Opinion

Training plan for northwest identifies gaps, offers action

Over the past six months the Northwest Regional Workforce Table has been consulting with industry, employers, First Nations, post-secondary institutions, training providers, labour and local government to better understand the opportunities and challenges facing the region as industry investment increases.

We gathered data, integrated a wide array of perspectives and are ready to provide some clear recommendations for filling skills gaps and supporting economic growth in the region.

As a result of this work, the Regional Skills Training Plan for the Northwest will soon be published to address specific needs for relevant skills that will allow the Northwest to take full advantage of economic opportunities here, while also laying out some powerful, collaborative solutions to overcome the challenges unique to our region.

Key factors shaping labour market reality in the Northwest include a skills gap between the current worker pool and upcoming job opportunities, barriers to full youth participation in the local labour market and the critical need for stronger collaboration between employers, training providers, government, institutions and learners. There are also some specific challenges around training availability in the region, including the need for more accessible training options, and gaps in the training that is offered for occupations expected to be most in demand in the Northwest over the coming decade.

Five goals we outline in the Plan include providing encouragement to high school students by presenting a bright economic future for the region, developing an industry liaison program for high schools, and expanding dual credit initiatives; helping workers upgrade skills to ensure access to jobs that major projects will create; increasing the participation of Aboriginal people in these high-demand occupations by working with First Nations and Aboriginal communities to address their unique training needs; encouraging ongoing collaboration with industry to address training gaps and modifying existing training to support the high-demand occupations; and keeping people informed about jobs in the region to encourage collaboration in achieving these goals.

But all of these ambitious initiatives will need robust participation from those of us living and participating in the Northwest economy. When the Regional Skills Training Plan is released in December it will be available on the Northwest Community College website (http://www.nwcc.bc.ca). Regional Workforce Table members will be attending upcoming regional events to talk about the plan to encourage people to get involved. We want you to read the plan and consider how you can participate to support its implementation.

This plan is about collaboration and partnerships and we will need broad support to move it forward. We hope you will meet the challenge and help the Northwest achieve its full potential in the new economy. The opportunities are vast and the potential is endless.

— Rose Klukas is the Economic Development Officer for the District of Kitimat, and co-chair of the Northwest Regional Workforce Table along with Heather Adel (Misty Isles Economic Development Society) and Murray Slezak (Shell Canada).

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