Engineering shortage felt in the North
Northern British Columbia is facing a skilled labour shortage, something that will drive up the costs of projects while causing others to be put on hold which, in turn, will be to the detriment of the province’s economy.
Experts predicted just such a scenario and as mines open up in the north and the Asia effect boosts lumber sales while major projects like the Site C dam proceed, the pinch is already being felt by some.
Those facts come as no surprise to Dr. Albert Koehler, recently elected to Prince George city council.
One important answer to the dilemma, he believes, is to put more technologists and engineers into the local work force by creating an engineering program at the university.
It is a project he’s been working on for many years, beginning in earnest when he was president of the Chamber of Commerce in 2008 and 2009.
“When I was president of the chamber industry came to me and said we can’t find technologists and engineers. I wanted to do something about that anyway, so I started an engineering committee at the chamber,” he said.
At the same time another committee started at the college. The two groups came together and formed a consortium with Koehler, a professional engineer and certified mechanic himself, as president.
The group hired an independent professional consultant to investigate the issue and compile a report.
The report, a 600-page document, is available on-line at www.ateec.ca and includes a 24-page executive summary.
“It shows the gap between supply and demand,” Koehler said. “It’s widening every day.”
When he was no longer the chamber president, Koehler founded the Northern Technology and Engineering Society and those who were part of the consortium lined up with NTES, which became an independent society.
“Since then we meet regularly,” Koehler said.
Members of the group, with representatives from post-secondary institutions as well as industry, have continued with the project to the point where a civil engineering program is ready to start as soon as funding becomes available.
“The civil engineering program is fleshed out. The current standing is it’s ready to go and could start up any time the government will provide the funds,” Koehler said. “They say at the moment the funding is not there. I’m disappointed because I believe it’s a matter of priorities. There is a direct relationship between technology, engineering and job creation.”
However, just because funding isn’t available at the moment doesn’t mean Koehler intends to give up.
“We keep on lobbying,” he said.
Koehler pointed out there are few other choices since, according to the report completed by ATEEC there is currently a shortage of 700 to 800 technologists and engineers in northern B.C.
“That is how many jobs there are available for them in northern B.C. right now,” he said.