As the provincial election closes in, the third provincial Regional Workforce Table closed its final focus group right here in Nakusp. The Tables, part of the BC Jobs Plan, have been regionally organized groups examining gaps in and barriers to needed training in three regions in the province.
The first two Tables were convened in the western and eastern areas of northern B.C., and like the groups to the north, the Kootenay Table was also comprised of leaders from industry, service providers, educators, economic development organizer, and First Nations. Individuals were identified by stakeholders like Selkirk college and were invited to sit as part of the Table.
Recognizing that the 20 people making up the Table couldn’t represent the diversity of needs in the region, it was decided to hold focus groups in communities in both East and West Kootenay. Midway, Grand Forks, Trail, Castlegar, Nelson, Kaslo and Nakusp all hosted focus groups in the western region, with the final one held in Nakusp on Feb. 22.
One of the issues seen in small communities, Selkirk College’s Dean of Instruction Kate Pelletier told the Arrow Lakes News, is the difficulty getting the critical mass of enrolment needed for training courses. The availability of local trainers, funding, transportation and affordable housing are also issues in small centres like Nakusp, she said.
“Collaboration is key,” said Pelletier, who has appreciated getting out and talking to people in different communities. “Great solutions are going to come from within.”
The upshot of the focus groups and the Table’s work will be a training plan that will attempt to address the needs of the region.
The Northwest Regional Workforce Table, for example, identified 34 occupations that are currently in high demand or will be in the next eight years. It was also seen that training for only 21 of those careers could be found in the region, and an analysis provided as to the best way to get people trained.
Ingenia Consulting has been contracted to take the Table’s finding and research from sources such as labour market reports and the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute and develop a Skills Training Plan for the Kootenay region. The report is due to government April 15 and will become available to communities in the region subsequently. With the upcoming election on the horizon, it’s impossible to know if the Kootenay Regional Workforce Table will be the last.