If labour forecasts for B.C.’s construction industry prove to be true, there will be a tremendous shortage of skilled labour to meet the expected demands over the next five or six years, not only for the LNG industry but for mining, forestry and tourism. Colleges, post-secondary institutions and other groups are gearing up to do their part to build the needed skilled labour pool.
One group, the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association (PGNAETA) has been working for the past 20 years to build transferable workplace skills among Aboriginal youth from the Prince George – Nechako area’s 17 First Nations. In the last four years alone, PGNAETA has placed more than 2,700 students into the workforce.
Tribal Chief Terry Teegee from the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council has seen first-hand the work the organization is doing to support the skills upgrading of the area’s Aboriginal youth. “Financial support from corporations is very important because those donations complement other financial commitments and help our youth get the skills they need to succeed in the future,” he noted. Terry has seen many wins in his five years on the PGNAETA board.
“One of our biggest successes has been to get our people in the door, regardless of the industry, and give them the opportunity to get the training they need to fully participate in this economy. It’s not just about pushing brooms or getting general labour positions. There is a real opportunity for First Nations to fill management positions by getting the skills upgrading they need. We’ve seen a decline in access to government funds for training, so we need to find a source of funds from various corporations, and this is one opportunity to do that,” said Terry.
TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project and Coastal GasLink, at a signing ceremony Aug. 6 in Prince George, launched TransCanada’s Pathway to Pipeline Readiness training program, which supports training and skills development in northern B.C. The two projects jointly donated $250,000 to support PGNAETA’s Aboriginal Gateway Training Centre by providing access to the program for 48 Aboriginal students.
“I believe that through the partnership between TransCanada and PGNAETA, new doors will be opened and new pathways will become a possibility,” said PGNAETA Executive Director Karin Hunt, who spoke at the event.
Bruce Wells, Vice-President, Coastal GasLink said the program provides benefits, not just to the participants, but to the whole community. “The partnerships we have with the First Nations, building the access, understanding the gaps, creating those touch points that make us a great neighbour in every community that we build projects in, is so important… We want to see communities benefit from the work we are doing, and that translates into a higher standard of living, greater economic opportunities and a higher quality of life for families.”
The B.C. government also recognizes the need for an increased focus on skills training. In late July, B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint announced $6.8 million to create more than 1,400 foundation and apprenticeship seats in 14 post-secondary institutions in B.C. during the fall, 2014 semester. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 workers will be needed to support the province’s burgeoning LNG industry. While statistics indicate that there is a significant gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal employment, we also know that Aboriginal people are the fastest growing demographic in Canada and therefore have the greatest potential for filling labour shortages.
“Corporate support for our programs is very important,” said Karin. “We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without the support of TransCanada as well as the support from forestry, mining and other industries. This donation will help students bridge the gap between their current skill level and the level required to enter into a college trade foundational program or begin working for a contractor or employer as an apprentice. These gaps include literacy, computer knowledge and essential skills. The programming that we do addresses all of that. There is a need for support at all levels. We need groups who are willing to walk alongside of us and help us fulfill our vision. TransCanada plays a major role in sharing that vision.”