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Premier announces boosts to international education, skills training

Premier Christy Clark today announced parts of her Jobs Plan involving increased numbers of international students and improved skills training.

Speaking at Thompson River University in Kamloops, Clark said "Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan" would be fully released on Thursday. But as a preview, she announced international education and skills training as two key components of the plan. A news release, issued as she spoke, quoted her as saying:

"International students who study in B.C. create thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars into local economies. Our universities are job creators. We are setting clear targets to dramatically increase the number of international students coming to B.C. These students will also help build strong relationships between B.C., Canada and the rest of the world."

Clark said the province plans to increase the number of international students by 50 per cent over four years. She said the present numbers of international students generate 22,000 jobs and bring $1.25 billion into the B.C. economy. Each additional 10 per cent increase in international students, she estimated, would add 1,800 new jobs and $100 million to the provincial GDP.

She said the province would create an international education council to help sell B.C. education to countries such as China, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia; use B.C. trade offices to attract international students; and work with B.C. communities to prepare them to welcome such students.

The full International Education Strategy, the release said, will be released later this year.

In addition, Clark said the province would enhance skills training, saying she would prefer to see British Columbians rather than Albertans working in the Fort Nelson gas industry. She said she wanted to "get out of the way of job creation" by the private sector, while investing in infrastructure to get goods to market. As well, Clark said, "I intend to be the best salesman British Columbia ever had."

Clark said Regional Workforce Tables would become a new platform for interest groups to discuss how to use skills training to meet regional needs.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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