Parliamentary Secretary Greg Kyllo was in Fort St. John Wednesday to award a pair of local businesses for employing apprentices on the job site.
Kyllo, MLA for Shuswap and parliamentary secretary for provincial jobs minister Shirley Bond, dropped in on Arctech Machining and Welding and the Peace Valley OSB Plant.
“A lot of companies aren’t always embracing apprenticeship program,” Kyllo said outside the Arctech facility on the 271 Road.
“This is a recognition to companies with foresight to make sure we’re training the workforce of tomorrow.”
Dean Thom of Arctech said the company currently has four apprentices, representing between 10 to 15 per cent of its workforce.
“They’ve been vital,” said Thom.
“Without apprentices, we wouldn’t be able to do the volume of work we currently do.”
Arctech has seen up to 15 apprentices come through its doors since it began in 1999, said Thom, and apprentices will play a key role in the its future.
“With the labour shortage up here, we need to do that,” he said.
Kyllo said he’s spent the last year visiting 60 different companies across the province, and was surprised to learn apprentices represent 10 to 15 per cent of Arctech’s workforce.
“When I asked the question about the number of apprentices different companies had on site, I heard ranges from three to maybe seven per cent,” he said.
Kyllo said there is no benchmark the province has set for companies to employ apprentices, but said it does want to raise awareness of the increased training opportunities it is working toward implementing under its Skills for Jobs Blueprint.
An aging workforce nearing retirement along with an economy at the cusp of a boom is increasing pressure on the demand for skilled workers, said Kyllo.
“We can train as many people as we want in the classroom, but, at the end of the day, we need them to be… provided an opportunity for a family supporting job, and with that takes a lot of commitment from companies to take the time and energy to make sure they’re dedicating resources to provide the support for those apprentice workers.”
Kyllo spent Wednesday morning meeting with the Sunrise Rotary of Fort St. John, and took a tour of the proposed Site C dam site. He also took a tour of the Arctech facility.
Kyllo will be in Dawson Creek today with stops scheduled at Northern Lights College, and the Bear Mountain Wind Park.