Whistler’s Chamber of Commerce had a policy paper it presented to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting accepted unanimously.
President of the local chamber Fiona Famulak presented the paper at the AGM in Hamilton at the end of September and said she is thrilled it was a success.
“We are thrilled to announce that at the Canadian Chamber AGM the national caucus approved the Whistler Chamber of Commerce policy paper on the importance of continuing to expand Canada’s educational bran abroad,” she said. “Given the increasing competition in the international marketplace for international students and given the chamber’s concerns … to attract a skilled workforce, marketing Canada’s educational product is more important than before.”
In 2007 the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) began the Imagine Education in Canada initiative to market the country to international students in partnership with the provinces and the territories.
However, the federal government commitment of $1 million a year for the campaign was limited to a five year term, which ends this year.
Famulak said the policy paper that was accepted recommends the national chamber lobby the government to renew its commitment to education marketing abroad.
“Now that it is approved at a national level, the content of that policy paper will form the basis of policy discussions between the Canadian Chamber and the federal government,” she said.
Promoting international students to come to study in Canada provides two economic drivers, Famulak added. One, it brings students here to study and live, thus contributing to the economy. Second, they then become skilled labour that contribute to the economy at a time when the country is facing a skilled labour shortage.
“This is part of the solution to Canada’s skilled labour shortage,” she said. “By attracting foreign students we help to resolve skilled labour shortage across country and drive economic opportunities across the country.”
Famulak noted that this is also important from a Whistler perspective.
“Even though Whistler is not experiencing a skilled labour shortage right at this minute, we know that is on the horizon,” she said, adding a labour market study by Go2 predicted a shortage of between 3,500 and 4,400 skilled workers for the Sea to Sky corridor between 2010 and 2015. “It is important for us to be proactive and not wait for a shortage to come, but lay the foundation and plan accordingly.”
Another reason the policy paper has relevance locally, she said, is in light of the establishment of the Education Task Force by the municipality to look at post-secondary education opportunities in the resort.
With the possibility that a campus may be developed in Whistler, continued marketing to foreign students by Canada will help to drive them here.