Clark: Building tomorrow’s economy, today

Hard work and innovation drive B.C.'s economy. New Okanagan Centre for Innovation in Kelowna will help it along.

Hard work and innovation: these qualities have been the foundation of B.C.’s prosperity since our earliest days.

And those same qualities will drive our future success, in the Okanagan and across the province.

Some things will not soon change. Our abundant natural resources will continue to generate the first dollar that our professional, service, and retail sectors depend on.

But technology and innovation are increasingly taking a leading role in our economy. Kelowna is at the centre of that trend, and it will stay there as the sector develops.

Recognizing these realities, the provincial government has launched an ambitious re-engineering of our education and training. Six months in, our Skills for Jobs Blueprint is meeting its goals of giving young people a seamless transition from learning to earning by matching them with in-demand jobs.

We’re well on our way to doubling ACE IT high school apprenticeship spaces to 5,000 over the next two years. That means more students will have the opportunity to earn credit for learning a trade even before they graduate.

We are offering a B.C. Access Grant of up to $16,400 per student to support training for in-demand trades. And we’re working to make it faster and easier for qualified Red Seal tradespersons to earn teaching certificates.

We have also worked with the federal government to deliver the Canada-BC Jobs Grant – a matching contribution of up to $10,000 to employers for each worker they train on the job.

Perhaps most important, we’re making sure your tax dollars are spent as effectively as possible when it comes to our education system. That means targeting operating grants to post-secondary institutions so that their program offerings match high-demand occupations. Students can choose a degree in the arts, if that’s what they’re passionate about. But we need our post-secondary institutions to have the resources to educate students for good jobs that will support families and communities for another generation.

That’s why we’ve dedicated $33 million to renew and expand trades training facilities at Okanagan College. The new capacity created there will give our students the skills to take part in an emerging LNG industry, along with countless other projects in the Okanagan and beyond.

All these initiatives are backed by an overhauled WorkBC website and suite of web tools to help youth and adults find their fit among available jobs and career development opportunities. That may sound like a small thing, but in today’s connected world, putting useful information at a person’s fingertips can put them on the path to career success and personal fulfilment.

And last  week, we broke ground on the Okanagan Centre for Innovation, representing a $6-million provincial investment in a brand-new facility in the heart of downtown Kelowna.

The new centre will provide a hub for startups, entrepreneurs and students to drive forward with ideas that improve our future and further position Kelowna as a hub for high-tech, and research and development.

These are only the first steps. The future sustainability of our public services, our wealth, and our way of life depends on our success.