In some ways the town of Kitimat is returning to its 1950s roots: immigrant workers will be a needed reality to build the mega-projects proposed for the region.
But, says Kelly Pollack, executive director of the Immigrant Employment Council of BC, the labour landscape is entirely different this time around.
“It’s a competition, you’ve got to get out there and compete a little harder than back in the day when people were just looking for a good job and a good place to live,” said Pollack. “I think people expect more and the reality is, it’s a national issue of trying to attract people, and it’s an international issue. Many immigrants will feel that if it doesn’t work here…somebody else will want me.”
Which brings us to last Wednesday’s forum, which was designed together with the Northwest Community College and the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, which sought to look at the challenges of getting immigrant workers to Kitimat.
“All of the numbers say…that eventually there’s just not going to be enough people,” she said. “If you had every man, woman and child working there still won’t be enough people.”
The challenges to attracting workers can include things such as not even knowing the community exists, to not knowing how to access resources like knowing which schools or churches the town has.
But whatever the town promises, it has to deliver.
“Whatever you brand, whatever you say, it has to be real,” said Pollack.
A lack of local skilled workers is a reality the Northwest Community College has also come to terms with.
“If we even were trained up and had career ready individuals that were currently unemployed throughout the entire north, it still would not meet the needs of the workforce for the future for the next 20 years.”