Provincial plan to hire regional jobs coordinator hoping for success in second posting

A plan to provide skilled workers for the region’s large industrial projects has hit an employment snag of its own – it can’t find someone.

A provincial government plan to provide skilled workers for the region’s large industrial projects has hit an employment snag of its own – it can’t find someone to do the job.

A call for applicants closed off last month without anyone applying and now the province’s sponsoring agency, BC Hydro, is trying once again.

What’s wanted is a senior official working out of Terrace who will promote and encourage the development of training programs geared toward the skills needed by companies as their projects move along.

A budget of just over $500,000 has been set aside for the program which is to run from this August to November 2013.

The initial plan was to have the official in place and working by last month.

There’s no specific payment listed but indications are that the official is to be considered a fairly senior civil servant carrying an annual pay packet in the $100,000 range.

For that wage, the person is expected to find money to run the jobs program in the long-term, bring together local governments, various provincial agencies, First Nations and the Nisga’a Nation and have them participate in jobs training, promote the jobs program generally and prepare a program to encourage skilled workers who have moved away to return home.

The person will also be expected to host a regional development summit and work out of office space provided at Northwest Community College.

Those interested have to bid on the position and there’s a closing date of next week.

The idea for the position came out of a BC Hydro committee struck in response to the construction of its Northwest Transmission Line, which will provide power up Hwy37 North.

The transmission line will lead to new developments such as run-of-river projects and mines.

But studies commissioned by the BC Hydro committee estimate that anywhere from $8 billion to $25 billion will be spent on large projects in the next 10 years requiring anywhere from 9,500 to 32,500 workers.

At these levels, committee-comissioned students found “there is a shortage of trained and qualified persons from the northwest to meet demand,” indicates a committee summary of its work.

“The current labour supply cannot meet the expected demand for skilled labour and without quick action, companies will be forced to import workers from other regions,” the summary continued.

But as a renewed attempt is made to find a jobs program official, new statistics place the northwest as having the highest unemployment rate in the province.

June’s level of a 12.2 per cent jobless for the area from Haida Gwaii to just this side of Vanderhoof is verging on double the provincial rate of 6.7 per cent and more than May’s figure of 11.6 per cent. Last June, the jobless rate for the northwest was 7 per cent.

As well, the northwest’s jobless rate is the only one in the province in the double digit range. The next highest rate is 7.8 per cent and that’s in the Cariboo.

If the jobless percentage rate is climbing, the number of people who are working has dropped.

Last June, the number of people employed stood at 44,100 but this June, the number is 38,900.

There were 3,300 unemployed people in June 2011 and 5,400 unemployed this June.

These figure are not based on Employment Insurance data but on interviews in the region of people age 15 and older who declare that they are part of the labour force whether actually working or not.

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