The B.C. government announced another step for supporting contractors, workers and communities impacted by indefinite and permanent closures in the province’s Interior, according to a Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development press release on Oct. 18.
A web portal will allow impacted parties to access forest worker support programs online and includes the latest information and application details for the retirement bridging program, the forest employment program, community support grants, as well as training opportunities and funding.
The government has already allocated $69 million to fund the forest work support programs to reduce the impact of jobs losses on an industry that has faced uncertainty with the mountain pine beetle harvest, low lumber prices, wildfires and the ongoing Canada/U.S. trade dispute.
Applications are being accepted for the retirement bridging program now. Mill workers in the B.C. Interior may be eligible to receive combined funding up to $75,000, depending on their situation and individual employment history, to help them into retirement. Informational and applications are available at Service BC offices or online.
Contractors affected by the downturn in the forest industry can bid on short-term employment opportunity projects near communities directly impacted by a permanent or indefinite mill closure, through the forest employment program. Contracts under the program will be administered through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resouce Operations and Rural Development regional offices, using government procurement processes with a focus on impacted contractors and workers.
More information on the forest employment program, including an initial list of projects, is available on line.
More projects will be added to this list in the coming weeks.
Community based-job placement co-ordination offices in communities hit hardest by mill closures will also be opened. These locations include 100 Mile House, Clearwater, Fort St. James, Fort St. John and Mackenzie. Work has already started on these offices. The offices will assess individual forest workers needs and goals and connect them with government programs and services, match them with available industry jobs and engage with employers and unions.
Government has contracted Frank Everitt and Terry Tate to co-ordinate the services of the job placement offices. Both Everitt and Tate have extensive experience and knowledge of the forest industry in British Columbia and the challenges of transitioning displaced forest workers.
Additional job placement and skills training programs will be announced in the next few weeks.