Nearly 80 per cent of job openings over the next 10 years will require some form of further post-secondary education or training
The 2022 B.C. Labour Market Outlook, issued by the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, projected that 636,000 workers will leave the workforce over the coming decade and only 474,000 young people will enter the workforce to replace them.
The same report says that B.C. will need more than 8,000 additional workers each year to fully meet the demand.
The report is loaded with well-researched information which will assist not only the 2023-24 crop of high school graduates to consider their options about post-secondary education choices but also those newly graduated but not yet settled on a career path. It is important for both groups to recognize that nearly 80 per cent of job openings over the next 10 years will require some form of further post-secondary education or training.
So in terms of career paths, where should the 18-22-year-old demographic start looking?
The B.C. Labour Market Outlook Report is probably the best source of information about the job market right now and for the next decade or so.
Educators and counsellors can also use the report to plan the courses that will be needed to inform students about career opportunities that will be available both close to home and across the province.
According to the report, the top five major industry groups in terms of job openings through the forecast period are health care and social assistance (149,700 job openings); professional, scientific and technical services (148,000); retail (115,500); construction (72,700); and educational services (64,500).
While most health care, scientific and educational services usually require qualifications from a degree granting institution it has always been difficult to convince soon-to-be high school grads, and especially some parents, about the value of a trades education and a trades career.
Maybe that’s why the provincial government, through the offices of Workforce Development Minister Andrew Mercier, has just announced a $5-million investment to support young folks entering the trades or who are already in the process of completing their apprenticeship.
The investment is intended specifically to help six B.C. organizations that specialize in attracting people into the skilled trades by supporting them during their pre-apprentice training and apprenticeships: The Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society, the B.C. Centre for Women in the Trades, the Canadian Home Builders Association of B.C., the Construction Foundation of B.C., and Skillplan, a non-profit that serves 14 international building trades and their affiliated contractors again by providing services for pre-apprentices and apprentices.
Why those specific targets for the new funding? The announcement is accompanied by some surprising statistics about who is already participating in trades apprenticeships and who is not.
While 50.6% of people between 15 and 65 in B.C. are women, only 10.1% of all apprentices in B.C. are women. More on that topic below. Again, while 13.3% of people between 15 and 65 in B.C. are Indigenous, 8.5% of all apprentices in B.C. are Indigenous, and 1.5% are Indigenous women. The Labour Market Outlook also includes information not only about choosing career paths but where in the province certain trades career paths are most likely to be available.
Available data indicates that two-thirds of B.C.’s job openings will be in the Mainland/Southwest, where employment is expected to grow annually by 1.3 per cent.
The report also forecasts stronger annual growth in Vancouver Island/Coast (+1.5 per cent) and Thompson-Okanagan (+1.4 per cent) as workers and employers alike take advantage of comparatively lower housing costs while seeking the amenities of a larger city in centres such as Kelowna, Victoria and Nanaimo.
All well and good but, as mentioned above, the $64,000 question for young women about selecting a career is “why are so few women are choosing a trades career?”
In a 2019 CBC report on that question, Mandy Rennehan — the down-to-earth CEO of Freshco, a retail maintenance and construction company — says it is not a matter of women not being competent in trades areas, it could be the traditional male orientation of the trades job culture.
Rennehan says “there are plenty of women who won’t find [trades] working conditions particularly hospitable” adding that “challenges range from difficulty simply finding well-fitting work apparel — which can be a safety issue — to a culture not really accepting of a worker leaving at 5 p.m. to make it to daycare.” Rennehan, in the same interview, makes the point that supporting women in the trades just makes good business sense, saying “considering the acute shortage of trades people in much of the country, Canada can’t afford for half the population to give a trades career a pass.”
Geoff Johnson is a former superintendent of schools.
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