Move to review ITA a step in the right direction
This month the Minster responsible for the Industry Training Authority, Shirley Bond, announced her government’s intention to review the ITA. Minister Bond announced that Jessica MacDonald, a former Deputy Minister with the BC government, would be the Independent Review Lead for a thorough review of the ITA.
In making the announcement, Minster Bond noted that the review would encourage “frank and open discussion among all trades training and industry stakeholders” with a view to developing recommendations that would “strengthen the current system of trades training in the province”. With over 90% of trades training and apprenticeship programs delivered by public post-secondary institutions, the prospect of a thorough review of the ITA is welcome news from our perspective.
A number of developments over the last several months indicated that the provincial government had major concerns with the operation and effectiveness of the ITA. This summer there was a leadership change as Kevin Evans, ITA’s CEO since 2006, announced he was leaving the organization. As well, the continuing problem of skills shortages and the need for key skills to staff some of the major industrial projects planned for BC have put added pressure on the ITA.
The Authority has begun to make shifts in key policy areas, but many of those are seen as incremental and raise more serious questions about whether the Authority’s overall strategy is headed in the right direction. For example, the ITA has recently hired a number of apprenticeship advisors, a move that stands in marked contrast to the organization’s long-standing view that apprentices should navigate their own way through the training system. However, with completion rates failing to meet expected targets, deploying these advisors was a much needed change in how ITA operates.
The appointment of Ms. MacDonald suggests that the government is prepared to look at other pragmatic changes to the way ITA is both structured and operates. That’s good news from a post-secondary educator’s perspective. Our members know first-hand how complicated and daunting the current system can be to prospective students. Add to that the changing technologies in various trade areas and how those changes impact our ability to deliver high quality programs and the need for a comprehensive review of the ITA becomes all the more necessary.
FPSE, along with other affiliates of the BC Federation of Labour, will be meeting with Ms. MacDonald in the coming weeks to share our views on what areas of reform need to take priority. We look forward to the opportunity to make meaningful changes in this vital part of our system.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.