Jobs conference starts today in Terrace

The goal is to provide a trained and ready northwestern B.C. workforce

WHAT’S BEING called a landmark gathering starts today as more than 100 people begin to consider what’s needed to provide a trained workforce for any number of major industrial projects either underway or planned for the region.

The object is to connect employers with training agencies and institutions to ensure the right number of people with the right kind of skills are ready when needed, explains Don Ramsay, the organizer of Partnerships 2020.

“I’d hate to think this will result in people walking away and saying they’ve been to a conference,” said Ramsay last week. “I would want this to be something where the actual work begins.”

He’s also hoping there will be a foundation of collaboration and cooperation established so that needs of both employers and trainers can be identified and met.

“We hope that cooperation between companies will be better than competing for workers,” said Ramsay.

There’s also an element of education for companies that should take place for successful projects here, he added.

“The companies that are coming here are very, very large. They each have their own history and all have different ways of doing things,” said Ramsay.

“Not all will recognize the history and the different kind of environment that is here in the northwest.”

“People are as much a resource as any mineral in the ground,” said Ramsay.

Any kind of northwest employee training strategy must also recognize the region’s substantial aboriginal population because of the potential number of workers it can produce, he added.

Research prepared by government-sponsored bodies suggest that should the number of large-scale projects being planned get underway, close to 6,000 workers will be needed in the next decade on the construction projects.

But while the focus now may be on construction requirements, Ramsay said it’s also important to consider the kind of jobs that will be required as projects begin their operations phase.

Still, Ramsay said the foundations for a prepared workforce begin in the school system and in the family.

Even ensuring that people have driver’s licences is a crucial part of a person’s start toward the start of rewarding employment.

Conference speakers include key provincial government officials as well as industry representatives including Mark Premo, the newly-hired chief operating officer for Avanti Mining, the company which is now waiting to hear if the provincial government will approve of its plan to open a molybdendum mine at Kitsault northwest of here.

The conference continues until March 8 at the Terrace Best Western Inn.

Partnerships 2020 draws its support from sponsors and from grants provided by the federal and provincial governments.

That federal and provincial support is being funneled through the Skeena Nass Centre for Innovation in Resource Economics (SNCIRE) which then hired Ramsay.

Partnerships 2010 is just one of several SNCIRE initiatives being undertaken through the effort to prepare a trained workforce.

The basis to prepare a northwestern workforce began with BC Hydro and its Northwest Transmission Line project which will, when finished, stretch from Terrace north to connect independent power projects to the provincial grid and to provide power to mineral properties.

The crown corporation determined there was a gap between the current northwest labour force and what would be needed given the ongoing transmission line project and the projects that will transpire once the transmission line is finished.