The provincial government is directing $3 million to employers that are willing to give young people a start in manufacturing careers.
The B.C. government, at a press conference at Nanaimo’s VMAC Global Technology Inc. on Monday, May 15, announced the funding for the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium to deliver a youth in manufacturing initiative. Beginning this fall, as many as 500 youths aged 16-21 will have the opportunity to take on short-term, paid work placements and receive credits toward high school graduation and apprenticeship certification.
The employers participating in the program will receive up to $3,500 per placement to offset wages and costs related to onboarding and training.
Brenda Bailey, B.C.’s minister of jobs, economic development and innovation, said in the release that manufacturing is a growing sector in British Columbia, and estimated 49,000 new job openings over the next 10 years.
“Now is the time to introduce young people to the sector so they’re ready to fill those jobs,” she said. “Today’s investment in new training opportunities will ensure youths can develop the high-demand skills they’ll need to find rewarding jobs when they are ready to begin their careers.”
Tod Gilbert, VMAC president, said a shortage of skilled workers is a significant challenge limiting the industry’s potential for growth.
“VMAC applauds this program as it not only supports growing B.C. businesses like ours, but also provides an opportunity for young people around the province to learn about meaningful and sustainable employment in the manufacturing sector,” he said in the release.
Sadie Craine, 16, a Grade 11 student, is doing a trades-sampler program through Vancouver Island University and is doing her work experience at Berk’s Intertruck in Nanaimo with hopes to get into heavy-duty mechanics.
“I’ve always worked with my hands. I was never really the smartest in academics, so when I found out I could leave for the last two years of high school, I took the opportunity,” Craine said.
Derek Beeston, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools district principal for the careers and technical centre, said the trades-sampler program gives students another opportunity to try something to see if it’s a good fit for them and since students are paid while doing their work experience, it lowers economic barriers that might have prevented them from being able to afford to explore a career in the trades.
“This is just that one little piece that allows a student to get that experience, to hone in on what they want to do, so they don’t waste time training for the wrong career,” he said. “And, because the student’s also going to be paid, it helps them to be able to make the decision to try it … Often, for economic reasons, students don’t get to do stuff because they just plain can’t afford it … It’s a huge game-changer.”