Foreign student plan recycled, NDP says

Premier Christy Clark stopped at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops Tuesday to unveil the second part of her jobs plan, a goal of increasing the number of international students in B.C. by 50 per cent. But critics were quick to point out that at least one of the key measures, an international education council, is already in place.

Premier Christy Clark lays out her target for attracting more international students at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops Tuesday.

Premier Christy Clark stopped at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops Tuesday to unveil the second part of her jobs plan, a goal of increasing the number of international students in B.C. by 50 per cent.

But critics were quick to point out that at least one of the key measures, an international education council, is already in place.

Clark announced that B.C. will use existing trade offices to help connect international students to B.C. education opportunities, send more students overseas, and “create an international education council to help build strong relationships in both existing and emerging economies, like China, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.”

Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto said the government is working with educational institutions and communities on “a more targeted, co-ordinated and strategic approach  that takes advantage of the growth opportunities.” A detailed international education strategy was promised for release later this year.

In November 2008 the B.C. government announced the formation of the B.C. Council for International Education. The 2008 announcement also described efforts to work with Ottawa to allow more international students to remain as permanent Canadian residents.

Clark said Tuesday that regional workforce tables will be set up to work with local employers, labour, first nations and others to use $15 million in available federal funds for training to address local labour needs around B.C.

Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James, who has been responding to Clark’s week-long rollout of her jobs initiative, said the new money is welcome but it only restores funds cut from apprenticeship and trades training.

“I would have advised the premier to take a look at her own budget,” James said. “She cut $5 million this year, she planned to cut $5 million next year and year after. So she’s putting back $15 million. She’s holding the line, not increasing amounts of money for skills training.”

International students are already big business for B.C. From Kindergarten to post-secondary and private language schools, B.C. is hosting 17,900 students from Korea, 15,400 from China, 11,100 from Japan, 6,600 from Saudi Arabia and 5,500 from Brazil.

Clark plans to continue her B.C. Jobs Plan announcements with speeches to business audiences in Surrey Wednesday and in Vancouver on Thursday.