Premier David Eby says a new educational facility centre at Vancouver Community College worth almost $300 million will help build a clean economy while filling labour shortages.
On Thursday (July 20), Eby announced $271.3 million of public money toward the construction of the Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation at the post-secondary institution. VCC will put $20 million of its own money toward the proposed eight-storey building to be located on its Broadway campus for a total of $291.3 million.
“It will train up to 1,400 people in a number of state-of-the-art careers including light rail transit vehicle technicians for our expanded transit system, wind turbine technicians for clean energy across the province, zero emission vehicle specialists for electric cars and several other clean energy design and tech-focused careers,” Eby said.
Plans call for the first students to take classes in the fall of 2027 with construction of the concrete building scheduled to start in the spring of 2024.
Ajay Patel, president and chief executive officer of the college, said the funding will serve as a catalyst, not only for the campus, its neighbourhood and region, but also the province.
“These jobs are going to be in high demand and support the province’s training, labour market and environmental goals,” Patel said. “It’s about building an inclusive, clean and sustainable future for generations.”
The provincial government says B.C. is expecting one million job openings over the next decade with nearly 80 per cent of those jobs requiring post-secondary education and skills training.
Post-Secondary Education Minister Selina Robinson touched on these numbers in touting the investment.
“The Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation is a big, responsive step in equipping British Columbians with the knowledge and skills they need today to succeed in the high-paying, in-demand jobs of tomorrow’s economy and labour market,” she said.
The automobile industry is one of many industries facing a labour crunch. According to Blair Qualey, president and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC, the industry will need over 20,000 new hires to fill projected job openings across all aspects of the industry, from jobs in management to sales to technical areas.
Automative technicians will especially face a different environment as vehicles powered by combustion engines make increasingly way to EVs. According to provincial figures, the number of registered light-duty EVs has risen to more than 100,000 today from 5,000 in 2016 as car companies are shifting production toward EVs.
Kellyn Violot, Service Manager at Audi Downtown Vancouver part of the Dilawri Group of Companies, touched on this aspect in welcoming the funding.
“We believe, like the (provincial government) that we need to invest in B.C. and its future workers,” she said. “The future is electric. So we all need to adapt and work towards a better more sustainable future.”