Feds and Province Negotiating New Workforce Development Agreement (11/24/17)

This demographic trend has broad societal implications beyond just BC’s workforce.

We have it on good authority that workers, being human, will eventually retire from the workforce. That being the case, the cross over point we are at now, where the population of older workers is greater than the younger workers available to replace them, raises some interesting questions. How do we fill the growing population gap so that our economy, if not our society, can continue to function? And how do we train workers so that our workforce remains productive? From forestry’s modest perspective there are no signs yet of a shortage of young people willing to fill entry-level silviculture work. However, on the technical side including timber development and surveying there are positions going unfilled. Both areas are likely to see an increase in demand as government increases reforestation and restoration work on the forest and range landscape. As for training workers, forestry employers have been making use of government programs like the Canada BC Jobs Grant. That program, along with other related funding streams, will end next spring at the end of this fiscal year. At a recent Advanced Education, Skills & Training (AEST) new Workforce Development Agreement input session we heard federal/provincial negotiations are going well in setting up new training funding programs in time for next spring. Few details are available as the talks are ongoing, but we should hear in early 2018. For seasonal forestry workers there are special workforce circumstances that we have urged AEST planners to consider. Measuring the effectiveness of forestry training through follow-up interviews with participants will have to consider that seasonal workers are often not able to work year round. Our concern, this could lead to a false impression from interviewees reporting they are not employed in the field at the time of the survey. This could create the misunderstanding that the training is not leading to increased work for participants. The actual case is the sector will require more training in the future and needs to be a priority. And training also increases a worker’s chance of finding related forestry work extending the time they spend active in the field season. Notwithstanding these considerations the WFCA’s lobbying over the years has legitimized silviculture work, whereas it was often excluded as a “life style” rather than an occupation eligible for funding assistance. We will continue to work with government along these lines.