Whether the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry develops on the North Coast or not, the B.C. government has committed to spending $9 million dollars on Tsimshian people for skills training.
The provincial funding is over three years and will be handed over to the Tsimshian Roundtable, a partnership between six First Nations communities in the Tsimshian Alliance, and LNG proponents.
The organization came together two years ago to make sure Tsimshian people benefit from proposed LNG projects in the area by making sure a workforce is prepared for when the industry does decide to develop in the province.
“It’s a coordinated approach by the Tsimshian communities, first of all, seeing how training can be provided through each of the communities without major duplication,” White said adding a hypothetical example where each community might train 12 millwrights, totalling 72 trained but there are only positions for 30 millwrights,” Gitxaala Chief Clifford White, who co-chairs the roundtable with Simon Nish, BG Group vice president, said.
“We want to make sure that we’re not all training for the same trade, and making sure that our people have those opportunities,” he said.
The Tsimshian Alliance is made up of the Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams, Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Kitselas and Kitsumkalum Nations. The group has been working with unions, the province and six LNG proponents to make sure 25 per cent of the work force is apprentice related and of that number 50 per cent of the apprenticeships or trades will be available for First Nations.
Simon Nish, the vice-president of sustainability at BG Canada has been involved in the alliance since the beginning.
“The background was that Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla said in 2014, ‘we’re having repeat conversations with multiple proponents about employment and training, is there a way we can all come together and talk about regional employment training?’” Nish said.
The funding isn’t just for skilled trades. The workforce that the Tsimshian Roundtable plans to build includes short-term occupations with little training, such as cleaners, to long-term positions that require more training, such as doctors, lawyers, financiers and supervisors.
The provincial government invested $1.2 million in May 2015 for a similar purposes — to fund the Aboriginal skills trade program, Pathways to Success, in Prince Rupert and Terrace. Since that time, the provincial government announced in a press release that the program has resulted in setting up more than 180 Tsimshian women and men with jobs in customer service, construction and environmental monitoring with an average wage of $18.75 an hour.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced the $9 million in new funding on Tuesday, March 8.
“We have three things we’ve got to do. We’ve got to connect with the private sector, figure out what those jobs are, then we’ve got to work with First Nations and figure out what their aspirations as individuals are, and then we have to connect them through the appropriate training,” Clark said.
Each First Nations community is evaluating its own members and how they should be trained and educated to meet the immediate needs within the community themselves, Clifford said. Some communities will continue on Pathways to Success program.
Despite the waiting game for a final investment decision from at least one of the LNG proponents, Clark said the million dollar investment is needed to train First Nations on the North Coast. She cited that $20 billion had already been spent in the province pre-final investment decision in preparing the land for potential development.
“It’s been slow, slower than anyone predicted because no one predicted $30 a barrel oil. In the meantime though, we’re training people for jobs that exist,” Clark said.