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BC Lions help tackle the skills shortage

Russell Hixson
BC Lions help tackle the skills shortage
B.C. Minister of Jobs Shirley Bond answers questions about the renewal of the Lions in the House program at the B.C. Lions training facility in Surrey. -

The Lions are going back to school.

When they aren’t throwing passes or making tackles, the B.C. Lions will tour schools in the province next year as part of trades recruiting blitz.

B.C. Minister of Jobs Shirley Bond was at the B.C. Lions training facility in Surrey to announce the extension for the Lions in the House initiative.

The program has BC Lions players interacting with kids in local schools about choosing a career.

It is the second year the Industry Training Authority has partnered with the Lions for the program.

"It’s all about choice," said Bond with Lions players and Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) students standing at her sides.

She stressed that by 2022 there will be one million job openings in the province due to retirements and growth.

Two-thirds are expected to retire and another third is expected from new growth in sectors like LNG, a revitalized forestry industry, mining, tourism and hospitality.

Bond said the Lions in the House program is just one of the province’s non-traditional approaches to encourage trades development.

Starting in January 2015, Lions in the House will make 25 school visits and will travel around the province speaking to thousands of students in grades six through nine.

Players deliver speeches about choices they have made in terms of education, life decisions and safety.

There are also athletic competitions, where kids get to play with the sports stars.

Dennis Skulsky, president and CEO of B.C. Lions, said the program is an excellent opportunity for the team.

"Our goal is to try and make the community a better place," he said.

"But, you can’t do that by yourself, and we have had the good fortune to have a provincial government that believes in this organization and what it stands for both on and off the field."

The program aims to reach people like KPU student Danica Lum, who gave a speech during the announcement.

Her interest in the trades was sparked in the eighth grade, when she took a woodworking class.

Soon, she expanded her skills to metal design and now she is in the university’s millwright program, where she is learning how to fix, maintain and build parts for machines.

"It’s something that I love, I get to create something worthwhile," Lum said.

"It makes me happy."

She encouraged young people to try the ITA’s high school training programs that count for both school and apprenticeship credits.

"It is a great program for kids to try out, they don’t have to go into the trades, they don’t have to get a job with it, but it is good to have it under your belt for sure," Lum said.

ITA president Gary Herman said he is excited for another year to partner with the Lions.

"With reaching out to B.C. youth you can’t beat the B.C. Lions brand, it’s a province-wide brand and ITA is representing the province in skilled trades, so it’s a very good combination for engaging with youth," he said.

Herman added that some kids grow up with little or no exposure to the trades and some have never even held a hammer.

He said that they might not even realize what they are missing.

He added that is why programs like Lions in the House are important.

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