It is no secret that the labour market is tight in the Peace. This past fall, WorkBC client services coordinator Jeanette Karasiuk told Alaska Highway News that in her 10 years working there, she’d never seen such a high demand for workers.
According to Statistics Canada, as of September, the unemployment rate for Northeastern B.C. was four per cent, a stark contrast from the nationwide rate of 6.6 per cent, and much lower than the provincial rate of 5.5 per cent.
That's showing up in local demographics, too. Fort St. John’s population jumped 4.5 per cent from 2013 to 2014, an increase of nearly 1,000 new residents. The only other B.C. municipality that grew faster was Surrey. Similarly, Dawson Creek’s population saw an increase of nearly three per cent.
And if some of the projects that the province is sighting up move forward – LNG export facilities thirsty for the Northeast’s natural gas to liquefy, the pipelines that would deliver it, the construction of Site C (expected to start this summer) or even a massive gas plant in Chetwynd – that demand is only going to rise.
In an effort to prepare the population for the possible growth, the province has put together a report, Pulse of the Peace, profiling five of the most “in-demand occupations” for 2015.
Unsurprisingly, they are all in trades, the highest potential pay going to the most education: power engineer.
Following are the projected five-most in-demand jobs in Northeastern B.C., according to the Pulse of the Peace report. (An honourable mention goes out to doctors and nurses. )
1. Residential and Indistrial Electricians
There is an expected 1.1 per cent growth annually in this job between 2010 and 2020. On the industrial side, electricians will be needed for maintenance of factories, plants, mines, shipyards, oil and gas rigs and other industrial projects. On the residential side, electricians can work for electrical contractors, in building maintenance, or start their own business.
An industrial electrician must have a certificate or be registered in the four-year apprenticeship program. For certification, the four-year program must be completed, as well as more than five years of experience and high school,
college, or industry courses in industrial electrical equipment.
Key skills include effective communication and problem solving as well as competence in reading and numeracy. Electricians should be well-organized and safety-conscious.
Post-secondary training can be done in the region at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John or Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops or Williams Lake.
Electricians make $19 - $39 per hour, depending on experience and area of expertise.
2. Oil and Gas Drilling Service Related Labourers
This is a broad-ranging occupation in the oil and gas sector, working for drilling and well servicing contractors and petroleum producing companies. Many of the job openings over the next 10 years will come from retirees.
These jobs start at an entry level position as a lease or floor hand, and with time and experience, you can work up to senior crew positions. Employers look for a strong work ethic, willingness to learn and a clean drug and alcohol test. Although there is no post-secondary education required, there are several safety tickets required. Those can be obtained at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek or Fort Nelson, or various private safety licensing locations in the Peace. Workers must to be able to take direction and show initiative, work in any weather and be physically fit and flexible.
The average full-time salary is $18-$31 per hour, depending on experience, though much of the earnings are made from overtime hours.
3. Oil and Gas Drilling Workers and Service Operators
These jobs will service oil and gas wells in pre- and post-production phases. Like oil and gas drilling service related labourers, there are a large number of retirees expected over the next decade. Some jobs in this field are fracturing equipment operator, drill stem test operator, wireline operator and power tong and casing operator.
Employers look for Grade 12 with good math skills, a strong work ethic and willingness to learn. Many operators need to be properly licensed to operate heavy machinery and truck driving. Those can be obtained at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek or Fort Nelson, or various private safety licensing locations in the Peace.
Other skills required for this occupation are excellent hand-eye coordination, mechanical aptitude and a willingness to work in remote locations.
Oil and gas drilling workers and service operators make on average between $26 to $42 per hour.
Like oil and gas drilling service labourers, a large portion of the income from these jobs comes from working overtime hours.
4. Power Engineers
Engineers are needed to maintain industrial equipment like boilers, turbines, generators, engines, pumps, condensers, compressors and controls.
According to labour market studies, there will be between 37,700 and 47,900 job openings thanks to industry activity and attrition. In purely domestic growth in the LNG industry, there are only 640 job openings by 2022. However, in a scenario where a B.C.-based LNG export industry comes to fruition, that number is expected to be 1,600 jobs.
The only regional option for training is at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John. Although not an apprenticeship trade, power engineers are organized into classes one through four, with four being the entry level class.
Interprovincial exams must be passed to advance through classes
Based on the class of engineer, the average wage is $31 to $58 per hour.
5. Truck Drivers
Drivers are required to operate light and heavy trucks in many different environments. Drivers might work for trucking, transportation or manufacturing companies.
There is no post-secondary or secondary education requirement.
Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Prince George all have training programs for a range of drivers licensing classes. There may be other work site training necessary for employees, depending on the employer and circumstances.
Obviously, good driving skills are a requirement, as well as the ability to remain focused for extended periods of time.
Mechanical aptitude is also an asset.
Truck drivers have the potential to earn nearly as much as power engineers, with the salary range sitting between $30 and $50 per hour.