Editorial: Skills training’our mission,’ Dix declares

NDP leader Adrian Dix speaks on training for jobs in trades

B.C. Views

My column on skills training a couple of weeks ago 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.

“What it does is impose union jurisdiction on the training system of the entire construction industry,” Hochstein said. “So multi-skilling, multi-tasking, organizing the work in the most efficient way is blown out of the water, and it’s stuck in the old craft system of training.”

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.

Hochstein said the NDP talks a great game about getting more young people into trades. But when unions have the upper hand, they will always favour seniority. A quota of two apprentices per journeyman means another one can’t be hired.

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. As B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair recently noted, tradesmen themselves often don’t encourage their kids, because they’ve been told all their lives that they are “tool monkeys” in a dead-end job.

And would NDP student grants be targeted to need? Dix’s answer was a definite maybe.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

Just Posted

Stop work order at Sooke salmon hatchery devastates volunteers

CRD steps in as some volunteers give up their efforts

Double lung transplant gives West Shore man second chance

Co-owner of West Shore Barber Shop grateful for every minute of the 16 years transplant has provided

Home where Proctor murder took place removed from Langford’s Affordable Housing Program

Langford woman almost purchased home, decided against it after hearing history

City says traffic pattern on Bay Street Bridge will stay as is until October

Commuters began facing long waits on Tuesday morning after the east-bound lane was closed

Hallmark movie filming in Oak Bay

Shooting for ‘Sunshine’ continues into June across Greater Victoria

VIDEO: 76th annual Swiftsure sets sail Saturday

Longstanding competition takes off from Victoria’s Inner Harbour May 25

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve investigating after sea lion found shot in the head

Animal is believed to have been killed somewhere between Ucluelet and Tofino

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Volunteers already rescuing fry from drying creekbeds around Cowichan Lake

It’s early but already salmon fry are being left high and dry

So, they found ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’

Dave Tryon, now 72 and living in North Delta, will reunite with long-ago travelling friends in Monterrey, Calif.

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Vancouver woman sexually assaulted after man follows her home; suspect at large

Police are looking for an Asian man in his 40s after the incident on Vancouver’s east side.

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

Most Read