A unique program has been launched to boost the percentage of women working in the skilled trades on a new, multi-billion-dollar LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export facility in Kitimat, B.C.
The initiative, called Your Place, includes a four-week training and support program aimed at attracting, recruiting, training, supporting and employing women to work in the trades on the project.
“We have the aspiration to double the percentage of women that work on a typical construction site in skilled jobs,” explained Tracey MacKinnon, manager of workforce development at LNG Canada.
The program was initiated by LNG and its prime contractor, JGC Fluor, and will cover costs of tuition, safety gear and learning materials for all participants, and airfare for those from outside the area.
The program is open to B.C. women 18 years or older, at all stages in their working life, whether entering the workforce for the first time, looking for a career change, or returning to the workforce after taking time off. Graduates of the program will have a direct line to employment opportunities in an entry-level position with JGC Fluor or one of its subcontractors on the project site.
We want women to know there is a place for them on our project
— Andy Calitz
The training portion of the program is being developed and will be delivered by Women Building Futures, a non-profit organization that has long championed getting more women into construction. A province-wide awareness campaign is planned to ensure women are aware of the venture.
Presently, the percentage of female skilled workers on a typical construction site is quite small. Attracting more women to the construction trades is an important part of LNG and Fluor’s workforce development strategy and the two companies are committed to hiring locally within the province.
As many as 7,500 workers will be required at the peak of the export facility construction, leaving ample opportunity for both women and men to find employment with JGC Fluor or one of its subcontractors as heavy equipment operators, ironworkers, welders, electricians, pipefitters and labourers.
“Our workplace is missing out on a talented demographic who can enter careers in the skilled construction trades and help our project and our province prosper, while also creating a diverse workforce that is productive, safe and innovative,” said MacKinnon.
“LNG Canada aspires to double the percentage of women working in the skilled trades on our project. We are working with JGC Fluor to remove barriers to women’s participation in construction trades by introducing training opportunities that lead directly to employment with JGC Fluor or one of its subcontractors.”
MacKinnon says the program is part of LNG’s effort to diversify its workforce.
“We have set as a goal to create a diverse and inclusive worksite, and encourage individuals and groups not often represented to our workforce, including women and people from the Indigenous community. We have been investing in a range of workforce development initiatives, and provided funding for more apprentices and skilled workers.”
The program was launched in June and the first webinar was conducted in July. Forums are scheduled in a variety of locations in B.C. so women can learn more about the initiative, ask questions and receive support to apply. The first training program is scheduled for late fall. The training will be offered a number of times over an 18-month-period to align with labour needs on the project.
LNG Canada CEO Andy Calitz says women comprise half the working population in B.C. but currently represent just under five per cent of a typical construction workforce, which means the province is losing out on a segment of the population that can become trades and help B.C. prosper.
“We want women to know there is a place for them on our project.”
Phil Clark, project director for JGC Fluor, says his company will provide entry-level opportunities for training graduates and welcome them to work on a project of significance to all of Canada.
“As the father of three daughters, I want to ensure women have equal opportunity to pursue a career of their choice, and our company wants to provide that opportunity to all B.C. women.”
Clark noted that, in addition to the program, women with existing trades training or experience are also still welcome to apply directly to JGC Fluor for employment as construction ramps up.
B.C. Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall says the program will help remove barriers for women who want to enter the skilled trades and pursue a career in the energy sector.
“This unique, innovative program supports the actions our government is taking to make life better for people and build an inclusive economy where everyone benefits.”
Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark said an inclusive workforce is crucial to building B.C. and partnerships like the one between LNG Canada and JGC Fluor will not only open doors for 21st century jobs but also “help move the dial” on creating a diverse workforce.
“With 71,000 job openings expected in the trades over the next decade throughout B.C., we need to ensure we are creating the right conditions to meet our labour market demands.”
The export facility in Kitimat will initially consist of two liquefied natural gas processing units. Phase 1 construction began in December 2018 and is expected to be complete mid-decade.