The province released its StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan last week. It is a good response to the future needs for BC, addressing the more than one million job openings in the next 9 years. If you have read the BC Labour Market Outlook 2022-2032 report, you'll know that "80 percent of job openings over the next ten years will require some form of post-secondary education or training." (p.3)
As a lifelong learner, I'm delighted with the plan to make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible and for increased micro-credentialing. The extension of tuition waivers for all formerly in care, the expanded training for people with disabilities, augmented Indigenous training programs, and streamlining BC newcomer credential recognition are all excellent supports. The $3,500 training grant for people to train or upskill for in-demand jobs is also appealing. I also tried out the supporting website that helps people navigate their way forward to take advantage of a new career path is a valuable resource. I enjoyed playing around with the EducationPlannerBC website inputting several jobs and micro-credential options and looking at possible post-secondary programs available in one place. Such a good resource!
Community-Based Organizations Left Out
However, it's a pretty big "however," community-based trainers and employment services were left out of the plan except for additional funding for multi-barriered clients and international credential recognition. Private trainers were left out, and when I searched a few career paths, some of the training programs had a six to nine-month waiting time, i.e., apply for the program in January for starts in September. This is exactly why post-secondary organizations are challenged, especially in this dynamic and ever-changing labour market where community-based trainers have thrived. ASPECT members can pivot to market conditions using their connections to local employers, potential clients, economic development corporations, and local colleges and institutions to create training and opportunities quickly.
Here lies the opportunity for the evolution of the Future Ready Action Plan -- expand the plan to include that entire employment landscape to include community-based training and upskilling services. Extend a micro-credential framework to all training, and fund recognition of prior learning for employment. In the meantime, we will continue to work to find ways to bring post-secondary institutions under the employment-ready umbrella.
One project that ASPECT is working on is a SPARC BC research project under the guidance of Dr. Alex Price. The research aims to bridge knowledge gaps and establish evidence-based connections between the British Columbia Social Services Sector, work-integrated learning institutions, and students to enhance capacity and sustainability, foster collaborations among stakeholders, and guide policy development and program improvements. My hope is that the results of this study will identify opportunities between community service providers and work integrated learning with funding to secure those relationships.
The Future Ready Action Plan is good, but there are so ways for it to evolve to be much better. ASPECT will continue to work with the government to help them understand the value of the community-based sector.