The B.C. Construction Association is going back to Ireland this month, hoping to find 600 Irish tradespeople to fill a dire need in Canada.
It could be Canadians filling those jobs, but we're not ready to meet the long-foreseen trade shortage that we've been hearing about for years now.
In a Canadian Press story about the European excursion, B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair states: "There's lots of evidence to suggest we're not doing enough to train construction workers in skilled trades in British Columbia."
That's true. But the bigger question is, why don't we hear about lineups filled with youths anxious to walk through such a broad door of opportunity?
Vancouver Island University's trades offerings are to be commended and are definitely part of the solution. But somehow we continue to miss the boat when it comes to clearly spelling out the opportunities that young people will and can have.
Why aren't more and more high school students turning their sights toward trades, as opposed to chasing academic trails that may or may not result in meaningful, gainful and lucrative careers? Why do we continue to have droves of high school graduates scratching their heads, having no idea what to do with their futures? Why is that message not being shouted from the front of the classroom that there are abundant jobs available for those who dedicate themselves to learn a trade? The story notes that in the B.C. construction industry alone, 30,500 jobs were expected to go unfilled by 2012. More than 50 trades need new troops, in disciplines ranging from bricklayers to welders, and framing carpenters to plumbers.
Those occupations typically pay north of $100,000 per year for fully ticketed tradespeople.
Canada has enjoyed a buoyant middle class because of the abundance of resource industry jobs over the years, most notably in forestry, fishing and mining.
On the horizon, opportunities await in the oil and gas sector, and we haven't even really started on the liquid natural gas projects that Premier Christy Clark has touted as the economic future of the province.
Some bemoan the growing discrepancy between the so-called 'haves' and the 'have-nots' in this country, and suggest the solution is to take more away from the 'haves' and redistribute it to the 'have-nots.' All that would do is take away the remaining incentive for calculated risk-takers to put their own money on the line to try and make a better financial future for themselves and their families.
There is a real solution to that divide, and it's staring us right in the face. It's called the middle class, which, again, is rooted in the resource sector.
Yet we continue to watch as protesters fight every effort to draw resources out of the ground and get them to market.
There's a message here for British Columbia. Middle-class resource jobs represent the future of Canada.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are on board, and if B.C. continues to waffle and protest, don't be surprised if we become a long-term have-not province, becoming the western version of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, instead of a revamped, energetic Newfoundland.
Resource industry revenues and jobs are good for this country, and offer a fine future for the next generation. They need to hear that now, more than ever.
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