Northern Electrification project

Monday, September 19, 2011

Construction unions cheer job creation through expected announcement this week of a new northern electrification project and possible $15 billion in new mines and hydro projects but say BC must quickly fix the broken apprenticeship training system.

VANCOUVER – BC’s construction unions are anticipating a major announcement by Premier Christy Clark this week that will open the Northwest region of the Province to over $15 billion in potential new mining and hydro projects.

However, the BC and Yukon Building Trades Council’s Executive Director, Tom Sigurdson says that it is critical that the Province fix its broken apprenticeship training programs in order to ensure that thousands of construction workers get the full advantage of new job opportunities to learn skills that will last a lifetime.

“The unions are encouraged by the recent decision by BC Hydro to move forward on the long anticipated Northwest Transmission Line (NTL)”, says Building Trades Executive Director Tom Sigurdson, “and a related jobs strategy Premier Clark is expected to outline this week”.

The 344-kilometre NTL is set to begin construction along the Stewart-Cassiar corridor and will have the capacity to carry 287 kilovolts. The NTL is a prerequisite vital infrastructure utility for numerous proposed mines and hydro projects in the area to proceed.

While the Building Trades unions believe the NTL will expand northern mines and power generation, they are calling on the government to fix the broken trades training system in the Province. According to Building Trades leaders, the ‘self-help’ training model, introduced in 2003, has shortchanged and abandoned thousands of young workers to date.

“Little has changed since the Auditor General, John Doyle, came to the same conclusion in 2008,” according to Sigurdson. “Thousands of apprentices are lost in the system, not knowing when or how to register for technical training or unable to find new sponsoring employers after construction lay-offs.

“We’ve lost eight years of apprenticeship training opportunities in BC,” said the Building Trades President, Lee Loftus, who is also the Business Manager of the Insulators Union. “If it hadn’t been for construction union apprenticeship programs, there would have been very little training at all.

“We ask the government to finally recognize the contribution of union apprenticeship programs and to include labour as an equal partner in the governance bodies of the Industry Training Authority (ITA) and on Industry Training Organizations (ITOs),” Loftus said.

Currently, there are no labour representatives on the ITA Board. In 2002, BC eliminated requirements for apprenticeship ratios and compulsory certification on construction job sites. Support to assist trainees and apprentices were cut from 150 to just 12 staff in 2003. While ITA staffing has since increased to 50, there are still no direct supports for apprentices as exist in other provinces.

In Alberta, the Apprenticeship and Industry Training model includes equal participation by labour representatives on all of its Boards and Advisory Committees. Registered apprentices are supported by the AIT to ensure that they take time off to complete annual technical and classroom training off the job.

While Loftus is encouraged by employment opportunities that are to be announced by Premier Clark this week, he cautions the government to take advantage of this unique training opportunity by addressing the failed apprenticeship system in the Province.

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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