The labour pool is drying up.
The working population is aging and retiring, youths are expected to leave the city, and the population growth is flat or declining, according to a report by the Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table that released its findings last week.
The study was conducted to examine the Prince Rupert and Port Edward economy and labour force as the regional economy shifts from a natural resource industry into global trade through increasing port activity.
Labour demands are expected to increase once the container terminal expansion is completed in 2017. If the Port of Prince Rupert expands further south in the next 10 years, the study estimates more than 10 per cent of the workforce will be employed by the Fairview Container Terminal.
But the report states that by 2030, the working age population is expected to drop to 60 per cent from its current level of approximately 67 per cent.
“The local workforce can meet the demands of the terminal expansion for 2017, but at the expense of the other industrial, retail and hospitality employers in the area,” the study states.
There are higher proportions of unemployed people, First Nations and tradespeople in the North Coast than in the rest of the province. Yet, there are lower proportions of high school graduates and immigrants. The high levels of unemployment is due to seasonal work.
“To overcome the labour shortage in this region, detailed local planning efforts will need to be made to maximize the local workforce,” said Krista Bax, executive director, Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table. “Developing employer driven solutions to break down existing barriers to get more people in the local labour force is needed to increase participation of local First Nations, women and the local part-time workforce.”
The region’s population has 43 per cent First Nations, compared to 5.4 per cent in the whole province and the report found there is still unemployment and underemployment among the young populations from Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla and Kitkatla.
To increase participation in the labour force, the study offers three solutions: increase participation of First Nations in the city and on the reserves, increase participation of the part-time workforce and increase female participation.
“Prince Rupert and Port Edward are in an economic transition as we move toward an economy based on trade and services,” said Jim Rushton, manager of labour, corporate and government affairs at DP World, and member of the studies project committee. “While the impact of industrial growth in the region will put pressures on specific industries, it also presents opportunities to attract new talent to the region and develop sustainable workforce strategies for those who already live here.”
The study includes speculation that if a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal was built in Prince Rupert, the construction phase would bring thousands of jobs to the region, but ongoing operation would offer fewer opportunities with specialty skilled jobs.
The scope of the study examined the current labour pool in Prince Rupert and Port Edward and what impacts the labour supply and the sources of labour. The project committee was created by the Skills Table, BC Maritime Employers Association and incorporated selected employers from Prince Rupert and Port Edward.
The project was managed by the Skills Table and funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.