Workers who lost their jobs in the January explosion and fire that destroyed the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake are now eligible for a free retraining program being offered at the College of New Caledonia.
A $300,000 grant from the Industry Training Authority was announced Wednesday, to be offered at CNC's campus in Burns Lake starting in late January.
The 19-week program will focus on teaching essential workplace know-how, job readiness skills, and will provide opportunities for sawmill workers to achieve several industry certifications. Eligible workers will be exposed to three trades -- heavy-duty mechanics, industrial mechanic/millwright and construction craft.
CNC is pleased to be a part of the recovery from the Babine mill tragedy," said Scott Zayac, CNC's associate regional director. "This program will give people in the area the opportunity to gain the skills and confidence to re-enter the workforce and prepare for a career in the trade.
Hampton Affiliates, the mill owners, announced on Dec. 4 its intentions to rebuild the Babine mill, targeting a reopening date in early 2014. The Jan. 20 tragedy killed two workers, injured 19 others, and put hundreds of people out of work. The company estimates there are still 70 former employees still available to work in the new mill and they will require retraining.
This new, modern facility will need a local, well-trained, skilled workforce so we are assisting the college to identify training that will prepare participants for employment, said Steve Zika, Hampton's chief executive officer.
Costs of the program will be covered by the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement, introduced in 2008 to help workers who are employed but are considered low-skilled, lacking a high school diploma, formal certifications or essential skills. It also helps the unemployed, who not eligible for employment insurance benefits or programs. Now in its five year, the six-year agreement is funded by the federal government to provide B.C. with $66 million annually for retraining programs.