The Burns Lake College of New Caledonia (CNC) offers a mining program and a driller’s helpers certificate. They are designed to prepare people for entry level positions in B.C.’s strong mining sector. The vast majority of mining in B.C. is surface mining, not deep underground, so that’s where the CNC program focuses.
Lynn Synotte, Marketing and Recruitment Manager with CNC, gave a presentation last week at the Burns Lake Chamber of Commerce Small business builds strong communities conference. She said that the college’s mining program has been very successful placing workers in industry, and that CNC would be happy to work with industry partners to develop an underground mine training program.
A young man came all the way from MacKenzie for the presentations in Burns Lake. He expressed a lot of interest in the driller’s helper certificate. He was already working in the industry but thought that the certificate might help move him up the pay scale more rapidly. It might even help him with his long-term goal of starting a small mineral exploration outfit, he said. His enthusiasm and physical energy said all that you needed to know about his willingness to work.
I wish I had taken his phone number so I could ask him today how enthusiastic he was to learn last week that the initial 200 jobs at the Murray Creek underground mine in Tumbler Ridge will be filled by temporary foreign workers.
Even positions listed as ‘driller’s helper’ will be filled by temporary workers. Apparently, HD Mining International couldn’t find even 10 (that’s the number of helper’s positions that I saw advertised) men or women in B.C. to fill an entry level position.
Even if a large number of experienced workers will be needed initially, that doesn’t explain why not one entry level position could be filled in B.C. (or from the rest of Canada for that matter). If it was a simple question of training, why wasn’t CNC (to take just one college as an example) approached years ago when application was made for the underground work? If not CNC, then why not the labour unions that have been active with mining in the north for decades?
Didn’t anybody ask themselves how this mine would actually put people to work in the towns and regions that will support it? Maybe the assumption all along was that HD Mining would find local workers. Given that the unemployment rate up here is 10.5 percent, that would have been a reasonable assumption to make, but it’s proven to be completely mistaken.
At least the positions are temporary, and that’s the one thing that the provincial government is heavily relying upon to save face. Now that it’s all out in the open it will be a shame if the mine is allowed to move beyond the initial exploration phase without a program in place to train B.C. men and woman for the permanent positions if and when they open up in 2015.
Mineral exploration is brandished about as part of the economic future of B.C., especially in the north. A lot of young workers in our region trust their government to look after their interests. They should be disappointed this week.