spaces for trades students and to build bigger and better training facilities.
Bond said that is a recognition not only of the demand that is there for skilled workers but also of the job the college is doing training its students..
She said it is estimated there will be the need for as many as 100,000 skilled workers to fill job openings in the Okanagan region by 2022.