VANCOUVER, March 5, 2014 /CNW/ - The B.C. Liberal government's massive funding cut to advanced education seriously undermines the credibility of their Skills and Training Plan, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) said today.
B.C.'s 2014 budget contains $51 million in cuts to post-secondary funding over 3 years - forcing colleges and universities across B.C. to consider layoffs, program cuts and student fee increases to deal with increasing deficits.
"The government's training plan projects that B.C. will experience a shortage of up to 33,000 skilled workers by 2020," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "And yet they're cutting college and university funding at the very time we need to increase investment in advanced education.
"It makes no sense. This is like a factory that lays off workers while experiencing record demand for its products. In the real world, it wouldn't be in business for long."
Colleges and universities across B.C. are struggling to deal with funding shortfalls. Faced with an $8 million deficit, BCIT recently passed a budget that includes staff reductions by attrition, delayed repairs and maintenance, and increased student fees.
Camosun College faces a $2.5 million deficit, while Selkirk College looks at a $900,000 shortfall and Okanagan College $500,000. Northern Lights College has issued layoff notices that they say will "necessitate significant changes in the College's operations in order to achieve a balanced budget."
In the 2013/14 fiscal year, real per-student post-secondary funding dropped to 15 per cent below 2001 levels, and is projected to decline to almost 20 per cent by 2016/17.
"We should embrace education as a long-term investment in economic growth, not simply as a budget item to be cut to meet short-term targets," says Richard Schaeffer, chair of the BCGEU component that represents post-secondary workers. "Taxpayers receive $3.80 return for every dollar invested in BC colleges and universities. Education is an investment that pays dividends to our economy."
The B.C. Liberals' Skills and Training Plan promises to "ensure British Columbians… can access training when and where they need it." The BCGEU joins a chorus of educators and concerned citizens, in asking the government to live up to this commitment.
SOURCE: B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union
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