Northwest B.C. local governments are teaming up to roll out a new workforce attraction and retention strategy to address future labour needs in the region.
With a $175,000 Rural Dividend grant announced April 22, the City of Terrace, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine (RDKS), City of Prince Rupert and the District of Kitimat can now move forward on developing a research-based strategy to increase skilled and unskilled labour forces to fill local employment needs.
It will include a province-wide branding and advertising campaign promoting the region.
“Working together to raise the profile of the Northwest will help ensure the region’s competitiveness in attracting families and workers who want to live and stay in the region and contribute to sustainable, vibrant communities for years to come,” said Kitimat mayor and chair of the RDKS, Phil Germuth in a press release.
According to a study commissioned by the Kitimat Valley Institute in 2017, Northwest employers would need to fill 1,000 positions annually until 2025 — meaning almost 17,000 jobs will need to be filled in the next eight years. According to WorkBC’s 2018 Labour Market Outlook, a total of 12,990 job openings are anticipated over the next 10 years, with a majority (70.7 per cent) needed to replace retiring workers.
“We want our local workforce to be part of that number, but the need to fill those spots was what we looked at. It’s filling gaps and addressing gaps in the workforce,” said Deklan Corstanje, RDKS economic development officer.
Employment in the Northwest region is largely dependent on forestry, mining, tourism, and transportation related to the operations of the Port of Prince Rupert, according to the Northern Development Initiative Trust’s most recent State of the North report.
Further growth in employment in the Northwest region is expected due to the construction and operation of the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat and its accompanying Coastal GasLink pipeline, though the current local workforce may not be enough to meet demand.
“That’s actually one of the reasons why we started looking at doing something like this, with some studies and data collected in the region, the draw on the local workforce was going to be immense,” Corstanje said.
Since 2017, the region’s local governments have been developing a marketing and human resources strategy to showcase the Northwest, but with the grant they’re now able to issue a request for proposals for a contractor to carry out the initiative.
“This regional initiative will allow the Northwest to grow and encourage new families and residents to plant long-term roots in our communities. The strong show of provincial support for this project will help ensure local companies have the staff they need to move their businesses forward,” said Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc.
While the Northwest BC Resource Benefits alliance, another partnership between local regional governments, covers a broad spectrum of economic development in the region with the province, this initiative is on a different scale, Corstanje says. This initiative has more of a focus on creating opportunities and sustaining the Northwest workforce with a more research-based approach.
“The goal of the partnership is to establish the region as a top choice to work and live in our province. This funding is the financial support we need to put that plan into action,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain.
The local governments will work to create an RFP and hire a contractor to carry out this strategy while pursuing other grant opportunities to extend the project for years to come. Right now, there’s enough funding for a two-year commitment.
“We’re seeing more and more collaboration in the North as a whole and the benefits that come from that. This is another piece of that pie,” Crostanje says.