British Columbian mainlanders often think of Vancouver Island as a vacation destination with a robust tourism industry in place to support it.
However, unbeknownst to many, the island is also booming with economic opportunity outside of tourism, especially in sectors that employ the construction trades.
As an apprenticeship advisor for Vancouver Island (North) with the Industry Training Authority (ITA), every day I see how the construction trades are growing and evolving, the opportunities available for employers and apprentices and how creating relationships with local communities and organizations has helped the skilled trades prosper.
Currently, Vancouver Island (North) has 2,500 registered employer sponsors and over 3,200 apprentices working in a variety of industries. While this region is often known for its strong forestry sector, other sectors such as construction, aquaculture, transportation and even the film industry are on the rise and require skilled trade workers.
In fact, I recently worked with the Vancouver Island film Industry to promote curriculum development for construction apprentices, such as carpenters and electricians, to learn how to build film sets to better support the economic growth of the film industry on the island.
Getting to know the communities in my region is another big part of my role as an apprenticeship advisor.
By building and enhancing relationships, I’m able to identify gaps and create linkages between community groups to assist in the improvement of trades training on Vancouver Island.
When I first started in my role nearly four years ago, there were a lot of groups working independently with the same focus — to increase awareness of the skilled trades and improve outcomes.
Since then, I’ve connected people and built relationships to enhance the needs of island communities and identified gaps in what’s working and what’s not working for employers and apprentices.
For instance, I’ve been working closely with local training providers, employers, indigenous employment centres and indigenous councils in the Vancouver Island (North) region to develop an action plan to enhance hiring and training practices.
Several suggestions were identified on enhancing hiring and training practices through a Campbell River employer workshop last year.
Roundtable discussions at the workshop identified a number of items that can be created to promote hiring and training practices in Campbell River. This fall, we are launching an Indigenous Advisory Committee for the Vancouver Island (North) region, which will develop an action plan to enhance our connection with and understanding of indigenous people even further.
By working together, we can develop strategies driven by the community to raise awareness of the skilled trades amongst indigenous youth; provide mentorship opportunities for career development; and register people coming out of foundational skills programs as apprentices with local businesses.
Lastly, although a large part of my time is focused on the apprentices and the communities within my region, I’m also concerned with identifying barriers often experienced by employers and industry, and trying to identify solutions that work for all parties.
For instance, a lot of employers on the island struggle with block-release classroom training because they lose their apprentice for a period of time each year while they travel (to the mainland in some instances) to complete their classroom training.
As a result, I’ve been working with training providers in the region and ITA to identify how to diversify training with online components and other innovative methods of delivery.
I also work with local businesses to uncover solutions to the challenges they experience, such as a lack of apprentices in a particular trade. I can then provide recommendations to ITA and training providers to ensure the needs of industry are also being met.
We still have a long way to go, but progress is being made to ensure both employers and apprentices can be successful and the island’s economy is supported with the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
While my role as an apprenticeship advisor is constantly evolving to meet the needs of apprentices, employers and industry, my passion for the skilled trades persists.
My advice for anyone starting their career, or switching into the skilled trades, is that it’s never too late.
Northern Vancouver Island is a large region, full of opportunities. The supports and resources in the skilled trades are available to help jump start your career, so don’t wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today.
Doug Podetz is an ITA apprenticeship advisor for Vancouver Island (North). Send Industry Voices comments or questions to email@example.com.