Premier pushes international-student plan
University as a backdrop on Tuesday, Sept. 20, Premier Christy Clark unveiled another portion of her job creation plan, this time focused on education and training.
More specifically, the B.C. government has set a goal to increase the number of international students in the province by 50 per cent during the next four years.
The plan also calls for the creation of an international education council to build relationships in countries such as China, India and Brazil.
However, critics were quick to point out that an international education council is already in place.
In November 2008, the B.C. government announced the formation of the B.C. Council for International Education.
The 2008 announcement also described efforts to work with Ottawa to allow more international students to remain as permanent Canadian residents.
The premier said the plan is to enhance and leverage trade offices in foreign countries to help universities sell an international education.
When asked what makes the initiative different than what is already being done by universities around the province, Clark responded that many institutions are in competition with each other, while her plan will help them all co-ordinate.
“It’s going to be a much bigger marketing effort than any institution can do alone,” she said, adding she plans to do much of the sales job herself.
“We can’t sell what we have if we’re not there trying to open up those markets.”
Though she didn’t offer complete specific funding details — opting to wait until she unveils her entire jobs strategy today (Sept. 22) in Vancouver — Clark did hint at some new money in the plan.
The government said international students generate 22,000 jobs and bring in an estimated $1.25 billion to the B.C. economy.
From kindergarten to post-secondary and private language schools, B.C. is hosting 17,900 students from South Korea, 15,400 from China, 11,100 from Japan, 6,600 from Saudi Arabia and 5,500 from Brazil.
There are more than 1,500 international students attending TRU, bringing $88 million into the Kamloops and area economy.
The government also intends to create regional workforce tables for educators, industry and employers to develop regionally based skills-development programs and address local labour needs.
The province has pledged $15 million toward that part of the plan.
Clark said before any money gets doled out to a post-secondary institution, it needs to be based on the advice of the workforce table.
Another $6 million is being made available to help various industry sectors identify skills and workforce needs.
A full international education strategy is expected to be released later this year.
The plan failed to impress critics, including Kamloops-South Thompson NDP candidate Tom Friedman, who argued the plan lacks specifics.
“We don’t see any substance,” he said.
Friedman said that, as an instructor at TRU, he sees the value of international students for the community and as an economic driver.
“What is the province going to do to enhance this? That’s the question that I think the people at TRU are going to be asking,” he said.
Friedman noted the regional workforce table is an idea both the university’s faculty association and the NDP have been pushing for a decade.
As for Clark’s $15 million for skills development, Friedman criticized the amount as not being enough to address the issue.