Region faces workforce expansion

TNRD chair John Ranta speaks at unveiling of Venture Kamloops study. That's Health Minister Terry Lake on the right, back to camera.

TNRD chair John Ranta speaks at unveiling of Venture Kamloops study. That’s Health Minister Terry Lake on the right, back to camera.

The region will experience significant expansion in the workforce over the next several years and will face labour supply shortages unless it comes up with a strategy to retain and recruit new workers, says a new study.

Venture Kamloops released the results of a year-long labour market study on Friday afternoon (Oct. 30, 2015) that confirms a skilled labour shortage will grow. I attended the unveiling in the Hilton Doubletree with about 50 others including TNRD chair John Ranta and vice chair Willow Macdonald.

“One of the things we heard over and over again was a shortage of skilled labour,” said Colin O’Leary, manager of business retention and expansion for Venture Kamloops, in explaining the need for the study to quantify the labour supply and demand in the region. Other studies haven’t been specific to the Thompson-Nicola region, he said.

The study took in a region from Merritt to McBride, Chase and 100 Mile House.

Rob Malatest of R.A. Malatest and Associates, the Victoria firm that did the study, said it’s not a blueprint, “It’s about where you can be but there are some things you have to address.”

He said one of the key findings is a need to find a lot of new workers to replace those who are retiring, and to fill jobs in several new industrial projects that are on the books. “The region has a big hole to fill in terms of replacing workers.”

Malatest said the region can expect to add more than 30,000 workers between now and 2025, and there’s a possible shortfall of 10,000. He added, “The types of workers we’re going to need in the region are quite a bit different than the ones we’ve needed in the past.”

While the top jobs will be for qualified and experienced tradespeople and engineers, they’ll  cover a range of skills and industries, he said, and new ways of training will have to be found — such as online, mobile education in which trainers go to rural areas, and providing more opportunities to train on evenings and weekends. The region must move away from “Kamloops-centric” training, he said.

Malatest said concrete recommendations on how to achieve these things will have to be developed, perhaps through a regional labour force training committee with subregional “tables.”

“We don’t want to see this turn into another binder on a shelf,” said O’Leary in wrapping up the session.

Funding for the study came from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation with partner contributions from the TNRD, BCLC, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, KGHM Ajax, Domtar, Community Future and Kinder Morgan. The full report can be found on the Venture Kamloops website at http://venturekamloops.com/vk-kamloops-labour-market-study/.

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