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Jobs and jobless don’t match

New Kootenay group forms to plan a solution to skilled workers shortage

The region's top minds are putting their heads together to solve the East Kootenay's labour shortage.

An observed shortage in skilled workers has led to the creation of the Kootenay Regional Workforce Table, which met for the first time last November.

The group was formed after two forums last year to determine if there is a problem with the local workforce. The forums, attended by Kootenay industries, employers, First Nations, educators, training service providers, and economic development organizations, did identify a labour shortage.

Attendees from those forums were invited to take a seat at the regional workforce table, whose goal is to develop a regional skills training plan to address the shortage.

"What we were seeking was a small working group that is representative of the East and West Kootenays and the variety of industries, economic development, employee and employer groups," said secretariat manager Leah Bradish.

"The sole focus of the workforce table, really, is to look at where the growth is in skilled labour demand from the industry side, and compare that to how many of those skilled labour professions we are actually training at the college and private institutional level. Where there is a gap, we will be generating solutions to resolve that gap."

The workforce table is beginning to seek input on regional needs, and that input will help the table come up with a plan. Employers might say, for example, that there are 200 new positions for welders in the Kootenays each year. But local educators may only be graduating 50 welders in each class.

"It will help inform future planning both on behalf of industry and the college system as well as private trainers on how we close the gap between the number of skilled workers we are going to need in any given profession versus how many we are actually training right now," said Bradish.

The source of the labour shortage will also be considered by the workforce table. Bradish said the type of training available in the region, an awareness of the jobs that are up for grabs here, and difficulties retaining young workers could all be contributing to the shortage.

Funding for the workforce table is provided through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement.