Hundreds of workers in northern British Columbia will soon be able to upgrade their skills in the hopes of being able to obtain sustainable employment, thanks to a new partnership between the United Steelworkers and the province.
“We want to make sure that British Columbia’s workers have the skills they need,” said Pat Bell, Minister of Forests and Range. “With changes taking place in forestry, this training will help workers meet the changing demands of the industry and northern economy.”
Under the Labour Market Agreement (LMA) between B.C. and the federal government, the province is providing $2 million to the United Steelworkers Local 1-424 to co-ordinate employment and training services in northern communities served by the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition.
Beginning this month, the employment services will be offered to job-threatened forestry workers and those ineligible for Employment Insurance. The services are available to both forest and non-forest workers.
The United Steelworkers will tailor the programming to the future needs of industry and has hired a forest worker co-ordinator to act as a liaison between workers and employers and to identify training opportunities and long-term employment prospects.
“This pilot project will allow us to work with those who are facing significant challenges due to the downturn in the economy,” said Frank Everitt, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1-424. “We know that the demand for skilled labourers is only going to increase, so it’s important that we work co-operatively to meet the needs of employers as well as people looking for work or improving their present skill level.”
The Steelworkers will co-ordinate activities with local service providers in 11 communities in Northern B.C. Participants in the employment and training services program will receive skills assessments, assistance with personal portfolio plans and job search skills, one-on-one career and education counselling, specialized training and upgrading courses such as Level 3 First Aid, lumber grading and log scaling, and, potentially, work placements and pre-apprenticeship training.
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