media release

SFU/UBC joint release: B.C. Skills Deficit Looming in 2016

January 29, 2013

Scott McLean, SFU PAMR, 778.782.3929,
Lucie McNeill, UBC Public Affairs, 604.822.2064,

B.C. Skills Deficit Looming in 2016
More jobs than qualified people unless post-secondary capacity expanded

A skills shortage will hit British Columbia in 2016 and continue to grow, unless immediate action is taken to improve access to all types of post-secondary education – university, college and trades.

The BC Labour Market Profile released by the Research Universities’ Council of BC and based on the provincial government’s BC Labour Market Outlook reveals that in 2016, the number of jobs requiring university, college or trades credentials will exceed the supply of BC graduates – a skills deficit that will grow through to 2020.  

In 2020, approximately 18,800 jobs could go unfilled because too few British Columbians have the necessary training – 8,400 requiring a university degree, 8,100 a college credential, and 2,300 trades training.

“This is a wake-up call for all of us.  The government data shows that we have to act today,” said University of British Columbia President Stephen Toope. “To secure our economy, we need to continue to build on our excellent post-secondary system and deepen our commitment to education, innovation and research.”

The issue is urgent for the Lower Mainland, home to two thirds of the one million jobs openings projected for BC from 2010 to 2020.

“It’s a myth that tomorrow’s jobs don’t require university education,” said Andrew Petter, president of Simon Fraser University.  “To stay competitive, maintain our quality of life and lead in research and innovation, we need more graduates at all post-secondary education levels.”

RUCBC has put forward the Opportunity Agenda for BC, which includes three specific measures to fill the growing skills gap and secure our economy:

  1. A space for every qualified BC student, with 11,000 new student spaces for university, college and trades training over the next four years;
  2. A guarantee for students in need, with more grants, scholarships and improvements to student loans; and
  3. The launch of the Innovate BC initiative, bringing government, business, and post-secondary institutions together to build on BC’s research and innovation potential, advance new opportunities, and help drive economic growth.


Full summary of the BC Labour Market Profile

RUCBC members are UBC, SFU, the University of Victoria, the University of Northern BC, Royal Roads University and Thompson Rivers University. The Council provides a single voice on behalf of the six major research universities of the province on public policy issues including funding, research, accountability, admissions and transfer. RUCBC is funded by the member universities.

If this is a BC initiative, to train BC Students, that would be great. But Universities and Colleges make most of their money from international students. What is the guarantee that the emphasis of this initiative will remain on training students from BC?

Students have to do their part too. Education is expensive - there's no doubt about that. If students are to gain from any special accommodation, they should be willing to agree to a requirement to work in their own province/country for a set number of years before being allowed to sell their skills outside Canada.

Universities need the tuition fees charged, but I often wonder about some of the courses given and their value in the real world. After completing my degree in 2011, I decided to wait a year before applying to either a post-bac degree or another full degree. I decided to take some Continuing Education classes in Writing, just to keep the momentum for this year. I have been wholly disappointed by class that seem to be just a way to keep older professors on the payroll - without having them required to actually "teach" anything.

If both students and universities want public policy on "funding, research, accountability, admissions and transfer" all those involved need to stop wasting resources and funds and put a viable, worthwhile plan in place that benefits everyone concerned and doesn't leave the taxpayer on the hook for make work programs that benefit no one.
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I could only support this if the spaces were targeted in those fields needed most. Often there is simply a mis-allocation between the jobs and the workers set to fill those jobs. If it were not a case of specialization, we would be seeing university graduates acquiring high paying jobs immediately after graduation.
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And I had thought the skills demand-availabiity deficit was a feature only of developing economies like ours (in India)!
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