Friday, January 27, 2012

Province's workforce continues to shrink


MLA says retirements will see B.C. lose one million workers; only 650,000 on hand to fill the need

 
 
 
As the baby boomers retire and leave the workforce, British Columbia will need hundreds of thousands of skilled immigrants to replace them.
That need is one of the reasons why the provincial government has established an immigration task force that is travelling throughout the province to determine the needs of individual communities, said RichmondSteveston MLA John Yap, who leads the task force.
"There's no doubt B.C. needs more economic immigrants," Yap said, following a presentation at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Thursday.
"Our workforce is shrinking right now because people are retiring. We are losing one million people from the workforce in the near future due to retirement and we only have 650,000 people to fill the need," Yap said.
He leads a 10-member task force that recently started to criss-cross the province, seeking input from employers and others who are worried about the dwindling work force.
He started his consultation with local business and political leaders as well as other interested stakeholders in Fort St. John. "The immigration task force is part of the B.C. Jobs Plan. A strategy aimed at preparing for the expected economic boom," Yap said.
He has until March to consult with communities across the province and then submit his
report to Premier Christy Clark. "Based on the findings we have found so far, we realize that this is a growing problem," Yap said.
"What appears to be happening is businesses that hire new immigrants are seeing a high turnover rate because the immigrants take entry-level jobs when they first arrive and then look around for better work."
B.C. appears to be leading the other provinces in attracting immigrants but it still needs to do more, he said.
Yap praised the provincial nominee program because it accelerates the permanent resident application process for skilled workers, experienced business persons and their family members who want to settle in B.C. permanently. It allows nominees to apply for permanent resident status through Citizenship and Immigration Canada under the fast-tracked program.
Hilde Schlosar, executive director of the Central Island Multicultural Society, was at the meeting, which was closed to the public. Schlosar applauded B.C.'s plan to assist new immigrants and develop the workforce.
"This kind of thinking has worked well in other provinces, like Alberta. They have been able to maintain their workforce through immigration and there's no reason that I can think of why B.C. should be any different."
WCordery@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4237