THE TRADES Communities across northern British Columbia have become accustomed to the boom and bust that comes from being reliant on a resource-based economy.
When the demand and price of commodities is high, work is plentiful. When demand falls, so does employment and economic development, but there is huge promise in a number of massive projects being planned for the region, including the planned Site C dam, on the Peace River, which is expected to provide 10,000 persons years of direct employment during the construction. As well as a handful of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects, which have the potential to be a big stimulus for job creation, and a boom to the overall economy.
“This is the first time since the 1950s and 60s that we’ve had this scale of proposed infrastructure investment,” says Joe Shayler, Business Manager for the United Association of Plumber and Pipefitters, Local 170. “Opportunities for people in northern communities has diminished with many industries having closed in those regions. These proposed projects provide great opportunities to residents of these communities for long-term employment in the trades.”
“We have an opportunity to rejuvenate the north and provide long-term employment, so families can stay together,”
Steady employment means more than just a paycheque. It contributes to the health of a community. Shayler notes that families in some cases are separated due to a lack of jobs in their communities. As a result of the lack of employment opportunities, people, especially young workers are forced to find employment elsewhere. He believes the proposed LNG projects will play a big role in strengthening communities, by making opportunities available for training and jobs.
UA Local 170 as well as sister locals in other provinces train in steamfitting, welding, plumbing, sprinklerfitting, and instrumentation leading to Interprovincial Red Seal Certifications, which provides members with mobility across Canada and the US. UA Local 170 along with all of the other BC Building Trades Unions are committed to making available opportunities for employment, apprenticeships and skills training for people that live in the north and throughout B.C.
Skills development leads to successful careers
“The proposed LNG projects are projected to take four and a half to five years to build. This provides an individual an opportunity to work their way through their apprenticeship during the construction phase of the project, acquiring the necessary on the job training hours and in-school technical training in each of the four years of the apprenticeship. Successful completion of training qualifies individuals to apply for jobs maintaining these facilities within the northern communities, or elsewhere,” says Shayler. “This investment is not just a job for today, but a career for the future.”
The importance of getting young people interested in the trades is not lost on people, such as Shayler, who see a career in the trades as a ticket to go anywhere the work is. It has a lot of portability. Another important consideration is replacing our retiring workforce with younger workers.
“We have an opportunity to rejuvenate the north and provide long-term employment, so families can stay together,” says Shayler. “This is good for the communities themselves, and the entire province.”