The provincial government has committed $328,000 for forestry education at North Island College as a way to produce the workers of the future.
Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark was at the Campbell River NIC campus Monday afternoon to announce funding for the project. It was part of a $1-million investment in forest programs the provincial government is making at a number of institutions.
“It’s an exciting day for us at NIC and the post-secondary education system and for the B.C. forest sector,” said NIC president John Bowman.
Funding for North Island College will be used to enhance the existing one-year coastal forest resources certificate and develop a two-year applied forest resource diploma. NIC will expand the certificate program with an in-field training and mentorship model. The new diploma program will include industry leadership, mentorship and on-the-job training.
In her remarks, Mark credited NIC for the programs it was offering, as she had cited on previous visits, and described the importance of forestry in supporting family jobs, including members of her own family.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for logging in my family,” she said.
Mark said the industry accounts for a third of all exports, is worth $14 billion to the economy and provides approximately 60,000 direct jobs. She also pointed out to the need for new skills and employees to meet changing workplace demands as well as the aging population.
“We need to make sure that people have the skills for 21st century jobs,” she said. “I’m proud to be investing in students. I’d say, if I had a mandate, it’s about lifting people up.”
The curriculum developed through the pilot project, Mark said, will be available to the post-secondary institutions around the province.
At the announcement, Corby Lamb, chair of the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce and founder of Capacity Forest Management, said the chamber has advocated for a local and provincial forest industry, with the chamber submitting policies to the B.C. Chamber on the industry. In a recent chamber survey of local and regional CEOs, they ranked forestry as one of the top three choices for the industry most important to the local economy.
Lamb welcomed the announcement about funding for the NIC programs.
“This new program is going to provide opportunities for our employers and workforce,” he said. “The timing couldn’t be better.”
Bowman also introduced Tracey O’Malley and Jason Hutchinson of Strategic Natural Resource Consultants, which has been working with NIC on forestry training for the last 10 years. O’Malley said forestry today did not look like it did 50, or even 20 years ago, but that did not mean the business is in decline but rather evolving
“The pace of evolution coupled with a significant demographic shift means there is a robust need for new workers with new skills,” she said. “We are proud to have started working with NIC as a partner.”
O’Malley also described the new two-year diploma program as a significant milestone in the relationship with NIC.
“It services a critical need for our sector,” she added.