Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin

Jobs support called the key to area’s future

The three-day Partnerships 2020 conference happened in Terrace last week

THE REGION needs to develop a trained and ready workforce if it wants to gain from an expected flood of industrial projects, says the organizer of a conference last week which brought together companies and training organizations of all kinds.

“There were some realities presented. If someone wants a crane operator, let’s say, all it takes is a phone call to someone in Newfoundland and that person’s here tomorrow,” said Don Ramsay of information presented at the three-day Partnerships 2020 conference which wrapped up March 8.

“All this is going to be happening with our without us. It’s kind of up to us,” he said.

And while companies may bring in outside workers equipped with specific skills, Ramsay said the common wisdom is that a locally-trained and prepared workforce is less expensive to recruit and retain than one that has to be brought into the area.

One of the key themes presented is that a person’s readiness for employment begins before they even start school, said Ramsay.

“What we heard here this week were people with common goals and common aspirations. There was really no dissension. People were here for the same reason.”

The next step is to take information from the conference and apply it to a pilot employment preparation program.

“It’ll be about essential skills to prepare a person to be trained for a job or to step into a job,”  said Ramsay.

Conference participant Irene Mills from Skidegate on Haida Gwaii said the more companies understand the area culture, particularly the aboriginal culture the better off they will be in hiring local workers.

“If you support us, you will be successful,” said Mills.

Sasa Loggin from Terrace, in speaking during the conference windup session, said part of the challenge on preparing people for employment is to insert hope into the community.

“People require encouragement to get an education,” added Loggin.

Providing encouragement takes in a long list that includes parents, schools and community groups, she said.

“There’s nothing like the peer pressure of being successful,” Loggin continued.

Conference delegates also heard that continued low scores from tests of Grade 7 students in math, English and science mean there isn’t a regional workforce ready for the kinds of jobs industrial projects will bring.

The conference fell under the umbrella of the Skeena Nass Centre for Innovation in Resource Economics which has received backing from governments to do the groundwork on developing a local workforce for  planned industrial projects.


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