A provincial program to take people off of welfare and place them in northern construction jobs will be focusing on Kitimat and Prince Rupert in the northwest and on Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson and Fort St. John in the northeast.
The plan, described as a pilot one for now, is to find and train 250 people overall with the expectation that at least 60 per cent of the recruits be on social assistance.
The BC Construction Association, which represents approximately 2,000 companies, has been hired to do the training thanks to a $2.92 million budget, explains jobs ministry official Andy Watson in an email.
“Depending on the success of the pilot, it is hoped this initiative can be expanded to other communities in need starting sometime in the new year,” wrote Watson.
There’s going to be a formal evaluation of the pilot program in November.
The program, called Job Match, was heavily criticized when first proposed in the spring as being an attempt by the province to place southern welfare recipients in northern jobs.
Called Welfare Air by its detractors, the provincial NDP said provincial programs should first concentrate on training northern residents for northern jobs.
The pilot program’s emphasis is on placing northern residents first in northern jobs.
“Only in the event that a job opening cannot be filled by an individual in northern B.C. would relocation from another part of the province be considered,” Watson wrote.
“The level of support that will be provided to an individual relocating to fill a job opening will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. One of the objectives of this pilot initiative is to determine what people need, and what a reasonable level of support to provide is.”
Two weeks ago the provincial government announced it would spend $17 million on skills training.
Approximately $5 million of that is to come to northern post secondary school institutions but how much will end up at Northwest Community College is unknown.
Monthly jobless figures so far this year place the rate in the northwest in the 12 per cent range, nearly double the provincial average.
That’s despite large industrial projects now already underway in the region and more being planned.