It wasn't that long ago that forest was BC's number one industry.
Well the industry appears to be making a comeback as employment opportunities are on the rise for trained and skilled forestry workers.
But since the downturn in forestry in the Kootenays, many a youth have moved on to jobs in the oil and gas or mining industries.
This has created a labour gap, whereby employers are now faced with hiring challenges due to a lack of interested, trained, and experienced forestry workers looking to re-join the industry.
To help address some of these training needs, the Ktunaxa Nation Council has extended their employment and training services to the north end of Kootenay Lake by offering a Forestry Fundamentals BladeRunners program in Kaslo.
The 12-day intensive program, which wrapped up on (Friday) July 4, offered ten local youth hailing from all over the region (Crawford Bay, Nelson, Meadow Creek, Kaslo) the opportunity to successfully complete the forestry training.
“Working with the Kaslo Community Forest Association and local industry leaders, we designed a program aimed at providing youth with the basic safety, technical and employability skills needed to be successful in an entry-level forestry position,” Training Coordinator Skye MacKenzie said in a media release.
The Forestry Fundamentals program was comprised of many industry certifications, including Chainsaw Operator, S-100, S-185, ATV Operator, Radio Communication, as well as safety courses such as Occupational First Aid Level 1, Transportation Endorsement, WHMIS and Construction Safety Training Systems.
To ensure youth were generally prepared for employment in forestry, job-readiness skills such as resume and cover letter writing, interview skills, job retention skills and labour market research were important components to the program.
“Not only have these young people come out with the certifications that employers are looking for, but they are also armed with the skills and confidence needed to maintain their job once they attain it,” MacKenzie explained.
Many participants already have jobs lined up.
Three have been hired for the youth summer positions offered by the Kaslo Community Forest. Another has begun tree planting and will also be firefighting throughout the season.
The Meadow Creek Mill has just recently reopened, providing potential opportunities for several participants. It is expected that all ten participants will be employed in the forestry industry this season.