B.C. undermines Skills and Training Plan with budget cuts: Union

Cuts to advanced education will affect labour shortage

If B.C. was a business it wouldn’t be in business for very long, says Darryl Walker.

Walker — president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) — is questioning the province’s business savvy after a massive funding cut to advanced education he said undermines its Skills and Training Plan.

B.C.’s 2014 budget contains $51 million in cuts to post-secondary funding over three years. The BCGEU said the cuts will force colleges and universities to consider program cuts, student fee increases and layoffs to deal with the increasing deficits.

“The government’s training plan projects that B.C. will experience a shortage of up to 33,000 skilled workers by 2020,” Walker said. “And yet they’re cutting college and university funding at the very same time we need to increase investment in advanced education.”

It makes no sense, he said. “This is like a factory that lays off workers while experiencing record demand for its products. In the real world, it wouldn’t be in business for long.”

Northern Lights College has already issues layoff notices, the union said, in an effort to balance its budget. Selkirk College is looking at a $900,000 shortfall while Camosun College is facing a $2.5 million deficit.

“We should embrace education as a long-term investment in economic growth, not simply as a budget item to be cut to meet short-term targets,” said Richard Schaeffer, chair of the BCGEU component representing post-secondary workers. “Education is an investment that pays dividends to our economy.”

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