Vancouver – A shortage of skilled workers in British Columbia and Alberta has community colleges and technical institutes in both provinces joining forces to strengthen post-secondary education, announced B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell today.
 
Representatives from 31 colleges located in more than 150 communities throughout Alberta and B.C. signed a cross-border strategic agreement today, endorsed by the regions' most influential business leaders.
 
Beginning in 2007, colleges and technical institutes in B.C. and Alberta will develop joint strategies to address skills shortages, add capacity to the training system in both provinces, improve participation of Aboriginal learners, develop a transfer protocol, and support applied research and innovation.
 
"Colleges and institutes provide the educational backbone for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow," said Campbell. "This innovative partnership has colleges working with businesses and communities to ensure programs and curricula support the regions' vibrant economy. This builds on the trade, investment and labour mobility agreement British Columbia signed earlier this year with Alberta, which created the second largest economy in Canada."
 
In B.C., 425,000 new jobs will be created from 2003 to 2013, and 70 per cent will require post-secondary education.  In Alberta, approximately 400,000 jobs will be  created in the next 10 years and government is predicting a shortfall of 86,000 workers.
 
"The number of college-age students is growing faster in B.C. and Alberta than anywhere else in Canada," said Liz Ashton, chair of the British Columbia College Presidents (BCCP) as she co-signed the strategic partnership with Alberta colleges. "We are well positioned and committed to playing an increasingly important role in ensuring tomorrow's workers are educated and inspired today."
 
"Alberta and B.C.'s 31 colleges and institutes must work closely with business and industry in communities to make sure that graduates' skills are in line with what local employers need," said Sam Shaw, chair of the Alberta Association of Colleges & Technical Institutes (AACTI). "Colleges are in the best position to meet that demand because more than 95 per cent of our graduates are employed after graduation."
 
"The demand for skilled workers in the region continues to grow," said Jerry Lampert, president and CEO of the Business Council of BC. "Now, and well into the next decade, we will need skilled people to fill the available jobs."
 
B.C. and Alberta colleges will hold a joint summit of educational and First Nations leaders in Lac La Biche, Alberta in March 2007, where access and success strategies will be developed for Aboriginal students, a largely untapped resource. Currently, less than 50 per cent of First Nations students complete high school and only half of First Nations high-school graduates continue with post-secondary studies. Improving access, retention and completion rates with Aboriginal learners is a high priority of both provinces and the colleges and institutes, in partnership with First Nations, will play a critical role in this area.