Training young people key to northwest B.C. future

"These are people who now have skills that will keep them working for a lifetime," says Enbridge's Janet Holder.

By Janet Holder

I’ve spent much of the past year travelling across this province to speak with British Columbians about our Northern Gateway project.

Everywhere I go, and especially in B.C.’s north, I hear young people sharing their hopes for the future.

They want good-paying jobs – ones that will allow them to live and work in the communities where they grew up.

And they want jobs that will allow them to enjoy the same quality of life as their parents, so they too can raise a family in their own communities.

It’s clear to me these young people are not afraid of hard work. Like my grandparents in the forest industry, they are eager to put their noses to the grindstone. But many of these young people are worried about how they’ll get by in an economy where many good-paying jobs require advanced skills.

As someone who benefited from a good education, I believe everyone deserves a chance to better their skills, and to get the jobs that help drive our economy forward.

As leader of the Northern Gateway team, I know it’s my responsibility to do everything I can to help ensure these young people have the same opportunities I had when I was growing up.

That’s why, since 2006, Northern Gateway has been supporting programs that train young people across B.C.’s north.

These programs come with no strings attached, meaning graduates can work for whomever they please.

So far, these programs have helped train more than 1,500 people. These are people who now have skills that will keep them working for a lifetime.

They are people who now have the choice to stay in their communities, allowing them to support the local economy and to be close to family and friends.

And yes, if our project gets approval, I hope these same people will work for us. I am proud of the work we have done. But I know we can do more.

That’s why I announced recently that Northern Gateway is contributing $225,000 to the Construction Foundation of B.C. for its excellent initiative, Project Shop Class. This project puts much needed dollars directly into B.C. classrooms for skills training programs that we know have the power to open young eyes to new possibilities.

This money will help to dramatically improve shop facilities, which in some cases have not been upgraded in decades. With an expected shortage of skilled workers, I am hopeful this program will help to encourage more young people to enter the skilled trades.

On a personal note, it gives me great pleasure to know that our contribution will go specifically to schools across the north. I was born and raised in northern B.C., and I care deeply about the communities and the people who live here.

The investments we’re making in the skills of our young people will make us all stronger, giving tomorrow’s generation the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

There is no better investment we can make. And I am proud that Northern Gateway is doing its part.

Janet Holder is an executive vice-president of Enbridge, Inc. and is the team leader of its Northern Gateway pipeline team. She now lives in Prince George, her hometown.