Local jobs plan surges ahead

A LOCAL group has been handed the task of better connecting local people with the anticipated thousands of jobs to be created.

  • Sep. 26, 2012 5:00 p.m.

A LOCAL group has been handed the task of better connecting local people with the anticipated thousands of jobs to be created by large industrial projects planned for the region.

The money comes from the provincial government through an effort started by BC Hydro when it examined not only the impact of its Northwest Transmission Line now under construction but of mines and other developments that could happen because of the line.

The hiring of the Skeena-Nass Centre for Innovation in Resource Economics (SNCIRE) sets the stage to determine what’s needed, where it’s needed and when it’s needed, says the chair of a committee first struck by BC Hydro to examine the employment implications of large scale industrialization.

“The point is there are big numbers being talked about in a relatively short period of time,” said Eulala Mills last week. “There’s going to be a lot of work going on. Our intention is to do everything possible so that the northwest can take advantage of this,” she said.

A study commissioned by the BC Hydro committee earlier this year estimated that anywhere from $8 billion to $25 billion will be spent on large projects in the next 10 years, requiring anywhere from 9,500 to 32,500 workers.

“The current labour supply cannot meet the expected demand for skilled labour and without quick action, companies will be forced to import workers from other regions,” read a summary report prepared for the BC Hydro committee. Although focussed on the Northwest Transmission Line and what’s possible from its construction, the impact from a growing number of planned liquefied natural gas plants and pipelines is also being acknowledged.

“We’re now hearing numbers in the $60 billion range,” said Mills of what’s being contemplated for the region. Mills emphasized that SNCIRE has not been hired to be a job trainer or be an employment agency.

Instead it is to make best efforts to match up skilled trades required by an industry, for example, with training programs that can provide those workers when they are needed.

“We’ll build it, but we won’t run it. Part of the job is to find out who will run it,” said Mills.

But specific and limited training programs might be offered to meet a specific need, she said.

“What we will have is money to fill in those gaps,” Mills continued.

Other projects being contemplated include targeted advertising campaigns to attract workers back who moved to other areas when, for example, the forest industry collapsed here. “This would be for people who have the skills that are needed and who have roots back in the community,” said Mills.

A gathering of employers and training program providers is being planned for next spring, too. The contract with SNCIRE will last until December 2013 after which time, Mills said, the hope is that the work will continue on and be financed by other groups or companies.

The first phase of this northwest labour project, the establishment and work of the BC Hydro committee, cost just over $200,000.

The province has now provided just over $500,000 for additional work, including the SNCIRE contract. It’ll be paid an hourly rate.

Mills said more than $400,000 of in-kind and other contributions is expected as the months go on to complement the provincial contribution. SNCIRE has hired a former local highways ministry manager to be its key official on the project.

Don Ramsay spent 14 years as the manager of the local highways and infrastructure office and was briefly employed by the city earlier this year as its chief administrative officer.