By Eric Bourque
The president of the Nova Scotia Community College says he is “very excited and hopeful” about the province’s future, but he says there are challenges to be faced, including an impending labour shortage.
Don Bureaux, the NSCC president, made the remarks while addressing the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce.
“NSCC is working with a number of companies that are very interested in investing and/or growing in our province,” he said. “I believe that we are on the verge of turning the province around from an economic perspective.”
Speaking to the chamber during its annual general meeting, Bureaux cited the multibillion-dollar Irving shipbuilding contract and the opportunity it presents, calling it “an incredible economic initiative” that will have major spinoffs.
Ultimately, he said, the success of the shipbuilding program will come from the project’s leveraging effect, how money spent on the ships will promote innovation and development.
He suggested too that the positive impact of the shipbuilding work will not be limited to a certain part of Nova Scotia.
“As the only community college in the province, we are committed to helping ensure the economic and social benefits are felt well beyond the Halifax area,” he said.
He noted, however, that making the most of opportunities like the shipbuilding initiative will require action to address a looming shortage or workers. To make his point, he cited as well the growing importance of post-secondary education for people looking to get the jobs that will be available.
“An interesting duality will be happening in our economy in the next seven to 10 years, simply identified as the phenomenon of ‘people without jobs and jobs without people,’” Bureaux said. “That makes me very nervous because the economic opportunities … will create jobs, but will we have enough people with the right skills to take advantage of those opportunities?”
Factors like an aging population and declining school enrolment are contributing to the anticipated shortage of workers, he said.
NSCC is doing its part to address the issue, he said, by trying to make post-secondary education more accessible.
Two-hundred-thousand Nova Scotians are not connected to the economy, he said, and a major factor in this is lack of access to post-secondary education.
“If they could be connected to the workforce and given a chance, they will become builders of our future economy,” he said.
He emphasized the importance of promoting entrepreneurship.
He added that Hollywood tends to portray working people disrespectfully, while advertisements encourage people to work less and retire sooner.
“We need a campaign to celebrate the value of manual, skilled labour and the absolute importance of work to the vitality of our communities,” Bureaux said.
Bureaux joined the NSCC in 2004, became the college’s acting president in 2010 and president in 2011. His talk to the chamber followed the business portion of the chamber’s AGM. Karen Churchill remains president of the chamber for another year.