Project drawing of the Campbell River Hospital

Hospitals Project creating local jobs, joins forces with education programs

Currently at 50 per cent local, NIHP teams up with NIC, NIEFS, NVIATS and the ITA to increase that number

Various agencies are coming together to bolster the local hiring aspect of the North Island Hospitals Project (NIHP).

According to the NIHP, approximately 50 per cent of those currently working on the Campbell River site of the project are locals – hired by local contractors who have won bids for various aspects of the project – 16 per cent are from elsewhere Vancouver Island, and 38 per cent are from off-Island.

They are hoping to increase that ratio of locals shortly, however, according to Doug Podetz, Director of Program Standards with the Industry Training Authority (ITA) of B.C.

Podetz says he was approached by Chief Project Officer of NIHP Tom Sparrow to see what they could do in terms of getting more people trained and hired locally for the NIHP, and soon they had this committee of people representing various employment, training and business ventures to address the issue by partnering the NIHP with the ITA, North Island College (NIC), North Island Employment Foundations Society (NIEFS), the North Vancouver Island Aboriginal Training Society (NVIATS) and the contractors themselves in an attempt to get more people trained to take jobs on the project.

“There’s been really great support within the community in bringing all of these parties together,” said Podetz. “Things are still in the early stages, but we’ve got an excellent foundation put down, and we’re definitely working in the right direction, and we’re working on a plan to come up to Campbell River and work with North Island College on getting some of these programs set up to address these needs,” Podetz said.

Patricia Rokosh, Dean of Trades at NIC, said they are ready to meet the demands of employers, assuming they get funding from their funders (such as the ITA) to facilitate the programs they need to offer.

“The college is mandated to be responsive to the needs of the region and supporting local training increases funding support and, sometimes, the number of seats in a program or the type of ministry-approved programs a college is allowed and approved to deliver,” Rokosh said.

They are also, though their Continuing Education department, looking at improving their “shorter-term certificate kind of programming,” according to Rokoch, such as first aid training, drywalling, painter/decorator and general labourer training, in direct response to the employment demands of the NIHP.

“There’s a new-ish program called Construction Craft Worker,” Rokosh said, which was added to fill some of the worker-knowledge gaps on the sites. “It is essentially for training general labourers for construction sites. Someone who knows how to tie rebar, and shove the (concrete) sluice down, that kind of thing…someone who the contractor can say, ‘Hey, go get me this,’ and they will know what ‘this’ is.”

According to Podetz, the employers who are bidding on the contracts for work on the projects are keen to get employees from the area for various reasons.

One of the main ones is that it cuts back on an employer’s expenses considerably if their employees already live in the area in which they’ll be working, as they won’t have to bring them in and set them up with housing, etc.

Possibly more importantly, though, is the fact that hiring locally helps keep more of the economic benefit of projects of this scale within the local economy.

“Local workers are (also) more likely to stay on a job in their own community and will feel vested in the project,” added Rokosh, and employee satisfaction also builds a positive reputation for the employer within a community, increasing the chances they will be considered for future projects.

Those interested in learning more about training for jobs on the NIHP should contact Shannon Baikie at NIEFS (shannon.baikie@niefs.net), Sherry Simms at NVIATS (ssimms@nviats.com) or Michelle Hume, career counsellor at NIC (michelle.hume@nic.bc.ca) for more information.