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New training helps mill technicians, tradespeople start businesses in B.C.

May 2, 2023  By CFI Staff

Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston. Photo: Annex Business Media.

Mill tradespeople and technicians can access specialized entrepreneurship training and coaching to gain the foundational business skills they need to start and grow their own business.

“When people are faced with the challenge of a career change or exploring new opportunities, they need a network of support around them to build their success. This program builds on our supports for mill workers impacted by low lumber prices and mill closures by providing startup funds to help workers access new opportunities,” said Bruce Ralston, B.C. Minister of Forests.

“The forestry industry and communities are facing challenges, so we are supporting those affected by helping them land stable, good jobs and move away from the old boom-and-bust cycles,” said Sheila Malcolmson, B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “People who want to build their own businesses can get training and in-person supports through our funding, so they won’t have to face that process alone.”

Through a $2.95-million grant to Hubspace, the new Build Your Own Future (BYOF) program will provide foundational business skills to prepare participants to start and grow their own businesses. The program will include training in finance, marketing and sales, operations, project management, health and safety, customer service, leadership, and diversity. In addition to offering participants intensive and customized support for their business startups, those who complete the training are eligible for a $5,000 grant to cover qualified business startup expenses.


“When people need support preparing to return to work, the federal government is there to help” said Carla Qualtrough, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. “Supporting Hubspace will make sure forestry workers can stay in Prince George and make their community stronger. This grant will help workers gain the foundational skills they need to do that.”

Hubspace is a non-profit organization headquartered in Prince George that helps the region’s technology community grow and innovate. It has been a program-delivery partner of Innovate BC since 2012, supporting technology-centred entrepreneurs expand their businesses and adopt technology.

“Ensuring that rural B.C. has new and innovative businesses is essential to building vibrant and resilient communities,” said Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development. “We know that people in these communities who are experiencing major employment disruptions have exciting ideas and valuable skills. Our government is working with communities to provide tailored supports to help support resilient local economies. This work that HubSpace is delivering will help meet people where they’re at and support entrepreneurs to launch new businesses, benefiting communities across northern B.C.”

The Province has committed $185 million in Budget 2023 for people affected by weakening markets and changes in the forestry sector. In addition, the Province continues to seek innovative ways to support forestry workers and rural communities affected by downturns in the forestry sector, including the Build Your Own Future grant. The Province is committed to supporting forestry workers affected by challenges as well as supporting good, long-term jobs in the sector.

“Thanks to the Province of B.C., the grant will allow us to support the entire province in areas affected by mill closures and curtailments,” said Mary Mytting, executive director, Hubspace. “Our Build Your Own Future program offers an innovative approach to supporting mill tradespeople’s and technicians’ transition into business ownership, keeping them in their communities and their families together.”

Through its community transition rapid-response teams, the Province identified transition supports for mill tradespeople and technicians interested in opening businesses in their community as an unmet need. Rapid response teams provide on-the-ground support to people and communities during a major disruption to the area’s labour market, such as mill curtailments or closures.

“It is a big risk to venture into something that may fail without the proper resources and support,” said Debbie Domeij, a Houston resident who was recently laid off after 12 years at the Canfor mill. “This program is a fantastic opportunity, especially as a single parent, and one that I hadn’t thought about until it was put in my corner.”

The $2.95-million provincial grant to extend and expand the Hubspace program comes from the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement. Under the agreement, the Province receives more than $300 million each year to fund employment services and supports, including those provided through the 102 WorkBC centres throughout B.C.


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