Part 2: A proactive & progressive approach to support workforce development in British Columbia

Manley McLachlan's picture
Manley McLachlan, President, British Columbia Construction Association
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When Gastech News asked Manley McLachlan, President of the British Columbia Construction Association, about concrete job opportunities in British Columbia, he says: “There are about 4,000-6,000 people required on BC’s job sites.

We’ve also got Site C, the BC Hydro dam. The project RFP for the site work there shows a multi-billion-dollar project that will likely employ upwards of 8,000 or 10,000 people in about 5 or 6 years.   This hits the same timeline as peak construction on a number of the LNG plants. There’s going to be a very big need for skilled workers. It takes consistent effort to keep bringing people into the industry.

We cannot expect a young person leaving high school to be able to take a position on an industrial site and be able to produce in any substantial way. It takes 5 to 10 years to create a skilled tradesperson.  We’re talking to kids in schools now in order to improve the image of what it’s like to work in the trades and bring them into the sector.

In terms of young people, I think the process that’s been put in play by the British Columbia government to revamp the education system and focus on trades is positive. It’s more than just getting ready for an anticipated LNG industry, they’re getting ready for retirements and increased levels of activity in the industry that may not actually be LNG related. It’s never a good thing to ramp up your training and then ramp down in anticipation of a slowdown. If there’s one thing we’ve been encouraging the government to do, it’s to sustain their investment and the emphasis on maintaining the capacity to train people so that they’re ready for the jobs when they appear here.

Gastech News: You said the provincial government is doing a lot to implement this strategy and message. In addition to the government and project proponents such as EPC contractors, are there any others stakeholders that you engage with on a regular basis to ensure your message is stronger, louder and more robust?

Manley McLachlan: We’ve done some excellent and important work with LNG Canada by supporting their goals in workforce development. LNG Canada put a million dollars into creating a new fund called the LNG Canada Trades Training Fund. They put that funding into the Construction Foundation of British Columbia, and it’s targeted to support apprentices by paying their tuition. Importantly, this is not just entry level but 2nd 3rd and 4th-year apprentices. It's about providing British Columbians with access to training and giving them the financial resources they need to advance themselves in the apprenticeship system or to advance their skill set.

BCCA administers the Trades Training Fund for LNG Canada, and to date over $500,000 has been committed. Slightly more than 400 individuals have already been supported in the program, and the vast majority are apprentices. It’s important for employers to note that this is a private fund that’s been put in place by LNG Canada, and it’s available to all the trades across BC.

This fund is an excellent example of an LNG proponent recognising that there needs to be a continued investment in moving people through the apprenticeship system. LNG Canada’s goal is to hire British Columbians first and support small businesses who may not have the resources to help their apprentices cover training costs. Most employees are released from their jobs during the six weeks or so it takes to complete the technical training at the colleges, so they not only have to pay about $1,200 for tuition, they also have to give up a month or two of their income. We recently did a survey of the employers in which 85% said this training would not have been possible without support from the fund.

The result of LNG Canada’s commitment is that new apprentices are moving through the system, developing their skills. LNG Canada needs to be commended for their vision. They recognise that there are a variety of trades that are going to be required. It’s a generous approach and it’s simple: you apply online and we simply confirm the individual is enrolled in training. When the training starts, we write a cheque to the institution out of the fund so the individual doesn’t need to write a cheque. They’re not tying their cash up and waiting for a rebate.

BCCA is very pleased and I believe LNG Canada is happy with the response. It’s evidence of a very proactive and progressive approach to supporting workforce development here in British Columbia. For more information or to apply for funding from the LNG Canada Trades Training Fund just go to the BCCA website."

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Manley McLachlan, President of the British Columbia Construction Association attended the 2016 Canada LNG Conference & Exhibition in Vancouver. Find out more about next year’s event which will take place from 16-18 May 2017. The Canada LNG Conference & Exhibition is where the global LNG community meets to discuss and develop the future of Canada’s LNG industry.

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