Last updated: September 28, 2012 5:40 pm
New B.C. advanced education minister to focus on trades, not tuition
VANCOUVER (CUP) – B.C. has a new captain at the helm of the Ministry of Advanced Education.
John Yap, who is also the minister for multiculturalism, took over the advanced education portfolio in early September as part of a major cabinet shuffle by Premier Christy Clark. He replaced Naomi Yamamoto, who had held the position since March 2011.
In an interview with the Canadian University Press, Yap made it clear that he is intent on ensuring more trades training is available at post-secondary institutions.
“If I were to sum up the focus in the short-term, it is to ensure we have the facilities and programs to do trades training.”
This aligns with the Liberal government’s promise to prioritize job creation. Yap said there should be about a million job openings in B.C. in the next ten years, with 43 per cent of these requiring some trades training. Beefing up trades training programs and facilities now will help to train the workforce for those job openings.
“It's important we offer British Columbians the opportunity to fill those positions and encourage those that are in school and thinking about career options that they consider, if it’s right for them, a career that is well paying and rewarding, in the trades.”
His plans are already underway. This week he announced $29.2 million will go towards two new trades buildings at Camosun College. One building will focus on marine and metal trades, while the other will be for mechanical trades.
The portfolio he is taking over saw $70 million in cuts over three years in the last budget and was the only major sector to see an overall funding reduction. Yamamoto, his predecessor, also came under attack earlier this year for a confidential email from a reporter that leaked from her ministry to a Liberal donor.
Yap, however, said that he has confidence in B.C.'s higher education system.
"I am myself a product of a university here in B.C. I [got] a degree in science and then a Masters in business administration, which helped me appreciate the immense value of a post-secondary education because it prepared me for work life."
When asked about the province’s increasing dependency on tuition to fund post-secondary institutions, he said now is not the time to reduce dependency considering the economy. B.C. is the province increasing its dependency on tuition at the fastest rate in Canada.
And as for other tenants of affordability — in trades or otherwise — Yap thinks the current system is affordable enough, so long as the tuition cap of 2 per cent remains in place.
“We’re confident that with the caps on tuition fee increases and the supports that are provided by student aid programs, whether it’s bursaries or grants or student loans or scholarships — we’re making our system of colleges and universities accessible for British Columbians.”
Despite criticisms about the increasing cost of higher education in B.C., Yap defended the province's schools, that two of his children went through.
“Millions of dollars have been put into supporting our colleges and universities to prepare our students,” he said. “It’s a great college and university system and I’m looking forward to working with the many people who make it work so well.”