Between now and 2020 the BC Government projects that the demand for workers in the northwest see the third highest annual growth in the province, at 1.3 per cent per year, and Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell says it is not difficult to see why.
“In the northwest over the net 10 years there are nine projects moving forward that will generate $15 billion in construction. To put it in perspective, it is like building every infrastructure project for the Olympics every year for 10 years – there was $1.5 billion in infrastructure for the Olympics and there is $15 billion planned for the northwest,” he said during a July 21 media call.
“Whether it is the Rio Tinto Alcan modernization, the Kitimat LNG project, the LNG pipeline to Summit Lake, the Northwest Transmission Line, and I can go on and on, this will truly be the northwest’s decade unlike anything we’ve seen since the 1960s. We’re very excited about that.”
Another key driver for the regional economy is BC exports to the Asia Pacific, which Bell said were up 27 per cent and valued at $5.5 billion in the first five months of 2011. Bell said those numbers put exports to Asia very close to exports to the US.
“In terms of overall exports, I think it is possible that China could surpass the US in the next three years. Total exports to China are mirroring exports to the US,” he said.
“I didn’t think China would overtake the US in wood exports in 2011, I thought 2012 or 2013, and many people though China would never overtake the US so I tend to be optimistic on this file.”
But with the growth comes a challenge for the province, one that Bell says needs to be addressed going forward.
“We’re all familiar with the changing demographics. We don’t want to admit it but we’re all getting older….There will be over one million job openings in the next 10 years, and two-thirds of those will be through retirement,” he said.
“By 2016 the number of job openings will surpass the number of people in the labour force, so we will have more positions available than we will have people to fill them and that is something we are working to resolve.”