StrongerBC puts skilled workforce at centre of economic growth plan

Man and woman on construction site discussing project

One million jobs over 10 years. That’s the cornerstone of the Government of B.C.’s StrongerBC: A Plan for Today, a Vision for Tomorrow economic plan, released February 17, 2022.

They say they’ll fulfill that mandate by “investing in skills training, building resilient communities and positioning B.C. as a world leader in a low-carbon economy,” according to their media release.

“Our government understands that people are the economy and that growing the economy cannot mean leaving people behind,” said Premier John Horgan. “Today, B.C. is a national economic leader, and our StrongerBC plan provides a framework to create a low-carbon economy that works for everyone. An economy built for all is an economy built to succeed.”

Nurturing a post-pandemic workforce

B.C. leads Canada in economic recovery with more than 100,000 new jobs added in 2021.

According to the Labour Market Outlook, more than one million job openings are expected in B.C. over the next 10 years, approximately 80% of which will require post-secondary education and training.

The Province is prioritizing skills training to fill labour market gaps and meet the demand for an estimated 85,000 new trades jobs expected over the next 10 years. They are investing $136.6 million to build a new state-of-the-art Trades and Technology Complex at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Burnaby campus.

The complex will be a hub for skills training and include four new buildings, benefiting more than 12,000 full- and part‐time students per year in more than 20 trades and technology programs.

Stronger BC plan focus

The Province has identified six key goals for the plan:

  • supporting people and families;
  • building resilient communities;
  • advancing true, lasting and meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples;
  • meeting B.C.’s climate commitments;
  • leading on environmental and social responsibility; and
  • fostering innovation throughout B.C.’s economy.

They plan to do so by not only filling labour shortages but also “accelerating the timeline to connect all B.C. communities to high-speed internet, creating opportunities for under-represented entrepreneurs, expanding domestic manufacturing capabilities, establishing an ESG Centre of Excellence to promote Environmental, Social and Governance principles for products and services, and building more resilient B.C. businesses by expanding access to global markets.”

The Province engaged more than 300 people from a variety of sectors and communities to contribute ideas and feedback, including leaders from businesses, labour groups, First Nations and Indigenous communities, municipalities and universities and colleges.

The plan’s goals will be tracked through a broad set of progressive indicators. In addition to traditional economic indicators like gross domestic product (GDP) and job numbers, the plan will also measure well-being indicators like affordable housing, post-secondary training and poverty reduction.

Local reaction: cautiously optimistic

Julie Lawlor, Executive Director of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce, says their members welcome an economic plan “that is truly a Stronger BC for everyone, and we look forward to seeing further details. Businesses in our community have had to contend with many increased costs over the last few years in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, and cannot shoulder more taxes or fees if they are to contribute to BC’s economic recovery.”

Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams notes the plan fits several pillars of their own Big Thinking for Small Business three-part plan for economic recovery.

“We know our economic potential won’t be met unless employers have the employees they need,” he tells Douglas. “The StrongerBC plan includes an investment in trades training, which is vital to ensuring we have the workers needed to build housing. This will be key to making life more affordability in Greater Victoria where the demand for homes far exceeds the available supply.”

The Chamber supports other priorities outlined, like affordable childcare and Indigenous reconciliation. “There is a huge economic opportunity available to British Columbia by building on reconciliation and ensuring Indigenous participation in business. The Chamber is working closely with First Nations in Greater Victoria through our Indigenous Business Task Force, and we’re already experiencing how working together builds resilience in our economy.”

Williams says economic growth will come from the private sector “but government can support that by investing in innovation led by business.”

Strong alignment with regional economic development goals

South Island Prosperity Partnership CEO Emilie de Rosenroll says their team consulted directly with Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, leading up to the plan’s release. “We shared with him the top priorities and issues for the South Island as well as our members’ support for regional inclusiveness, sustainability and future job creation.”

Their priorities are outlined in their three-year strategic plan, Rising to Resilience, which spells out the organization’s goals for a more resilient, innovative, sustainable and equitable economy.

“We support the plan’s announced direction to measure the economy in ways that go beyond GDP, deeper into well-being indicators such as affordable housing, post-secondary training and poverty reduction,” says de Rosenroll, “as well as establishing an Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Centre of Excellence that will deepen B.C.’s socially-progressive economy and integrate it into the rapidly expanding global ESG investment market.”

She adds despite the positive news that one million job openings are expected in B.C. over the next 10 years, there are barriers in place that may prevent this from becoming reality. This is where, she says, affordable childcare, doubling down on addressing affordable housing, building modern infrastructure (like transit and high-speed Internet), and supporting small businesses will be key.

Other areas of alignment include the Province’s goals to boost the ocean economy, invest in cleantech and create an Indigenous Economic Development Agency. “SIPP has been working to co-develop the Indigenous Prosperity Centre — a First Nations and Indigenous-led agency — since 2020 and will make significant progress toward this in the coming months,” says de Rosenroll. “We look forward to working with the province to support our Indigenous partners to achieve their economic development goals.”

The Province says the plan is a living document which welcomes input from the public. People can share their economic priorities and ideas online at

See also: Greater Victoria is at a critical tipping point if it wants to be a world class city.