Newcomers to fill one-third of B.C. job openings by 2020

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun

A substantial labour shortage is likely to hinder economic growth in B.C., unless the province can attract a lot more workers in the next 10 years, provincial data show.

By 2020, there will be 61,500 more jobs in the province than people to fill them, according to B.C.’s most recent Labour Market Outlook, and that has the province relying on newcomers to B.C. to fill a third of all job openings within a decade.

The shortage will hit well before that in the skilled trades, a major driver of economic growth in the province. Demand for skilled trades workers is expected to outstrip supply by 2016, largely due to the wave of retiring baby boomers who can’t be replaced overnight, said Wayne Tebb, dean of trades and technology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“There is a tremendous need and it hasn’t even really hit yet.”

The federal government announced earlier this week it intends to respond to this trend — which is not unique to B.C. — by changing the immigration rules to recognize skilled trades under the points system for selecting immigrants. This would alter the focus of existing immigration criteria that gives preference to university-educated migrants such as engineers and doctors.

One Surrey-based builder said he supports the government’s move to bring in more skilled trades workers from abroad, although it is unlikely to help him find the workers he needs. Gary Friend, president of South Ridge Developments, said Ottawa uses criteria that doesn’t recognize some of the trades unique to residential construction, which he has the most urgent need for.

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