Okanagan skilled worker shortage could worsen in years to come

A lack of skilled workers

The province could face a worsening shortage of skilled workers over the next decade as the number of people coming into the profession lags behind those leaving.

The president of Okanagan College told Kelowna council during his yearly update that economics and demographics are working against each other when it comes to the skilled work force.

Dr. Neil Fassina says there will be growth especially within the construction and automotive trades sectors as the economy begins to fire on all cylinders.

At the same time, Fassina says demographics suggest skilled trades technicians are beginning to move into the next part of their journey - retirement.

"The challenge that create...the system in B.C. creates only about half as many skilled trades professional over the next 10 years as it needs," he says.

"The presidents of the skilled trades providers in the province are working together to try and figure out how we can amplify the volume of skilled trades professionals coming into, staying and succeeding as a skilled trades professional."

Fassina says the challenge facing the college is on the recruiting end. He says there is a false impression that skilled trades "is terminal," in that once you enter the skilled trades, you can't do anything else.

As for the college, Fassina says Okanagan College is the second largest trades provider across its many campuses in the province next only to BCIT.

In fact, when it comes to sites and students, OC is the largest college outside the Lower Mainland.

"Every year we see approximately 17,000 people walk through our doors in one of our nine campus locations up and down the valley. That number is down compared to pre-pandemic, but we are seeing that number come back up."

According to a recently released labour market outlook released by the province, it's anticipated there will be more than one million job openings in the province over the next 10 years, including about 120,000 within the Thompson-Okanagan region.

Fassina says that is key for the institution which covers more than 50 per cent of job openings through courses available within the college.

"That translates into more than 65,000 jobs over the next 10 years coming out of OC students."

More Kelowna News