BC extends FIRST program
By BC Government Newsroom
An extension of an agreement between government and the Central Interior Logging Association (CILA) will allow 30 more students to train as log and chip truck drivers or heavy-equipment operators under the Forest Industry Readiness Skills Training (FIRST) program and place them in permanent positions within the sector.
By BC Government Newsroom
Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Pat Bell and John Rustad, Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry, visited O’Brien Training Ltd., the facility that runs the FIRST program, to announce the additional investment of $494,296 through a Labour Market Sector Solutions (LMSS) agreement.
“The FIRST pilot project has already proven effective, with all graduates successfully employed as heavy equipment operators or log and chip drivers in the forest industry. Our investment with CILA is addressing the need for skilled workers in Prince George and surrounding communities, and the additional funding announced today will help ensure that the demand for skilled workers in the region continues to be met,” said Bell.
The FIRST program is operating as a pilot in Prince George where there is the highest demand for this type of training. It consists of in-class training on topics like general forestry operations and safety.
A major highlight of FIRST is the combination of in-class training and in-seat training, which allows students to accumulate many hours of hands-on experience to make them highly employable. As the demand for skilled workers in forest harvesting is rapidly increasing, students who successfully complete the program will have the opportunity to continue employment with one of the project’s industry partners.
Aimed at helping participants to secure permanent employment, the FIRST program is funded through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement. In March 2012, government signed its initial LMSS agreement with CILA. The extension of the agreement brings the total investment to $988,592 to train 60 people. To date, 22 people have completed the FIRST program and are now working in the forestry sector.
“We are very pleased with the initial success of the FIRST logger program, from government funding support, industry and contractor support in hiring our graduates, to the students themselves for choosing a career path in the forest industry and taking the training,” said MaryAnne Arcand, executive director of the Central Interior Loggers Association. “The next phase of the program will see another 30 drivers and equipment operators going into the harvesting sector in the Burns Lake, Houston and Smithers area, where they are badly needed.”