Ever watch the TV show Dragon’s Den? If you haven’t, the premise is simple: entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and products to a panel of proven investors (the dragons), whose interest, or lack thereof, can make or break the entrepreneurs’ dreams.

Most investors have simple criteria: is there a market for this product or idea? Perhaps more importantly, will there be one in the future? It’s one thing to identify a demand that exists now. But the most successful investors try to envision where the market is going.

In some ways, investing in B.C.’s economy is the same. We have to train and prepare British Columbians for the jobs of tomorrow.

It’s important to not get carried away by the analogy, as it only goes so far. A responsible government invests in the future because it’s the right thing to do. But for dragons and governments alike, the key to long-term success is to make investments for the future, more so than the present.

This brings me to a subject near and dear to my heart: our government’s recent $28 million investment in Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus to expand and renovate trades training facilities. Once completed, the new Trades Complex will be able to accommodate up to 2,408 students and apprentices, up from the current capacity of about 2,280.

I take great interest in the college, not just because I’m a business instructor there (on leave). Like good dragons, we made this investment with an eye to the future. That future will include vastly more jobs in the trades – and if British Columbians are to have opportunities to capitalize on those careers, they’ll need training. We’re not talking about a minor or temporary jump in trades jobs, but a massive shift: of the one million job openings ahead, fully 43 per cent will need trades and technical training.

The expansion at Okanagan College has been a key part of that investment. In addition that that, our government has made over $63 million in capital investments at Okanagan College since 2005. That includes the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation at the Penticton campus, and renovation and expansion of the trades facility at the Salmon Arm campus.


Those investments are part of our Skills and Training Plan, a provincewide commitment to industry training. That includes some $100 million per year through the Industry Training Authority – and while it’s still early days, the evidence suggests the plan is working.  The number of apprentices in B.C. has more than doubled, from about 14,000 in 2004 to approximately 32,000 in 2012. Those 32,000 apprentices – enough to fill Prospera Place four and a half times over – will be well-positioned for the jobs and careers coming to B.C.

Smart dragons don’t stop at one investment, and neither will we. In the weeks and months to come, you’ll hear about many more investments in B.C.’s future. Not because it’s good TV – but because we want to create an environment where tomorrow’s young dragons have every chance to succeed.