February 27, 2013
Training authority maintains it's adequately funded
The Industry Training Authority (ITA) in B.C. says Budget 2013 is providing adequate funding for construction trades training in the province, but union leaders claim the government has destroyed the apprenticeship system and is contributing to labour shortages.
“There have been some reductions across the various ministries, so I feel quite fortunate the government recognizes skills training as a priority,” said Kevin Evans, CEO of the ITA.
“We have a budget that will meet our needs over the next few years. The government has a real commitment to skills training and I am pleased with their support in a tight economic environment.”
Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled the budget in Victoria on Feb. 20, which he said fulfills a promise to deliver a balanced budget.
As a result, the government is holding the line on government spending and increasing taxes.
For example, the summary financial outlook in the ITA’s current service plan forecasts that funding from the provincial government will be $109 million 2013-14, compared to $108 million in 2012-13.
However, the contribution from the province will be cut to $94 million in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
The actual contribution from the provincial government in 2011-12 was about $103 million.
The ITA receives most of its revenue in the form of a core operating grant from the provincial government.
Additional funding is received from the Canada-B.C. Labour Market Agreement for programs to support trades participation by Aboriginal people, women immigrants and for training delivery.
Construction unions see the 2013 budget as a complete failure for several reasons.
“One of the things that was really absent from the budget is trades training,” said Tom Sigurdson, executive director for the B.C. and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council.
“The government has taken to the airwaves in the last three months to talk about the importance of skills training, but this budget allocates no new money for this.”
The B.C. Liberal government’s paid $15 million in taxpayers’ dollars for a television advertising campaign.
The 30-second spot features rows of black dominos collapsing all around the world, until the white domino of B.C. holds firm.
“Unstable government policies have hurt people around the world. Big government, careless spending and quick fixes have caused economies to collapse,” states the advertisement.
“But, British Columbia is standing strong by controlling government spending, low taxes and investing in skills training.”
According to Sigurdson, cuts are being made to the ITA, while the government is running ads to show how committed they are to apprenticeship training.
“They should have taken the millions of dollars they spent on advertising and put it into counsellors for trades training,” he said.
Budget 2013 cuts Labour Supply Initiatives, including youth programs, to $15 million in 2013-14 from $18 million in 2012-13.
In addition, this program will be cut by 300 per cent to $5 million in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
More importantly, construction unions argue that the B.C. Liberal’s policy for the apprenticeship system is a failure because labour is not included as an equal partner in the governance bodies of the ITA.
“The Liberals changed the apprenticeship system when they first came to power and it has been a disaster for many of the individuals who attempt to move through the program to journey worker status,” said Lee Loftus, president of the B.C. Building Trades.
“They changed the Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission (ITAC) to the Industry Training Authority (ITA) and that was more than a name change.
They closed regional offices, got rid of trades counsellors, cut funding to programs and with those changes we saw completion rates drop to the mid-thirty percentage wise.”
Sigurdson said apprentices in the unionized sector have a completion rate of 90 per cent.
Despite this, the government doesn’t allow unions to make a meaningful contribution to the operation of the apprenticeship training system.
Sigurdson said the unions would like the government to commit to changing the structure of the ITA.
The ITA Act of 2003 dissolved the ITAC and established a new approach to training.
Currently, there are no labour representatives on the ITA board.
In 2002, B.C. eliminated requirements for apprenticeship ratios and compulsory certification on construction jobsites.
In the mid 1990s, under the ITAC, apprentices were registered, tracked and scheduled for technical training and exams.
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