Don't gut EI, train workers

Kamloops Daily News
December 17, 2012 01:00 AM

The advice always came with the best intentions, but it appears - at least for a generation or so - mom and dad had it all wrong.

Stay in school. Get your university degree. Don't get your hands dirty. Use your brain, not your back. Become a professional.

Apparently, lots of kids did exactly what their parents urged them to do. Now there are plenty of people with degrees driving cabs and working at Walmart.

But plumbers, electricians, mechanics and pipefitters, well, they've got it made in the shade. Their services are in high demand and the trades that once were viewed as less desirable now command big bucks, with plenty of job opportunities available from St. John to Sooke.

The so-called skills shortage is a made-in-Canada problem, due in part to an understandable parental desire for children to have a better life than they did. But even more so, it represents a colossal failure on the part of government to come up with an effective plan to head off a problem that many have seen coming for decades.

This week Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney came up with at least a temporary solution - a program that will see as many as 3,000 trades people admitted to Canada starting in January to fill jobs in the skilled trades, providing they have a job offer or a certificate of qualification, a basic understanding of the language, two years work experience in the trade and can meet certain professional standards.

Say what you want about importing foreign labour, the government's plan to bring in skilled workers to bail out desperate employers will at least provide a temporary solution, whether they're coal miners in Tumbler Ridge, plumbers in Prince George or a tandoori chef in Kamloops. But temporary is all the federal fix should be.

Foreign workers must not be viewed by big business as a source of cheap labour or way to get around rules and regulations designed to ensure the safety of employees. And if they're used, hiring decisions must be defended and justified by employers who should have to demonstrate that the decision to look outside our borders was truly necessary rather than simply expedient.

And rather than making it more difficult for Canadians to collect Employment Insurance benefits by forcing them to move away from home for a poorly paying job, the federal government should be offering low-cost education loans or access to free skills upgrades so Canadians can fill empty jobs and provide for their families.

There's no doubt Canada needs an infusion of foreign tradesmen, but there's no question that we have the homegrown talent to do the job - if adequate training is available and affordable.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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