B.C.'s green economy is booming

But a shortage of skilled green workers could derail growth: Report
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 11/30/2010

The green components of British Columbia's economy are growing faster than the economy as a whole and account for a significant amount of job growth and gross domestic product (GDP), according to a new report.

However, looming skills shortages could limit economic productivity and result in missed business opportunities over the next decade, according to

British Columbia’s Green Economy: Securing the Work Force of Tomorrow

, the result of a year-long research and outreach initiative by the GLOBE Foundation of Canada.

"From a North American perspective, B.C. is a leader — but there is much work to be done in order to realize a truly sustainable green economy here in the province," said John Wiebe, president and CEO of the GLOBE Foundation.

"Increased public and private sector investment in key green sectors, a focus on building the domestic market and low-carbon export opportunities with Asia, and a commitment to further developing B.C.'s green workforce are critical for a successful transition to a greener economy."

In 2008, B.C.'s six green sectors contributed $15.3 billion, or 10.2 per cent, to the province's GDP, according to the report. These sectors were also responsible for nearly 166,000 direct and indirect full-time equivalent jobs, or 7.2 per cent of total provincial employment.

The green economy will continue to grow and contribute between $20.1 billion and $27.4 billion to B.C.'s economy in 2020, representing between 10.8 and 14.1 per cent of total provincial GDP, predicted the report.

With a low compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.9 per cent, the demand for green workers will reach 147,000 in 2020. Under a high-growth scenario of 4.7 per cent CAGR, job demand will total nearly 202,000, an increase of almost 85,000 jobs over 2008.

However, even under the low-growth scenario, there will be a shortage of about 60,000 skilled green workers as 22 per cent of the workforce is expected to retire in the next six years, which could derail this sector's growth and the province's economy, stated the report.

About one-third of the 104 green companies surveyed for the report said they are already having difficulty filling positions with qualified workers — particularly experienced engineers, technicians/technologists, business development professionals and environmental consultants.

This supply issue can be addressed through increased education and training programs for engineers, technicians, consultants and other environment-related professions. Also, more students need to be encouraged to consider green jobs and workers in traditional industries should be re-trained for green jobs, stated the report.

Skilled trades and apprenticeship training should also be expanded for rural and Aboriginal populations to bring learning resources and employment opportunities closer to their communities, said the report.

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