NDP leader Adrian Dix (right) shares a laugh with lawyer and former Liberal MLA Tom Christensen over some past politics during a Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday at the Village Green Hotel.

NDP leader Adrian Dix (right) shares a laugh with lawyer and former Liberal MLA Tom Christensen over some past politics during a Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday at the Village Green Hotel.

Labour a priority for Adrian Dix

NDP leader Adrian Dix insists there is a need to increase productivity in B.C.

NDP leader Adrian Dix insists there is a need to increase productivity in B.C.

While speaking at a Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday, Dix stated there is a need to address issues surrounding the labour force.

“If 80 per cent of the jobs of the future require post-secondary education, we’re falling way behind,” he said at the event at the Village Green Hotel.

“Young people don’t have the skills they need for the jobs that are coming. Every time I meet with  business, they talk about this.”

Dix says trained workers are retiring at a steady pace and yet the apprenticeship completion rate is 37 per cent.

“Sometimes the quality of training isn’t there. Sometimes they are training on equipment that’s out of date,” he said, adding there must be a co-operative approach to resolve concerns.

“This brings together chief executive officers and labour leaders but most of all, parents and small business owners.”

Dix also focused on infrastructure challenges, including students being unable to get on the bus between Vernon and the University of B.C.

“We have to use some of the carbon tax to support local transit and transportation issues,” he said.

Dix was asked questions from the floor, including on the legalization of marijuana.

“My own view is we should move to decriminalization. The federal government is making a mistake bringing in mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offences,” he said.

But in terms of actually legalizing marijuana, he said he’s uncertain.

“That would bring challenges in society.”

As May’s provincial election draws closer, Dix admits he is concerned the negative tone of discussion is turning voters off.

“We need to be more respectful of each other. Premier Clark is working hard and doing her best,” he said.

“The toxic political debates make solutions less possible. Name-calling doesn’t help the debate and we need to change that.”

Beyond elected officials, though, Dix encouraged chamber members to get involved.

“I want to invite you to the debate and to participate in public life. It’s important that community leaders lead,” he said.