Kenney takes aim at Alberta while discussing labour shortage woes

EDMONTON – Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney says we need to do a better job of training young Canadian workers, rather than relying solely on immigration to solve our labour shortage woes.

And he took direct aim at Alberta on Tuesday to prove his point.

“When I go to Edmonton and I see that [NAIT] has received 1,100 applications for their power engineering program, but are only able to accept 100, I think something’s wrong.”

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Kenney made the comment during a speech to the Canadian Club of Ottawa.

He says in the coming years, Canada will be short hundreds of thousands of people trained in the trades, and governments need to address this.

“Young people are listening to the message that we’re sending about pursuing these kinds of vocations, and yet the spots are not there to train them. This needs to change, and I’m taking this up with my provincial counterparts.”

The province points out that Alberta already trains nearly 20 per cent of Canada’s apprentices, and is working to train even more. A new scholarship has also been set up, and $32 million was set aside last year to create 2,000 new spaces in post secondary institutions.

The funding is being welcomed by NAIT’s president, Glen Feltham, who points to two important factors affecting the school’s admission numbers.

“It is absolutely the funding of spaces, but it’s also the physical capacity,” he said. “And so, for a large number of our programs, a lot of this being on the engineering side, we just need more lab space, we just need more space to grow into.”

Construction is currently underway on a $294 million centre on the NAIT campus to accommodate another 5,000 students. Feltham thinks that will help, but to truly meet demand, he believes the school will need to be 50 per cent larger than it is now by 2021.

Kenney says that starts with leadership at the provincial level, and he’s going to make sure that message is heard.

“They hold the levers in most of these policy areas, we respect that. We fund a lot of it, we just want to see results.”

Last year, more than 22,000 new apprentices registered in Alberta, which is a 50 per cent increase over 2010.

According to NAIT, 81 per cent of its power engineer grads are employed one year after graduation.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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