Instructors demand change in ITA governance
(newsletter from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC)
Since its inception in 2003, the Industry Training Authority (ITA) has been a source of great concern for many. Advanced by BC’s employer lobbyists as a so-called “new model” for trades training and apprenticeships in BC, the ITA began by reversing many of the practices put in place by its predecessor, the Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission (ITAC). For example, rather than have oversight of the ITA guided by a stakeholder Board that included equal representation from labour and management, the ITA Board was dominated by employer representatives; only one ITA Board member was appointed from the ranks of the labour movement. The new authority also fired the 125 counselors who helped register and guide apprentices towards completion, opting instead for an online, self-registering system.
The results of the so-called new model greatly underperformed what employer lobby groups had hyped as easily achievable goals for the ITA. In its first four years of operation, the annual number of apprentices completing their certificate qualification (CoQ) failed to reach the totals recorded under the ITAC system, this despite the fact that ITA operated with a higher annual budget than was the case under the ITAC.
The less-than adequate results promoted a review by the Auditor General’s Office in 2006. The review pointed to the poor completion rates along with a number of administrative problems as reason for change at the ITA. Some of those changes were made, but many of the underlying problems remained.
Through all of this, the ITA’s relationship to BC’s post-secondary institutions was difficult. Despite the fact that these institutions deliver over 90% of the trades training programs in the province, the ITA rarely consulted with those institutions on either program support or design. In fact, the ITA’s interaction with the public institutions was more often in the form of directives. Institutions were informed about changes to the number of weeks that the ITA would fund for various programs, a number that was always under downward pressure.
For faculty who teach in these programs, the frustration was obvious. For example, how can an instructor take 50 weeks of material and condense it down to 45 or 40 as was often the case under ITA directives?
The issue came to a head recently at Vancouver Community College (VCC) where the ITA had informed the college that the Heavy Mechanical Trades program was going to receive only 30 weeks of funding, down from the 36 that had been in place previously.
The change raised a fundamental question about the standards that need to be in place when programs are delivered, standards that are subject to review by the institution’s Education Council. We reviewed both the case law and the relevant pieces of legislation to make sure that our concerns about this issue of governance and standard setting had merit. They did. And that’s why we have asked the CEO of ITA, Kevin Evans, to pause and consider what the legislation and the courts have to say about this issue. (Read my letter to Kevin Evans here.) His response is expected soon. I hope for all our sakes—both his organization’s and our members’—he decides to reconsider his actions and, instead, work with our members to find sensible solutions to the problems this government has created.
Cindy Oliver, President
Don't Trade Away the Trades
Trades & Apprenticeships in BC
It is generally acknowledged that British Columbia faces a significant shortage in skilled tradespeople, making a robust trades and apprenticeship system a major priority.
Unfortunately, a focus on providing modular training to meet short-term needs identified by industry, the record-high cost of post-secondary education, and recent funding cuts undermine efforts to solve the skills shortage.
After significant funding increases in the three years before the current economic downturn, apprenticeship completions have increased. However, funding was cut this year at most institutions, and is projected to decline further over the next two years, limiting program availability at post-secondary institutions and jeopardising the current upward trend in completions. In some cases, programs have been cut all-together by institutions in order to adjust budgets as a result of the funding cuts.
Much of the increase in apprenticeship completions is as a result of a focus on short-term modular training to meet current needs identified by industry. This focus originates from the employer-dominated structure of the Industry Training Authority.
Without a balanced structure that welcomes the participation of all stakeholders—learners, public post-secondary institutions, educators, employers, and workers—the ability of the ITA to provide a comprehensive trades training and apprenticeship system that meets British Columbia’s long-term social and economic needs is limited.
Download the trades factsheet.
Are you a student in the trades?
Contact your students' union to get involved in the campaign.