With an increasing number of residents heading up north or east for work, local employers are struggling to find skilled workers.
Even though the former is becoming a norm, there is help on the way, according to B.C.’s labour minister.
Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, spoke to Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce members Thursday morning at the Village Green Hotel.
She addressed the issues facing both workers and employers as she detailed the province’s skills plan, which includes jobs coming down the LNG (liquid natural gas) pipeline.
“One thing I’ve hearing is people are increasingly moving up north to the oil patch to find jobs,” said chamber president Adrian Johnson. “Another thing I’m hearing is (employers) struggle to find people with the skill set here in Vernon.
“So we have a mismatch.”
In fact, one million jobs are going to need filling in B.C., two-thirds of which are due to an aging population.
Therefore Bond has created a “seamless” 10-year skills plan targeting against the job demands.
“If there’s going to be jobs in the province we want our youth to be trained for them,” she said.
A lot of that caters to LNG, which is a major factor in the province’s jobs plan, as well as economic benefits.
“We are talking about trillions of dollars of benefit to British Columbia,” said Bond, noting nine projects that have received licenses and another 18 proposals.
“We have the opportunity with LNG in B.C.
“That would generate 100,000 jobs in our province.
“It’s not all about those steel-toed boots and hard hats, but it’s a lot.”
The jobs plan also expands the number and type of people working in B.C. to those underrepresented such as First Nations, women and persons with disabilities.
But the northern communities aren’t the only ones benefitting.
“Vernon has a critical role to play,” said Bond, as small businesses will be necessary for various needs such as accounting and stationary supplies, to name a couple.
“This is not all about Terrace or Kitimat or Prince Rupert, it’s a lot about those areas… but the spinoff benefits are amazing for our entire province.”
Small businesses are urged to connect with LNG Buy B.C., an online tool connecting the project proponents with companies big and small across the province.
As for the current situation of living in one place and working in another, Bond said like it or not that is becoming the norm.
“There is criticism about fly-in, fly-out jobs but it’s a way of life for many people now.”
The key, she said, is to make sure they keep coming back.
“My goal is to make sure that they’re coming back this way to jobs in British Columbia.”
Youth are urged to start early to prepare for their futures and Bond says the WorkBC website a great resource.
The situation in the North Okanagan is not unique, but Bond says this region’s concerns have been particularly well versed thanks to Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.
“He literally wears down the carpet to your door talking about this place and the needs of your community.”
Foster attended the breakfast, along with Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky and Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business.