B.C. Government Looks To Entice Students To Public Service

Loan forgiveness, fellowships available to B.C. Public Service employees

Nexus (Camosun College)
VICTORIA (CUP) — The B.C. government has pledged to set aside $1.75 million annually to encourage skilled youth to consider careers in the public service.

By 2015, more than 45 per cent of the current managing staff and 35 per cent of employees will be eligible to retire from the B.C. Public Service. The Pacific Leadership Program is working to stimulate student interest in public service on four fronts — student loan forgiveness, paid education opportunities, scholarships, and graduate student fellowships.

?What the government is doing is investing in the public service by supporting education and growth of talented and dedicated staff,? said Anne McKinnon, public affairs director for the B.C. Public Service Agency. ?It sharpens the B.C. government’s competitive edge to recruit and retain high-calibre employees in a marketplace that has increasing labour shortages.?

The Pacific Leadership Program will be marketing the public service as an innovative and dynamic career choice.

?As B.C.’s largest employer, we face the same recruitment and retention challenges as the private sector,? McKinnon said.

Entering into a career in the public service under the program’s loan forgiveness program will reduce outstanding student loan debt by one-third a year.

?It’s one element of a comprehensive transformation package that makes the public service an even better place to build a career,? McKinnon said.

The Canadian Federation of Students, a national student lobby group, has been critical of the program, as it only applies to employees of the B.C. Public Service, and not all students.

?The premier’s student loan forgiveness program for government employees overlooks many B.C. students? desperation,” said Shamus Reid, B.C. national executive representative of the CFS in a statement. “It should be a starting point for a broader grants or loan remission program to assist all students in need.”

B.C. post-secondary students have student loan debt averaging $27,000 on graduation, and pay an average of $4,960 in tuition fees.

The province has also set aside 60 scholarships of up to $2,500 for students who have parents in the public service. These scholarships are available only to full-time students under 25 in a bachelor’s degree program, or trade, technical or vocational training. Current employees of the provincial government are eligible for subsidized education.

There are also graduate student fellowships available. Each year, 20 graduate students conducting research related to government priorities will be awarded $20,000 toward their studies.

The CFS has also been critical of the scholarship and fellowship program.

“The B.C. government is acting in a limited way, as an employer, while avoiding its greater responsibility to the province’s economic future and the next generation,? Scott Payne, B.C. chairperson of the CFS, said in a release.

The program is being implemented over the next year. More information can be found at http://www.pacificleaders.gov.bc.ca

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