We'll pay dearly if growing shortage of skilled workers isn't addressed soon, conference told

The growing shortage of skilled workers in B.C. and across the country could impact the health of the economy if the issue is not addressed soon, according to Dave Bazowski.

Bazowski, chairman of both the B.C. Mining Human Resources Task Force and the B.C. Pulp & Paper Human Resources Task Force, was one of the speakers Tuesday at the seventh annual State of the Island Economic Summit that is being held in Nanaimo.

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He was one of six speakers who were addressing the skilled labour shortage in B.C., one of a number of issues that were discussed relating to the economy in several sessions held Tuesday afternoon.

Bazowski said that it’s estimated that between 14,000 to 20,000 skilled labourers will be needed in B.C. alone within the next 10 years just to fill positions being vacated by older workers and newly created positions.

Jan Marston, from the TimberWest forest company, added that more than one-third of the workers in the Island’s forest industry are more than 45 years old and many of them will likely retire or leave the well-paying industry within the next 10 years.

She said one way the company is trying to deal with the growing problem is by creating partnerships with educational and other organizations to get the word out in the community and provide the required training.

“It’s a challenge, but a number of programs have begun by individual organizations and the province to try and fill the need for more skilled workers,” Bazowski told a crowd of human resource administrators and other stakeholders in the session.

“The province has established a task force consisting of individuals from the industries, First Nations, educational organizations and the government to come up with solutions.

“One way is to develop a more diverse workforce that includes more youth, women and new Canadians. Many challenges remain but we must work towards ensuring that these jobs are seen as safe and lucrative career options.”

Other issues and themes discussed and debated in the summit’s sessions Tuesday included the future of energy on the Island, the outlook for the Island’s forest industry and attracting international talent and investment locally.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark will be the main speaker at the summit’s closing luncheon today at noon.

It’s the second year in a row that Clark has addressed the summit.

George Hanson is the president of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, which hosting the annual summit.

He said he’s pleased that a full house of approximately 500 people from all over Vancouver Island and beyond attended the summit as delegates this year.

“The VIEA is all about trying to bring together people from the business sector, government members, First Nations and members of the community to collaborate on improving the Island’s economy and provide them with an opportunity to look through multiple lenses at where we are today and where we are headed,” Hanson said.

“The summit came together very well and we had no unpleasant surprises thanks to the great team that was put together to organize the event.”

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