DETAILS ARE expected this week on a large-scale program to better prepare northwestern residents for jobs arising from billions of dollars of developments either underway or about to start.
The education and training plan arises from a BC Hydro study which warned that the northwest isn’t ready for the thousands of skilled and other jobs which are to be created.
BC Hydro commissioned the study to examine the job needs arising directly from its Northwest Transmission Line now under construction and developments which are to occur because of the construction of the line.
The transmission line alone will create up to 280 direct jobs per year of construction, BC Hydro estimates.
And, optimistically, the study indicates that there could be 5,700 jobs created between now and 2021 from transmission line-connected developments and other projects within the region.
A strategy document outlining ways to better prepare people estimates that between this year and 2016, there could be a shortage of up to 1,900 people and that two-thirds of new jobs will required skilled tradespeople.
“Training for many of these high-demand occupations is only available outside the Northwest,” reads one portion of the strategy.
“Local people are available to fill many of the jobs, but a mismatch often exists between the skills of potential workers and the needs of employers.”
The strategy indicates that given the right skill sets and training, unemployed workers and new workers could fill employment gaps in the region.
“Training unemployed and under-employed workers in the region will contribute to reducing labour costs and turnover, improving productivity and mitigating social pressures. Training available in the region will reduce travel and living costs for many lower income participants,” indicates the study.
Providing apprenticeship training is tagged as a key requirement for the region.
The employment strategy also calls for a campaign to attract former northwestern residents back home.
Thousands of people left the region after the collapse of the Skeena Cellulose as a major player in the forest industry in the 1990s.
BC Hydro, through a federal-provincial program called the Canada-BC Labour Market Development Agreement, put up the $217,000 for the study and the same development agreement is expected to provide the money to run the job training and preparation effort.
The jobs strategy calls for close working relationships between government agencies and companies and for significant involvement by area First Nations.