To the Editor:
The Northeast region of BC is undergoing an exciting period of major economic activity – in sectors like natural gas and mining, billions of dollars in investments are being made in projects across the region. This is generating significant opportunities for the people of the Northeast, especially when it comes to job creation. Making sure that people in the region are fully qualified and able to work on these projects will be critical to our collective economic success.
Over the past six months, we have co-chaired the Northeast Regional Workforce Table, which was created with the support of the provincial government under the BC Jobs Plan. Funded through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement, the Table brought together key leaders from across the Northeast to plan collectively how to best align training in the region with the job opportunities the major projects are creating. Many people helped shape this table by providing input at an Open House Forum in Dawson Creek, coming to one of the follow-up meetings, or participating on the Table itself. As a result, we have had the unique opportunity of working with a strong group of leaders representing industry, First Nations and Metis organizations, employers, post-secondary institutions, school districts, training providers, municipalities and others – all coming together to meet our common goal of ensuring that training offered in our region provides the people here with the skills they need to succeed in the most in-demand occupations.
In order to make a plan, however, we first needed to get a clear picture of the employment opportunities being created by the major projects in the Northeast, the training we already have in the region for these jobs, and any training gaps or barriers to training that might be affecting us. We also wanted to examine successful activities already underway in the region that we can learn from and build on, to make sure we are leveraging and coordinating our collective efforts.
The result of this analysis – which was complemented by discussions with a range of organizations and communities in the region – is a Regional Skills Training Plan for the Northeast. We believe that this plan is a significant step forward for us as a region, as it not only identifies some of the training issues we face, but also—and most importantly – provides some workable, collaborative solutions to these challenges.
The Training Plan outlines some of the unique regional labour market issues – including the current and growing skills shortage in many key sector jobs, barriers to full youth participation in the labour force, and training for Aboriginals, women and immigrants. The region also needs more agile and flexible approaches to training delivery and targeted gap training and up-skilling for active workers. It also requires solutions to ensure that people who have completed training here are able to actually find work regionally in the occupation for which they were trained.
The heart of the Plan is four goals that will help people in the Northeast prepare for jobs and realize business opportunities the major projects will create. They include providing regionally specific career information, training for high demand occupations, programs to help business owners grow their businesses and foster new business development and finally ensuring that training programs in the region align with labour market needs including ensuring a smooth path for people to get the training they need whether it’s in the Northeast or outside the region. When people do have to go outside to be trained, the Plan looks for ways to ensure they have a reason to come back to the Northeast.
The next steps for the Task Force will be to prepare an implementation plan. This will involve continued work with communities, organizations, and employers in the region to assign roles and responsibilities for goals and actions. The Training Plan will be posted on the Northern Lights College website at www.nlc.bc.ca as of Dec. 21, 2012. We encourage people to read the plan and invite individuals to become involved and support implementation. Collaboration and a focusing on regional partnerships will lead to effective implementation that will fully realize the array of workforce and business opportunities.
Jeff Beale and Murray Slezak,
Co-Chairs, Northeast Regional Workforce Table