Saturday November 22, 2014

Working both angles


Our senior governments have embraced ideas and plans to increase our skilled workforce and the importance of hiring and training skilled tradesmen and women has never been more pronounced.

Estevan, the Energy City, is again sitting on the cusp of advantages and opportunities that need to be even more fully embraced.

For starters, we have our Estevan Comprehensive School that takes its name and mission seriously. It is a true comprehensive school that excels in turning out graduates who have learned the fundamentals and are definite prospects for pursuing rewarding careers in the trades. The school takes pride in keeping their vocational/trades programs updated and well equipped and that sometimes comes with sacrifices and additional time and fundraising efforts. That's when local industries have arrived with fresh funds and input to add to core funding that comes from taxpayers.

What is important is the fact that the trades programming at ECS has thrived over the decades and its importance has grown along with educator expertise. There aren't too many high schools in the province that can boast of a similar track record when it comes to preparation for future careers or more advanced training.

Then less than a kilometre down the road, there is the Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute (SETI), another gem within our community, the capabilities of which are just now being explored and advanced. It too, is being supported by senior governments and industry and like our other provincial industrial training centres, offers unique training opportunities for niche markets, as well as basic requirement courses.

So while we applaud our province's and country's efforts in bringing in offshore recruits with specific skill sets, it still takes time to have them certified and then match the skills to the employment opportunities. Transitioning skilled workers to the jobs where they want to be can be  financially risky and time consuming.

There are Eastern Canadians who are unemployed, but none too anxious to move west to deploy their skills. There are unemployed or underemployed Americans who could move right into jobs being offered in Saskatchewan, but for one reason or another they can't or won't. Whether they be rig hands, truckers or information technology technicians, it's not always that easy. Crossing borders, even in Canada, can be a gut-wrenching decision. Most of us have a sense of home and that must be acknowledged and appreciated, even in tough times. Labour mobility is not that easy.

So we will keep on cheering when we see signs of offshore recruitment paying off. We will welcome our American and Canadian neighbours from elsewhere who have decided to join us in the local labour force. We know we have only resource-based industries for the most part, but that too can change. We cheer again when we see educational programs focused on Aboriginal workforces reaping results.
We all know that getting people paying taxes rather than collecting employment insurance is one key to a healthy economy.

We also know that training a local population to succeed in a skilled trade reaps immediate rewards with less cost in time and money.

So by combining the two programs, we should be able to address local and regional labour shortages in a timely manner. We just have to keep everyone, including our politicians and bureaucrats, devoted to the cause. This is no time to take the eye off the ball. The pitch is coming in at 100 mph. We need to be in the batter's box and focused, not casting wandering eyes to the grass out in right or left field. 



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