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New apprenticeship jobs guaranteed in Waneta Dam expansion

Photo courtesy Columbia Power Corporation.

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

The Waneta Dam expansion could create a legacy of skilled trades people for the West Kootenay region, says a Columbia Power spokesperson.

Audrey Repin said with a guaranteed policy in place to hire apprentices on the jobsite, many of the over 400 new job hires could become journeymen trades people when the project is completed in five years.

But with 85 per cent of the workforce to be hired from the local area — within a 100-kilometre radius — there may be a shortage of skilled labour.

Repin, the Columbia Power director of communications and community relations, said shortfall will be filled under a requirement for the hiring of apprentices in all trades for the $900-million expansion of the dam on the Pend d’Oreille River south of Trail.

“We know there are a lot (of people) in trades in the community, however, there is a provision for workers to have apprenticeship opportunities,” she said.

In each trade section of the collective agreement struck prior to the announcement of the project, there was a hiring ratio established that specifies one apprentice hired for the first journeyman signed by the contractor, with one apprentice for every four journeymen after that.

“They all agree to employ a minimum number of apprentices,” she said. “People who are looking to get into the trades now have an opportunity to learn.”

Not only does hiring apprentices become more cost effective for the sub contractors, Repin said, but it gives people a chance to earn their journeyman status while still working on the same job.

People looking to enter into employment on the site could contact the Columbia Hydro Constructor’s office in Castlegar (250-365-5672).

Or, if they are looking at joining through one of the numerous trade unions, they need to contact Allied Hydro Council (604-291-6078) and the respective local union offices directly to see what they have to do and if there is any pre-training required.

The third opportunity for obtaining work is for the contractor to directly call a trades person if they have ever worked for the contractor before.

The area is “trade rich” because of previous agreements on the Brilliant and Arrow Lakes Dam projects, said Repin, and it will grow richer as a result of this project.

“And when you do have that opportunity for local hire, it does bring some benefits to the local region,” she said.

“This way not only is there a project getting built, but it is something that is going to create an economic boom to the community.”

Mileage is paid for those workers coming from other areas within the 100-km radius so as not to disadvantage or dissuade workers from applying.

“So it’s about spreading the wealth,” Repin said. “If someone is qualified and willing to drive to the job, they would qualify, depending on where they are on the list.”

Currently, the Columbia Basin Trust — a 49 per cent stakeholder in the $900-million expansion on the Pend d’Oreille River south of Trail — requires that 85 per cent of the over 400 new jobs created in the project be hired from within a 100-kilometre radius of the work site (excluding the U.S.).

The CBT is one of the partners in the $900-million project that will see the design and addition of a new generating plant to the concrete gravity dam south of Trail, making use of a current surplus of water to generate more electricity.

The project is now underway, with new hires already falling into place to fill the vacancies. Over $162 million in wages over a four-and-a-half year period is expected to be poured into the West Kootenay region as a result of the workforce the expansion will create.