Opinion

Developing a skilled workforce for the northwest

The Northwest Transmission Line (NTL) is key to new  economic development in British Columbia’s Northwest.

B.C. has some of the best mining products in the world, including coal, copper, gold, molybdenum, silver, lead and zinc - much of it in the Northwest.

The NTL is a 287-kilovolt line that runs 344 kilometres from the Skeena Substation (near Terrace) to a new substation that will be built near Bob Quinn Lake. NTL will be larger than most British Columbians could imagine, and will contain enough steel to build one-and-a-half Eiffel towers. The line now is under construction and is expected to be energized in spring 2014.

The transmission line will create jobs, provide a connection point for mining and other resource development projects and be a link to  clean power for communities in the region. Mines like Red Chris will be serviced by the new NTL, and it will likely be its first industrial customer. Once the mine is fully operational, material from the mine will be produced daily and transported to the Port of Stewart where it will be shipped to overseas markets.

In order to fully realize the potential of the NTL, we need to ensure that there is a properly trained workforce ready to the meet the labour demands that are being created. Conservatively, it is expected that the Northwest will be home to 4,000 new construction and operational jobs and as many as 12,000 by 2021.

In recognition of these future labour needs in the region, the Northwest Labour Market Partnership Program was created in 2010 with support from the provincial government, BC Hydro and other partners. This partnership program is led by a group of representatives from industry, training institutions, First Nations and communities.

In order to ensure that as many local people as possible benefit from the creation of these new jobs, the Northwest Labour Market Partnership Program researched the gap between the types and numbers of jobs that will be created and the existing workforce, and then developed practical strategies.

Over the next 10 months, this program will launch programs and projects that will provide skills training and encourage trained workers to move to northwest B.C. They will also promote Aboriginal training and employment and enhance partnerships to ensure that labour market development activities, strategies and programs are co-ordinated.

For more information on the work of the Northwest Labour Market Partnership Program, visit: http://www.partnerships2020.ca/about-the-nwlmp/

A summit, Partnerships 2020, is planned for March 2013 and will bring together players from industry, local governments, Aboriginal groups, economic development agencies and educational institutions. Summit participants will explore ways to support the development and establishment of a well-trained workforce for industry in northwest B.C.

Together, we are working toward a prosperous future full of economic opportunities for B.C.’s Northwest. A skilled northern workforce will benefit B.C. communities for generations to come.

­— Rich Coleman is the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum for the Province of British Columbia.

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