Northwest B.C. jobs plan roll out underway

THE PROVINCE is spending more than $500,000 on the start of a plan to train people to work on industrial projects in the region.

  • Mar. 21, 2012 4:00 p.m.

THE PROVINCE is spending more than $500,000 on the start of a plan to train people to work on industrial projects in the region.

Provincial jobs minister Pat Bell said his ministry is spending $540,000 on determining what kind of employees companies need and then starting to train people to fill those needs.

He described the effort as developing a top ten jobs list for the northwest.

“Some of these will be evident, but what we’re really trying to do here is determine what jobs will be needed two, three, four years from now and then work to fill that demand,” said Bell.

The minister expected that jobs list to be finished fairly quickly so the stage can then be set to prepare people for the work.

“We’ll be using Northwest Community College to deliver those programs,” said Bell, adding some of the first may include everything from first aid to brushing up on math and reading skills.

The jobs ministry’s impetus comes from a BC Hydro-organized study which looked at the employment impacts stemming from its Northwest Transmission Line.

Construction has already started on the line which will stretch up Hwy37 North. When finished, the line will spur mine and hydro electric development.

The BC Hydro $217,000 labour market research study, completed late last year, conservatively estimated that large industrial projects will create 4,000 direct and indirect jobs from now until 2021.

Optimistically, the study indicated the number could climb to 5,700 or as high as 12,000.

But it also indicated there was not only an existing gap between skills northwest residents have and what companies need, but that the gap will continue to grow.

“Training for many of these high-demand occupations is only available outside the Northwest,” read the document.

“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,” it continued.

Bell said the demand for skilled labour has already started to grow and will be more evident by the time summer arrives.

“There’s going to be quite a difference from when I first began visiting the region three or four years ago,” said Bell in recalling his days as forest minister.

Bell was also quite clear in saying his ministry’s money was just the beginning of provincial jobs training spending here.

“It won’t be just us. There will be the Industrial Training Authority and the advanced education ministry. It’s going to be a cross-ministerial effort,” he said. “There’s lots more to come.”

The Industry Training  Authority, which finances apprenticeship and other training programs, is a provincial crown agency. It already covers the cost of wages and related expenses for trades programs at Northwest Community College.

(An early version of this story incorrectly referred to the Industry Training Authority as the Industrial Training Authority.)