With only 30 minutes allocated to the BC Green Caucus for Budget Estimates in Advanced Education & Skills Training it was difficult to dig into any topic to the level of detail that I would like.
In this session I shared the time with my colleague Sonia Furstenau. For the time I had available to me I asked Minister Anne Kang about facilitating the transition for workers in resource industries. We have seen in recent news stories the desperation from workers who are concerned about their future and so it falls clearly on the shoulders of Minister Kang and her BC NDP Cabinet colleagues to support them in transition.
Hansard: Wednesday May 12, 2021 (5:35pm)
A. Olsen: I am thankful for the opportunity to ask the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training a few questions here. Then I will turn it over to the Leader of the Third Party before we cede the floor back to the B.C. Liberals.
Thank you for this opportunity. Just a couple of questions to the minister around facilitating the transition of resource workers. I think many of us, if not all of us, in the Legislature saw the really unfortunate video that surfaced last week, with respect to forestry workers and the interactions at blockades that are here on Vancouver Island.
What really struck me was the deep desire to be able to provide for families, and provide for themselves — this on behalf of the forestry workers. I think that it really highlighted the need for a concerted effort when the government talks about transition, that the government creates clear pathways in those industries where the transition is happening.
I’m just wanting to ask some questions to the minister. What do you see as your role in this ministry in demonstrating that pathway for transition? What are you doing specifically to facilitate the transition in areas of the province for workers whose livelihoods are threatened due to the changing nature of the landscape in British Columbia?
Hon. A. Kang: Thank you to the member opposite for your question. Welcome to the member from Saanich North. Thank you so much for joining us for estimates.
The topic of forestry is very, very important to government. Forestry is a major contributor to the provincial economy and an important employer in the province. Supporting people to train, retrain and upskill is key to meeting the needs of an evolving labour market.
My ministry works with other ministries, including the Ministries of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation and Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, to support sectors and their workers in meeting their training needs.
Through the workforce development agreement, we are delivering $20 million in funding programs for industry, communities and employers to respond to changing needs through skills training projects that help people to re-skill and upskill for new or evolving jobs.
Budget 2021 provides an additional $10 million for short-term skills training projects aligned with jobs in demand so people can gain skills for new and emerging jobs. In the last two years, our government has taken action to invest $69 million to support impacted workers and their families to enable resilient forest communities.
As part of the province’s response, my ministry committed $12 million over two years to support workers in impacted communities get the skills training and supports they need to transition to new employment. Through these programs, 1,228 people living in impacted communities receive services and support to upgrade or transition into new jobs. My ministry will continue to support mill-impacted communities and workers through skills training employment programs.
A. Olsen: Thank you to the minister for the response.
We have a situation where, I think, there needs to be a clearer pathway for these workers. I appreciate the minister providing the numbers in terms of what the investments are. Perhaps she can provide a little bit more detail in terms of what that looks like on the ground. How is the outreach to the resource-impacted workers?
Of course, I was only using the instance of forestry because of the incident that we saw playing out on the logging roads on Vancouver Island. But I think it could be highlighted that there are a number of resource sectors in this province that certainly are not as robust as they once were. I think of fishing, for example, and others.
One of the really important aspects about talking about transition is being able to demonstrate what that looks like. So maybe, rather than just the numbers, the minister can provide a little insight — and then I’ll cede the floor to my colleague, as our time is limited — as to what her ministry is doing to engage those sectors. What does that look like on the ground? How is it that we can maybe temper some of the frustration and concern that we see in that video for people who don’t necessarily see that transition or the government programs that the minister talks about being funded?
Hon. A. Kang: Thank you to the member opposite for your question.
The ministry works with our partner ministries — other ministries or public post-secondary institutions or other service providers — to deliver programs and services that are required. I gave an example of forestry — understanding that it’s more broad than that, but that’s just one example. So for example, we work with the Ministries of Forests and Labour, who have direct relationships with forestry communities and forestry workers, to provide them with funding that meets their needs.
As well, we follow the same model for all sectors and workers throughout the province in providing that transition support. Our partners who work on the ground know the needs of their communities and their workers, so that’s why we established this working relationship that works. We also rely on our regional post-secondary institutions, who work directly with the communities to serve to develop and deliver transition skill development programs that would be needed to support this transition.