In Prince George, forest company Canfor has plans to convert its mothballed Rustad sawmill into a $10-million training centre for skilled workers.
At High Prairie, Alberta, Tolko Industries has already done the same thing at its shuttered High Prairie mill, partnering with a local college and the Alberta government in a $5.3-million program to train future tradespeople. It opened earlier this month.
Old sawmills are gaining new life as training centres to address a skilled-labour shortage that has hit the forest industry as it pulls out of the deepest downturn in its history.
And in the bush, where skilled workers are also scarce, Tolko has partnered with Thompson Rivers University at the cities of Kamloops and Williams Lake to develop training programs for heavy-equipment operators and logging truck drivers.
After five years, sawmills are starting to hum again. But a new challenge is emerging: Who is going to run the mills and harvest the wood?
Sawmills are already short of skilled workers, and across B.C. there are not enough heavy-equipment operators to fell and load the timber. Even logging trucks operators are in short supply.
“When industry can’t get the skills that they need, then industry needs to think differently and partner with schools,” Heather Press, manager of recruitment and organizational development at Tolko, said in describing this latest push to recruit skilled workers…