Ridley Terminals wants to see more of Prince Rupert’s young people receive their trades training and their apprenticeship in the community so that they will stay once they are ready for a permanent job.
The president of Ridley Terminals, George Dorsey and the president of the ILWU Local 523, Andy Vandermeer came to city hall on Monday to tell council about their intentions.
“[We want] to find a way so that the next 18-year-old [that graduates] can see a path to trades and high paying jobs locally. Because there is a high probability that those jobs will exist five years from now and I don’t think we’ll be prepared if we don’t start that process now,” said Dorsey.
Dorsey and Vandermeer believe that the expansion and railway corridor projects currently underway on Ridley Island will mean lots of new trade jobs in the coming years, the issue is that not only do young people need access to the training, they also need on-the-job experience.
“It’s easy enough to go out and get a course, but you have to get some experience, no one wants to hire a kid who has just taken a course they want some experience as well,” says Vandermeer.
To make sure young people get that experience, Ridley Terminals wants to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities in town, but they aren’t sure yet how they would do that. It’s up to individual businesses to decide how many apprentices they want to take on, but for its part, Ridley says they will be increasing their number of apprentices.
“We’re just hoping that other companies will follow suit,” Michelle Bryant, Ridley Terminal’s director of Corporate Affairs, who has been working on the apprenticeship issue, said.
There’s one big obstacle though: the collective agreement with their union. Under that agreement, all apprenticeships at Ridley Terminals must be offered to union members first, and only what is left over can be offered to young people offsite.
According to the union’s president, there are so many union members who would want to retrain for a trades job that the young people fresh out of school might never get a Ridley Terminals apprenticeship at all.
“The only way I see [young people] getting onsite is if they offer an awful lot of apprenticeships and only a few of our members want them. I don’t think they’re going to do that because George [Dorsey] doesn’t want to lose too many of his [equipment] operators,” said Vandermeer.
Bryant says that the company wants to negotiate an agreement with the union that would allow them to get around that rule.
“We’re definitely trying to work with them to open doors for opportunities, but until there’s something written into the collective agreement or a memorandum of understanding we’re a little bit stuck,” she said.
For the moment Ridley is setting its sights on local trades training instead. The company is hoping to get other local industries to sit down for a roundtable discussion next month to figure out how many trained tradesmen they’re going to need in the next several years, and in what specialties.
When they have that figured out, they’ll give the information to educators like the Northwest Community College so that it can hopefully provide more training in Prince Rupert in those areas.
“Michelle [Bryant] and I are in touch once a week, she’s working with her team and with our trades team here so we can develop a really mutually beneficial partnership,” Dave O’Leary, NWCC’s vice-president of Institutional Advancement, said.