Skills-gap analysis in the works

Regional District of Bulkley Nechako to benefit from provincial funding.

The Bulkley Nechako Regional District (RDBN) will benefit from a comprehensive Skills Gap Analysis thanks to an $85,000 Partnership and Innovation Fund contribution agreement provided by the provincial Ministry of Social Development.

The funds are earmarked by the province to hire consultants to generate the analysis of the local labour force.

The fund is part of the community and employer partnerships program, and focuses on job creation partnerships, labour market partnerships, research innovation, and project-based labour market training.

“The Bulkley Nechako Regional District will benefit from this Skills Gap Analysis, which will help the district identify areas to focus on for future employment and training needs,” said Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.

The analysis will be conducted by two consulting firms which will work with a project committee made up of representatives from the Village of Burns Lake, RDBN, College of New Caledonia, WorkBC, First Nations, various industry representatives, and the Burns Lake Recovery team.  The committee will meet monthly to provide input and guidance to the consultants.

The ten-month analysis should result in a better understanding of the difference between the skills of the local workforce and the skills required by employers in the near future, so that locals can better prepare themselves for the anticipated increase in demand for skilled labour over the next decade. It is not only the province that is concerned to identify the gap between what is needed and what is available in terms of skilled workers.

Major resource industries have been providing their own analyses of what to expect as more resource projects come online. Their concerns are focused on  competing for skilled workers in a very limited labour pool.

Recently, Newgold Inc., released the results of an analysis of their own anticipated requirements for the Blackwater mine project southwest of Vanderhoof. They anticipate needing to fill between 1000 and 1500 positions during the two-year construction phase of the project starting in 2015. A further 500 operational workers may be needed  once the mine enters its production phase in 2017.

With 19 major resource projects (with minimum values of $500 million each) at various stages of approval or consideration already underway in B.C., Newgold anticipates that 2016 through 2020 will be a period of tight labour market conditions.

According to the report, projects in the Prince George region already source up to 70 per cent of their construction labour from outside of British Columbia. This is despite the fact that Northern B.C. consistently maintains the highest unemployment numbers in the province.

With projects in Alberta competing for the same skilled workers required for projects like the New Gold Blackwater mine, the company anticipates difficulty filling positions for heavy equipment operators, plumbers, pipefitters, truck drivers, electricians, millwrights, boilermakers and iron workers.

From Newgold’s point of view, it is dealing with a largely migrant workforce, with skilled workers able to pick and choose where they will work based on the quality of camp accommodations and the availability of travel options to and from home communities.

According to Cindy Shelford from Lakes Economic Development Association it is critical that the Northwest region prepares. Investing in the skills and training to take advantage of these employment opportunities is key.

Recent research carried out to develop the Regional Skills Training Plan on data and statistics developed in the fall of 2012, demonstrates that a mismatch exists between the skill level of much of the current regional labour force and the occupations required to support the major projects.

“With nearly one million job openings expected in B.C. by 2020, government is committed to working with industry leaders to ensure that British Columbians are ready for the many opportunities coming our way,” said Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour Pat Bell.