Education must be seen as a core component of BC’s economic strategy – SFU President Andrew Petter

From Charlie Smith’s article in the Georgia Straight, May 28, 2016:

“Today, over 95,000 B.C. residents are not employed because they have not obtained a level of education adequate to meet current employers’ needs.’ And while some of this educational shortfall is in trades and applied skills, the largest gap, it turns out, is in bachelor- and graduate-level education.”

Part of the reason is that 57 percent of B.C. employers require applicants to have university degrees.


Petter told the Vancouver Board of Trade there needs to be a “greater appreciation for the role of human capital in advancing our position in the world economy”.

“Instead of calling upon universities and colleges merely to respond to predetermined labour market demands, we need to empower our institutions to develop our labour markets and to drive our economic future,” the SFU president said. “While our competitors in Europe and Asia invest in education as a primary feature of their economic strategies, we look to our natural resources and appear to regard education—pardon the pun—as secondary.”

Read the full article here.

SFU president Andrew Petter says education must be seen as a core component of B.C.’s economic strategy

By Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight, May 28, 2016



Elizabeth James’ “Just Asking” column on ABE in the North Shore News

North Shore News columnist Elizabeth James calls on the BC government to reinstate free adult basic education.

Whatever the reason may be, the government’s decision to discriminate against a “person or class of persons…” on the basis of age is not only unconscionable, it contravenes the Human Rights Act.

As Prof. Markwick reminds us, Plant wrote, “Failure to complete high school … limits job and career options and is often associated with poor life outcomes such as higher criminality, poorer health and a greater dependence on social services …”

Read James’ full article.

B.C.’s blueprint for education fails adult learners
MAY 24, 2016

“I am pleased and honoured to accept this role that brings me back to Capilano University at a time of dynamic development and adaptation to meet the diverse needs of today’s students.”
— J. Paul Dangerfield

When J. Paul Dangerfield takes up his position as president and vice-chancellor of Capilano University in October, we can only hope his proven skills in communication and leadership development can reopen the doors to free basic education for students ages 19 and over who, for diverse reasons, need those courses.

Michael Markwick, professor in the university’s School of Communication and spokesperson for explained the issue this way: “In 2015, the Clark government replaced a fair system of free access to basic education for learners 19 or older with an unwieldy patchwork of limited, income-based and taxable grants that are capped at three years.”

The immediate result for Cap has been declining enrolment in the adult basic education courses. In turn, this bars vulnerable students from aspiring to a university education and broader career opportunities.

North Shore student Kat Sorritelli knows the effect only too well.

As an A-B student, Kat graduated from high school in 2005 and worked until she took maternity leave in 2013. Five months after returning to work in 2014, her job came to an end. At that point, Kat re-evaluated the future she was facing for herself and her daughter.

“It was not an easy decision but I chose to return to school to give us both a better life. It will give us more security and stability for the future,” she said.

In order for Kat to pursue that path, her decision meant she needed to upgrade her outdated high school levels in mathematics and science.

Her problem with that has become one of affordability. Now the grants are calculated according to income — and taxed as well. Kat says it was the worst feeling to have to ask her family for money. The changes to the provincial rules also mean she can only afford one course per semester which, right now, is pre-calculus 11.

“I feel this takes money away from three generations — my family, myself and, indirectly, my daughter,” Kat said.

So what happened to then B.C. Liberal attorney general Geoff Plant’s lofty Campus 2020 recommendations?

As Prof. Markwick reminds us, Plant wrote, “Failure to complete high school … limits job and career options and is often associated with poor life outcomes such as higher criminality, poorer health and a greater dependence on social services …”

Is that the future our society wants for Kat and for other vulnerable students?

Over the long term and no matter their age, ensuring a person’s basic education or upgrading their skills is an investment, not a cost to society.

In January 2015, when outgoing Cap president Kris Bulcroft announced she would be stepping down this July — a year beyond the end of her contract — she said she hoped the extra time would enable her to help guide the school through some looming challenges, not the least of which would be the third million-dollar budgetary deficit in a row.

Yet right out of the starting gate, and for some still unexplained reason, Capilano University has never received the level of funding former premier Gordon Campbell allocated to other colleges when he upgraded them to university status. Why is that, Premier Clark? No bafflegab, straight out, why is that?

Whatever the reason may be, the government’s decision to discriminate against a “person or class of persons…” on the basis of age is not only unconscionable, it contravenes the Human Rights Act.

Saying she knows two students who could not register this semester because ABE tuition fees were reinstated, Kat worries declining enrolment will lead to program cuts.

“I feel the government wants the population to be dumb. I am a hard-working, tax-paying single mother who just wants her basic education back so that I can become an even better contributing member of the community,” she said.

For the well-being of our North Shore community, and especially for the younger generation, it would be good to hear how the incoming president plans to persuade the province to “right the basic education ship” and enable Cap to steer a steady course and fulfil the mandate it was given to make that education available to all, regardless of age and financial status.

After 16 years with the multi-disciplinary Perinatal Programme of B.C. and later in various endeavours in the growing high-tech industry, Elizabeth James now connects the dots every second Wednesday on local, regional and provincial issues. She can be reached via email at
© 2016 North Shore News

“VSB cites ‘chronic’ underfunding in rejecting budget cuts…”

As reported by Bethany Lindsay in the Vancouver Sun, April 28, 2016

“Vancouver School Board chairman Mike Lombardi said his fellow Vision trustees have long said they are prepared to face the consequences of voting against the budget, and railed against what they describe as chronic government underfunding.”

“Green trustee Janet Fraser was the deciding vote….”

“The 5-4 ‘No’ vote elicited a noisy standing ovation from the large audience of parents and teachers.”

See link to full article.

Jobs Blueprint a bust, students lose out



by Dr. George A. Davison
President, Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C.

Two years after the launch of the “Skills for Jobs Blueprint,” B.C.’s post-secondary educators don’t see much to celebrate.

The Blueprint is about feeding Premier Clark’s fantasy fund. It was designed to support the 100,000 jobs we were told would manifest out of LNG. The jobs aren’t there. The LNG isn’t there. The dream was a bust, and so is the Blueprint.

The Blueprint restricts funding to only specialized, targeted post-secondary programs, which threatens to undermine economic diversity and student success. Since 2014, the B.C. government has been moving to limit post-secondary funding to what they have determined are their top priorities. While those programs deserve support, what about those who want to study in other areas?

Post-secondary education is about more than the jobs the government has chosen for students. Narrowly funding programs that only match what the government believes are up and coming jobs will lead to failure in the long-term. Not only is it completely unfair for the students, limiting choice – forcing public colleges and universities to cut back in other areas – reduces flexibility and doesn’t foster a truly diversified economy.

The list of B.C. Liberal failures in post-secondary education has now extended to an entire generation of students and would fill this page. To summarize, here is the list of the Top 10 BC Liberal failures in post-secondary education:

1. A Blueprint for education designed for industry, not students.

2. “Re-engineering” post-secondary education while ignoring their own “Campus 2020” report.

3. Declining per-student operating grants for BC’s public institutions – by 27 per cent since 2001, when adjusted for inflation.

4. Annual increases in fees for students – and an almost 400 per cent increase in tuition fees since 2001.

5. The elimination of tuition-free Adult Basic Education at public post-secondary institutions.

6. The elimination of tuition-free English as an Additional Language programs at public post-secondary institutions.

7. An Adult Upgrading Grant designed to exclude the vast majority of British Columbians.

8. A 50 per cent increase in the number of senior administrators in public post-secondary institutions, and a 200 per cent increase in executive compensation since 2002.

9. Failing to invest to improve Aboriginal representation in most areas of study (including high school graduation rates).

10. Program or section cuts at community colleges across BC, over 100 individual course sections at one college alone.

The BC 2024 Labour Market Outlook predicts that 78 per cent of the projected one million job openings will require post-secondary education – yet the money isn’t there to enable students to access the education they need to fill those jobs. The vast majority of the projected jobs will require problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate effectively. Yet the programs that teach these skills are the ones that institutions are cutting to save money.

B.C.’s colleges and universities are being squeezed, and BC’s students are paying the price.

Around the province, community colleges are cutting back on university transfer programs, while adult basic education and English language training now come with hefty price tags for all but a few who qualify for the Adult Upgrading Grant. One wonders, of the one million projected jobs, how the 78 per cent requiring post-secondary education will be filled when students who need to upgrade courses, or complete a Dogwood diploma, or take second-year English, can’t access the education they need to pursue their career.

We need trades training in B.C. But we also need a full and diverse post-secondary education system that trains people for the jobs of today, and prepares them for the challenges of tomorrow and beyond.

Note: this piece also appeared in the Vancouver Sun, p. A15, on April 29, 2016