By Maureen Latta
The race is on to pipe resources across Northwest BC to the coast and then ship them to the markets of Asia. You’ve seen the headlines. A retrofitted ferry ship cruises into Kitimat to house 600 labourers working on Rio Tinto Alcan’s $3.3-billion aluminum smelter modernization project. Enbridge seeks approval for a pipeline to pump Alberta crude oil to a marine export terminal at Kitimat. Pacific Trail Pipelines Project proposes a 463-kilometre pipeline that will carry natural gas from Summit Lake, 55 kilometres north of Prince George, to the proposed Kitimat LNG facility.
These are just a few of the projects planned or underway in the Northwest. New hotel projects are also in the planning stages in Terrace and construction labourers will be needed.
Terrace is a city nestled in the mountains along the Skeena River and ground zero for people hoping to get work on mining, forestry, liquefied natural gas, oil and gas, and hydro power projects.
Workers with skilled trades are in demand, especially if they have some level of apprentice training, according to Dyani Simon, Specialized Services Coordinator at Northwest Training Ltd., the WorkBC Employment Services Centre in Terrace, BC.
Labour surveys indicate critical shortages in several of the building trade classifications, including operating engineers, carpenters, millwrights, bricklayers, cement masons, iron workers, sheet metal workers, and electricians.
Career Sense asked Simon for her top tips for people seeking work in the Northwest.
Secure housing first
If you show up looking for work in your car, you’re probably going to be living in your car. Rental vacancy rates are at zero in Terrace and Kitimat, and even seasonal workers with jobs have sometimes had to camp on the river bank.
“The biggest thing that I would suggest to someone before they come is to have secured some sort of housing…even if they have a fifth wheel or a camper or something that they can bring to stay in,” says Simon. “A lot of our hotels are even operating at full capacity.”
Get hired before you come
Apply online. Make connections with employers before coming to the Northwest. (See links at the bottom of this article.) Simon says skilled labourers from Fort St. John and other boom economy towns are coming to look for jobs at Northwest Training Ltd.’s job resource centre, so the competition with people who already have experience is fierce.
“There is so much competition for the jobs, and the other half of that is that a lot of the jobs haven’t started yet,” says Simon. “A lot [of projects] are still working through the proposal phase. So there is lots of actual work, but there’s a lot more actual work coming and it’s not here yet. People are coming pre-emptively, and it’s too soon. Try to get hired before you come.”
Terrace presents opportunities either to start your own business or take over an existing one from retiring business owners, says Simon. Terrace serves as a hub for towns and work camps in the Northwest, and the influx of thousands of workers requires inventive solutions.
“With so many people coming, it makes such opportunity, especially if people wanted to create any sort of business that provides a service, especially things like entertainment and restaurants and things that people want to do when they have their downtime,” says Simon.
WorkBC’s Self-Employment Program delivered through Community Futures provides help with business plan development for eligible applicants receiving Employment Insurance (or who have applied for EI within the last three years). Simon pointed out that to be eligible, applicants have to be living in the region. “You’d have to be living here first, even if it’s just in a fifth wheel.”
A great place to live
If you can overcome the challenges of finding housing and a job, Terrace offers a great lifestyle for those who love the outdoors. Terrace offers hiking, biking, camping, white-water kayaking, rafting, and golfing. The community is strong and offers opportunities for local investment. For example, locals bought the ski hill at Shames Mountain as a co-op to keep it running (see mymountaincoop.ca).
Watch this video about Terrace
iChinook is an interactive, online, information forum that connects all stakeholders with opportunities in the Northwest. An initiative of the Northwest Labour Market Partnership, iChinook brings together industry, government, First Nations, education, and small business in an effort to promote the growth of skilled labour in Northwest BC. Create an account online now to access information regarding training, education, and career choices.
Northern Gateway, one of the largest private infrastructure projects in BC history, will create thousands of new, well-paying jobs. The pipeline will create more than 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs. Northern Gateway has committed to providing more than $3 million in core funding for a Gateway Education and Training Fund to support construction skills training.
Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership Skills and Business Inventory Database is a database of applicants available to work with contractors and employees for various job opportunities on the NGP project. Sign up for the Northern Gateway newsletter and stay informed.
Kitimat Modernization Project is a major industrial construction project located in Kitimat. Construction is governed by a Project Labour Agreement between the Kitimat Modernization Employer Association and the Coalition of British Columbia Building Trade Unions. At peak, the project will employ more than 2,000 workers. Construction is in progress with commissioning and start-up to take place in 2015.
The WorkBC website allows you to search by region, occupation, or industry to uncover important labour market information.
Northwest Training Ltd. is the WorkBC Employment Services Centre serving the Northwest. You can find job postings on its Facebook page or pay a visit to the resource centre in Terrace. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NorthwestTrainingLtd