Education and support services are organizing to help laid off mill workers get retraining and help with work transition.
Houston Deputy Mayor Shane Brienen said council’s immediate focus is the people who will be laid off at Houston Forest Products (HFP).
Brienen said they will meet with workers to discuss what training and education they are interested in, and then get those opportunities set up for them.
“As soon as possible we’d to offer some kind of training… if these guys want to retrain while they’re still working, we want to make programs that fit for them.”
Brienen said they will work with the Northwest Community College to get programs set up before Christmas, to fit with the mill workers’ schedule.
“If they want to do an hour or two every day before their afternoon shift or after their day shift, we want to get programs like that,” he said.
Lori Saretsky was appointed by West Fraser as the transition coordinator, and she will work closely with Houston employees to help them transition within West Fraser or outside of West Fraser.
Regina Saimoto, Regional Director of the Northwest Community College, said the college can help by providing programs in the mill or part time to fit with shift work.
“We can do whatever is required,” she said.
Saimoto says Houston is a unique community where everybody works so well in partnerships.
“That’s a real strength that Houston has and that’s a strength that will carry us through,” she said.
School District 54 Superintendant Chris van der Mark said there may be opportunities for overlap high school students’ trades training and mill worker retraining.
Houston Link to Learning Adult Literacy Practitioner, Jennifer Williams says they have already been busy helping people with resumes and job search.
Williams said her concern is the people without grade 12 and the challenges they will face getting work.
Gary Salmons from West Fraser said grade 12 won’t be an issue for those relocating within West Fraser, because experience will outweigh the grade 12 requirement.
Brienen said grade 12 is another thing that will be considered if mill workers are interested in it.
Several government services also offered support:
Leanne Marcoux from the Ministry of Social Development said they offer project-based labour training, essential skills and work experience programs.
Cheryl Ann Stahl from Work BC said they have increased their services in Houston to two days a week, and offer employment programs, and wage subsidy programs to help employers train new workers.
They can also help employees with an imminent layoff notice with career assessments, identifying transferable skills, and new business needs as far as trades and skills.
A Service Canada representative said they would come and provide services and help with Employment Insurance in Houston.
She said that in Burns Lake they provided services at the college and answered questions and helped mill workers as much as they could.
“We can do that again,” she said, adding that contractors would also be welcome.
They can also help those on the verge of retirement, she said.