The potential $11 billion liquefied natural gas terminal coming to Prince Rupert after the federal government’s stamp of approval Sept. 27 will bring an influx of employment through project and through emerging businesses.
In conversation with some of the business leaders and academics who contribute to the area, the impacts could be huge but preparation before the project begins is essential to reap the benefits.
The director of the executive MBA program in Aboriginal Business and Leadership at Simon Fraser University, Mark Selman, has been involved in the North Coast region with First Nations job training and in delivering the executive MBA program to Northwest Community College. Selman said there will be a mixed impact.
“It will be increasingly difficult to keep employees because almost anyone who can work in a hotel can work in a work camp and the wages they will be paying in work camps will be higher than what any of the hotels are paying people,” Selman said.
He has been working with Aboriginal education and training to make sure they are ready for this kind of development. As of right now, he said we won’t be ready. Last year, an Aboriginal skills trade program called Pathways to Success helped place 180 Tsimshian women and men into jobs, but Selman said those placements haven’t continued.
“Right now there’s little training happening and very few job placements happening,” he said.
Anyone with a track record of successful employment are going to be placed on a list of possible hires for the project. For people who haven’t worked in the last two years or have only worked on short-term jobs they will be considered last, Selman explained.
On a more positive note, the big opportunities will come from indirect jobs from new and existing companies in Prince Rupert that will provide services during the construction phase of the project and for the people who come to live in the city long-term.
The president of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce, Keith Lambourne, said that with an increase in population there will be more confidence restored to the business community. There will be more start-ups and more people will follow their dream of owning their own business.
“With an announcement like this, on such a huge scale , it can only mean that we’re going to get more investment in Prince Rupert from folks both here already and from folks outside of Prince Rupert. It opens the door to a world of exciting opportunity,” Lambourne said.
As for the project itself, Selman said the company will probably start recruiting for workers within a year of when they announce their commitment to go ahead. Prince Rupert and the surrounding First Nations communities will need to push people to get them ready for employment.
“If they don’t find ways to make that investment now they’ll pay for it in how much benefit they will get from the project,” Selman said.