Worker attraction initiative gets underway

Worker attraction initiative gets underway

Attracting workforce and residents migrating from larger urban centres crucial

The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine has received $10,000 from provincial government to develop a marketing initiative that will attract skilled professionals and new residents to the Northwest.

District Economic Development Officer Deklan Corstanje said the region had applied for a grant to kickstart the Northwest Regional Workforce Attraction Initiative.

“The Northwest communities of Kitimat, Terrace and Prince Rupert are working with the RDKS to complete a feasibility study for a broad marketing initiative that would promote the Northwest as a region of choice,” said Corstanje.

“The opportunity exists to attract workforce and residents who are migrating from larger urban centres to more rural locations.”

District of Kitimat economic development director Mike Dewar said the initiative is important for Northwest communities that struggle to attract, maintain and increase a sufficient population base, especially a skilled labour force.

He said the difficulty with attracting people to the region has resulted in a reliance on a transient labour force (fly-in, fly-out), and insufficient population bases for optimal service attraction and delivery.

“However, opportunities do exist for attracting residents that are migrating for economic and lifestyle reasons,” said Dewar. “Through collaboration, Northwest communities may gain strength in efforts to attract residents to the region.”

He said a number of employers in the region have expressed challenges related to attracting skilled and unskilled labour to the region.

“We have heard of a demand for a range of professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers, and technical positions for operations such as Rio Tinto or the Prince Rupert Container Terminal,” said Dewar. “Additionally, there are several family-owned businesses that are looking for entrepreneurial successors.”

Dewar said some communities have also reported labour demand for unskilled entry level positions.

He said common reasons given for people not moving to the Northwest include the belief that the region is remote and inaccessible, lacks recreational opportunities and is plagued by inclement weather throughout the year.

“The reality is we are only an hour an a half away from Vancouver by air,” said Dewar.

He added that similar initiatives like the Imagine Kootenays campaign, and Prince George’s Move Up Prince George campaign, had resulted in resources developed for those campaigns being used frequently and widely.

He said once a service provider had been contracted to run with the campaign, a business case will be developed to identify the details of the campaign, such as target audience and potential marketing materials.

In addition to the RDKS grant, the provincial Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation earlier this year made nearly $250,000 available for a labour market study, in partnership with the Kitamaat Valley Education Society, to create a strategy for employers to attract and retain workers in the lower Skeena area.

KVI president and CEO Sherrie Little said the study involves input from industry, education, students, small business, employment agencies and government from the Kitimat, Terrace, Hazelton and Smithers area.

“There have been 117 interviews over the past six months that have gathered data.

“There have also been a couple of case studies generated to support some of the challenges that will be encountered,” said Little.

She said the final report is expected to provide a summary of the Labour Market Strategy for the North Coast Mainland Towns from 2017 to 2022 to enable employers and communities to prepare for employment needs.