Young, unemployed and losing hope in BC's boom economy

A rising youth unemployment rate in BC is not what Millennials expected when the BC Jobs Plan was unveiled. The government says be patient:  good times are still around the corner. 

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Ivanova has been studying the impact of the BC Jobs Plan on creating jobs in BC. Her report, BC Jobs Plan Reality Check, suggests that BC has fewer permanent jobs today than before the recession and that one third of the new jobs created have gone to temporary foreign workers. 

“I would describe the situation as worrisome,” says Ivanova.  “It’s clear that people in their 20’s today face more difficulties in the labour market than previous generations of young workers. Young people have always had higher unemployment rates than older workers but today it is different. It’s different because of higher levels of education; more younger people have post secondary education and that leaves them with a lot of debt.”

Ivanova says the government estimates of potential jobs in BC over the next decade appears to be guesswork and pure marketing material.

“The Jobs Plan is certainly a lot of talk,” says Ivanova.  “It’s called the Jobs Plan but there is nothing that directly leads to jobs.  A lot of focus is on the resource sector but it’s mostly in the early stages of construction of LNG facilities. After you construct these facilities, there are actually very few jobs left to operate them, so all the jobs in the jobs plan are very short lived. “

Ivanova also says her research shows that BC still hasn’t gained the number of youth employed since before the recession (2008) and that 4,000 fewer youth are employed than before 2008, and that number is increasing.  She says the Jobs Plan is failing youth in BC.

“The problem of youth unemployment is not mentioned at all in the BC Jobs Plan. There are some measures for skill training that is relevant to youth, but it is not specifically about youth. And there is no acknowledgement that youth unemployment is a problem in BC.”

Ivanova criticizes the government for failing to deal specifically with youth unemployment. “The BC Jobs Plan only talks about Aboriginal people. That is the only other group they talk about improving the outcomes for. They don’t mention anything specific about youth or immigrants,” says Ivanova.

The latest figures from Statistics Canada reveal that BC’s adult unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage points to 6.7 per cent in November. Youth employment was down by 15,400 jobs in November while 19,700 youth exited the workforce. This lowered the BC youth unemployment rate by 0.4 per cent to 13.2. The government is already predicting this number will fall as the economy picks up.

OPPORTUNITY “AROUND THE CORNER”

“We expect the youth unemployment rate to move as demand for skilled workers grows and industries like LNG and the revitalize forest industry take off,” says Shirley Bond, BC Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. “We need to remember that youth unemployment in BC was at 20.1 per cent in June 1998. We’ve improved dramatically since then.”

Bond admits the past two years have been a challenging time for governments around the world as the pace of the global economic recovery continues to plod along. And she says the youth unemployment rate “is a concern here in BC....” However, like the government pronouncements on the Jobs Plan, Bond has plenty of optimism.  

Shirley Bond, BC Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. BC Gov't photo

Shirley Bond, BC Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training (BC Gov't photo)

"Opportunity is just around the corner. Business owners constantly tell me they are worried about being able to find the skilled workers they are going to need to hire in the next few years – whether it in LNG, mining, or our revitalized forest sector,” says Bond.

 The government says 25,400 new jobs have been created since the launch of the Jobs Plan.  Despite the name, however, the government says it doesn’t actually create ‘jobs’.  That’s up to the private sector. The government’s role is to encourage investment, foster growth and hope the economy cooperates.

“We continue to see sustained economic growth in our province that will lead to job openings in every sector in our province,” says Bond.

Like Ontario which has a number of programs to stimulate jobs for youth, the BC government says it too has programs for youth. These include the Youth Mean Business and Get Youth Working programs and the Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training (ACE-IT) and Secondary School Apprenticeship (SSA).

“We are preparing our 10 Years Skills Training Planning for Youth and a key part will be working to encourage young people to pursue apprenticeships in the skilled trades,” says Bond. 

Kalinda Bastaja is still waiting for the “opportunities around the corner”. She isn’t trained to build LNG plants or oil pipelines and she cannot chop down a tree or operate a planer or circular saw in a mill. Her skills lie elsewhere. And according to statistics, unless she is willing to switch careers, she may continue to languish on the unemployment lists of BC unless she can convince someone to hire her. On that score, she is still optimistic.  

“I think I will get one of these jobs. If I personally put in the time and efforts, use the resources at my disposal, I am motivated enough to get one.”

 

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